Doctoral training network of development researchers launched by analysing good supervision through the means of drama

February 17, 2016

"Despite changes and challenges, no-one can delimit our mind and our creativity. While resources grow sparse, it is more important than ever to network and to strengthen our research community. Doctoral candidates must not be talked about as the means to achieving goals, but as individuals, whose passion it is to produce knowledge and to learn." To this summary ended the kick-off event of UniPID DocNet, a development research doctoral training network, on 10 February 2016 at the House of Sciences and Letters in Helsinki, Finland.

 

Photo credit: Jorge Jaramillo, 2013, on Flickr

Doctoral training network of development researchers commences by analysing good supervision through the means of drama

Despite changes and challenges, no-one can delimit our mind and our creativity. While resources grow sparse, it is more important than ever to network and to strengthen our research community. Doctoral candidates must not be talked about as the means to achieving goals, but as individuals, whose passion it is to produce knowledge and to learn.

This summary ended the kick-off event of UniPID DocNet, a development research doctoral training network, on 10 February 2016 at the House of Sciences and Letters in Helsinki, Finland.

"The network was born out of a need to resume national cooperation after the activities of DEVESTU, the Finnish Graduate School in Development Studies, ended. Dissertations that deal with development questions are being worked on under multiple different disciplines in many Finnish universities. Students need the support of both other students and experts in development research", says senior lecturer Tiina Kontinen from the University of Jyväskylä, who was in charge of the kick-off event’s programme.

In DocNet’s first DocShop good practices relating to supervision were considered both in general and from the point of view of development research.

One of the authors of the book Tohtoritakuu [transl. The Doctoral Guarantee], postdoctoral researcher Kimmo Svinhufvud from the University of Helsinki, reminded the audience of five distinct elements of supervision. Overworked supervisors cannot, however, supervise everything. In guiding life, the process and learning it is good to make use of systematic peer groups and other support, so that the supervisor can focus on supervising the research process and the production of text.

The scenes, which were dramatizations based on an online questionnaire about difficult instances of supervision, raised issues regarding the rights and duties of both the supervisor and the student. The supervisor, played by Jussi Pakkasvirta from the University of Helsinki, had to listen to a doctoral student’s (played by postdoctoral researcher Eija Ranta) rant about her misfortunes and difficulties regarding the topic of her dissertation. Another scene had him blowing up at a doctoral student, played by doctoral student Anja Onali, who had quoted the "wrong theory by the wrong person” and therefore "would never defend her dissertation at any university”.

"Motivation is very important. I tell the doctoral candidate right at the beginning that their vision is to become better than I am, one of the world’s leading researchers in their topic", said Heikki Lyytinen, professor of psychology at the University of Jyväskylä, at the concluding panel.

"The principle is to help a student find their passion, and not to impose the supervisor’s own values and approaches on them", reminded Barry Gills from the University of Helsinki, who has supervised 40 doctoral dissertations.

Is it possible to complete a dissertation in four years, which is the required schedule? Professor of development studies Anja Nygren stressed the supervisors’ need to understand that the world has changed and that the writing process of doing a doctoral dissertation isn’t similar to what it used to be when they were students. The panelists agreed that in an ideal situation, it is possible to graduate in four years. It presupposes that the student continues their dissertation based on an excellent pro gradu thesis, as a part of a good research group with clear goals and a motivating atmosphere, and that the student has sufficient funding for the whole duration of doctoral studies.

Research projects in development studies are typically implemented in cooperation with universities in developing countries. The effects of tuition fees, which come to effect from 2017 onwards, on Finnish doctoral studies and the recognition of gifted students in the Master’s studies phase cause worry among the participants. Academy of Finland researcher Irmeli Mustalahti stressed that universities and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs should take the development of new stipend programmes under serious consideration.

Further information:

 

  • Senior lecturer Tiina Kontinen, 040485 6718, . Kontinen is a University of Jyväskylä representative in the UniPID board and a member of UniPID’s doctoral training working group.

  • UniPID coordinator Johanna Kivimäki, 040805 3136, j.