Building a research culture for students and research staff

Below are some issues that have been raised by others in response to this scenario. You may wish to consider them for yourself or raise them with colleagues to explore what might be realistic in your situation.

What outcomes from interaction between students and researchers are worthwhile?


  • Students meet other researchers and know enough about their interests to draw on them when they need to
  • Students see different ways of thinking about and doing research in relation to real research problems
  • Students develop the confidence to ask questions and probe what other researchers do
  • Students see that becoming a researcher involves more than doing a specific project

 What are alternative forums for interaction?


  • Student-led and organised internal conferences where other researchers are invited to do keynotes and act as paper discussants
  • Reading groups/journal clubs at which students and researchers discuss papers of interest around agreed themes
  • Writing groups of both students and researchers (e.g., membership requires sharing drafts of a current paper aimed at publication)
  • Social events, including off-campus activities, which involve both groups. Once a week ‘morning teas’
  • Organise working spaces so that students and researchers necessarily interact (e.g., don’t have student workrooms on another floor or in another building)
  • Avoid ‘random’ seminar programs solely driven by availability of presenters. Consider themes and topics that are integrative as well as seminars presenting current research
  • Form ‘research buddies’: team up newer students with more experienced students or postdocs to show them and tell them things that ‘all researchers need to know’
  • Research shadowing: students spend time in the lab or research team meetings with researchers other than their supervisor. Could be internal or external groups
  • Student-run community meetings in which researchers are invited to address topics chosen by students to help them in their research
  • Have intensive research days that have a wide variety of activities that look attractive (e.g., mix of student seminars, presentations by researchers, panels to discuss tricky issues or topics, workshops on particular theories or methods, etc.). Consider funding for travel that could be accessed by distant students.

 Getting buy-in from others


Getting buy-in from other researchers may require a different strategy to getting buy-in from students.

  • Make sure that students understand the importance of events and activities in terms of their own plans
  • Sell the idea to influential supervisors to ensure their students are especially encouraged to attend. Ensure influential supervisors are asked to contribute regularly
  • Establish a student-organised working group (students from different stages of enrolment) with access to a staff adviser to plan activities
  • Invite researchers to activities for which they don’t have to do a lot of preparation (unlike a seminar), e.g., responding to questions posed by students, explaining how they decided to tackle a particular research question, etc.
  • Link meetings to the normal activities of research groups—either as part of the same program or as part of events that all will be attending for other reasons
  • Take into account the normal working patterns of those to be invited to find good times and locations
  • If people do not attend, find out why. If they do attend, find out what they are getting out of it.

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