Recently released report from the UK’s RIN (Research Information Network):
Research supervisors can play a crucial role in the effective imparting of relevant skills, knowledge and understanding. But in reality, they often are not able, well-equipped or even predisposed to play such a role. RIN’s Mind the Skills Gap report pointed to the “the widespread perception that some research supervisors do not recognise the need for the types of training on offer to ‘their’ postgraduate students. Some supervisors are viewed by library and information specialists as a ‘lost generation’, overtaken by advances in research information, and not fully aware of the implications of some of these changes” . In the context of the necessary development of enabling improved information literacy, the place of research supervisors is one that is thus worthy of investigation.
In this vein, the RIN has published below the results of a study, undertaken between January and July 2011, investigating the place and role of PhD supervisors in the drive to ensure that research students possess the necessary level of information literacy to pursue their careers successfully in academia and beyond. The work was undertaken on behalf of RIN and the Working Group on Information Handling by a partnership between Curtis+Cartwright Consulting and Cardiff University.
The key ﬁndings in the report include:
- Research supervisors’ practice, and research student satisfaction, varies enormously between different supervisors, research groups, departments and institutions. There is also great variation across different elements of information literacy.
- Research students are consistent in looking to their supervisor as a source of information and guidance.
- There is a minority of supervisors who are not engaged in developing their research students’ information literacy.
- Many supervisors have conﬁdence in their ability to advise their research students on information literacy, though this does vary across the different elements.
- Developing their research students’ academic writing ability is a key activity that supervisors undertake.
- Supervisors are not always aware of departmental, school or institutional training and support available for their students, and sometimes ﬁnd it difﬁcult to identify what training and support is available.
- Supervisors are not necessarily completely up to date themselves with information literacy skills and knowledge.
- Training for supervisors is a polarising issue; many supervisors highlight overlong, overly generic or not useful training as a disincentive to attend further courses.
- Differences in students’ perceptions of their supervisor(s) role and success in providing support across university mission groups, subjects and mode of study are relatively minor. Instead there are major differences at the individual, research group and departmental level.
Hat Tip and Thank You: Heather Dawson and New Research Selections From LSE Blog