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The invisible PhD project

Henrik S. Rasmussen
Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Photo by Katie Moum on Unsplash

During a PhD, the student contributes to research in various ways. By producing several research artefacts, assets, and products like hypothesises, surveys, posters, methods, presentations, data sets, abstracts, more presentations and other works ending up with peer-reviewed articles or a monograph and finally the thesis. The PhDs are also involved in various activities, courses, attendances, to name a few.

All the information is digitalised but siloed in various locations. 

What if this information can be gathered swiftly and presented to provide a comprehensive overview of the PhD student and project. To be used for networking and discoverable for peers, funders, or a potential future employer.

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Information about the PhD student & the PhD project usually stored in the institutional CRIS system

Most institutional CRIS systems can capture rich information about research projects, including PhD projects. On top of the CRIS system universities usually showcase the data on a research portal.

Examining PhD profiles and PhD projects in several institutional research portals showed that almost 40% of the PhD students did not display their project on the portal. Of those who did, only 30% had a project description longer than 50 words.

A typical PhD project record looks something like this on an institutional research portal:

Project title
Name of the PhD student, (role) and affiliation
Status: Active
Type: Research Project

Imagine you are searching for a topic of interest, and click on a link to such a project. If you are in luck, there might be additional insights disclosed. But more often than not, you won't find a decent description, the duration, information on the supervisors, or any related findings. You might not even discover that it is a PhD project.

If you return to the project years later, you will likely find the same rudimentary information. At that point, some or all of the project results are available in digital formats. But these products are not linked to the project. 

It's not likely that a PhD profile described here will gain attractions or impact over time. 

Good luck finding the outcomes!

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Access & entry of information in the CRIS

Usually, the PhD student can access the institutional CRIS system and enter information about and related to their project. 

When interviewing PhD students why their online profile in the institutional CRIS doesn't contain more information. The reply is repeatedly a lack of ownership to this profile, the system is difficult to use, and uncertainty about why they have this profile. They are, for sure, not using the CRIS opportunity. 

I often hear that entering information in the CRIS is perceived as a burden and a necessity put by the researchers' institution.

They are required to add all main results (mainly Research Output) to the CRIS for external research assessment and internal evaluation purposes. It makes sense.

There is a systemic issue using the CRIS data for promotion as the rigorous metadata model is not well suited to describe all research activities.

The underlying metadata model is good at capturing bibliometrics and measurable information. Information that can be quantified and validated. The data is displayed on the research portal, but the atomic data structure is not suited for storytelling.

Of course, there are exceptions to what I described above. Few of the interviewed PhD students communicate and promote their project wisely. Common for all is the wish for better tools, but they use the CRIS as their best available option.
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Other ways to promote the PhD project

Around 20% of the PhD students I interviewed had a Research Gate profile. In most cases, they thought it would do no harm to have such a profile, but it was often forgotten or neglected - at least most Research Gate profiles were not active nor up-to-date.

A few PhD students have the skillset to create a personal website for their PhD project using a website builder or blog software. Those I spoke with was rewarded by the effort, but it was time-consuming, and you are on your own. 

Some universities have web pages showcasing featured PhD students in most cases as an article written by a communication expert. Since PhDs come and go, this initiative has to be part of a recurring, and manual effort owned by someone. Always at risk to stall over time.

According to a Nature 2019 Survey of 6,500 PhD students, 68% of the PhD students use LinkedIn and 29% use Twitter. A small subset post and communicate insights related to their project in social networks.

In inlihtan, you can post directly to social media linking back to your PhD profile so your audience quickly can look at your entire study. 

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Making the invisible research visible.
inlihtan peers & stakeholders 😉

For researchers at the beginning of their careers, the artefacts and activities in the PhD trajectory are most likely their primary contribution to knowledge. Make this knowledge easy to find for stakeholders searching for expertise and competence in a research topic!

Keep the visitors captivated. Celebrate and share endeavours, small or big - not just the final papers - but all achievements, thinking, lab work and learning in the PhD journey. 

Connect, collaborate and be inspired by peers. Expand the network across institutions and connect to similar minds on the platform. The engaged audience will follow the project and be notified when there are updates.

The user experience and service in inlihtan is tailored for the specifics in the PhD trajectory. We do support the student from enrolment to the PhD degree, and the final works are published. 

We help promote the work in projects by highlighting and featuring active projects, thereby giving the student an incentive to update. We will ping inactive users with suggestions, tips & tricks to re-engage with their profile and network.

Inlihtan – the new institutional PhD platform for sharing, caring and networking.

The outcome is increased well being, network expansion, increased employability, and research discovery + dissemination on a new level.

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