The Mobile Researcher - From merging disciplines to crossing professional sectors and geographical
It has now been a year since I packed up my car and moved to Dublin to start a PhD with CATCH. However this was only the start of the mobility element of my PhD, as I am about to embark on a new adventure by joining Salumedia, a technology start-up company based in Seville, whose expertise lies in developing mobile solutions for the healthcare sector, serious games, and social media.
Over the last twelve months, I have been based at University College Dublin where I have been learning about the fields of human computer interaction and psycho-oncology through a variety of different means: getting to know the literature, completing academic modules, attending conferences, and training and networking events (see my earlier blogpost about this here). Shortly I will also be able to gain greater and deeper insights by directly engaging in research with people living with cancer. However until now, my work and inputs therein, have been largely within an academic setting.
By going on a twelve month secondment with Salumedia, I hope to put some of what I have learnt concerning technology design into practice (see figure 1). The opportunity for intersectoral (and international) mobility is one of the key strengths of the EU Marie Curie Innovation Training Networks (ITNs), of which CATCH is a part of, that drew me to this programme.
Figure 1. Diagram of the envisaged procedures involved in my thesis. Technology design will form part of my secondment in industry.
“While 81% of EU researchers think that transferable skills have an important influence on career progression, only 33% of PhD candidates in the EU receive training in transferable skills.”
Being able to gain first-hand experience in the industry is a great opportunity to enhance your skills and understanding. Indeed there is a growing recognition for the need to recognise and enhance one’s transferrable skills in order to meet the needs of the future labour market. However, when completing a PhD access to training in these areas is not always straightforward. Indeed a recent study funded by the European Commission found that “while 81% of EU researchers think that transferable skills have an important influence on career progression, only 33% of PhD candidates in the EU receive training in transferable skills” (European Commission’s MORE3 Study, Final Report, December 2017, p.14). In addition, the transferable skills training that is being provided focusses on enhancing skills required for engaging in research such as communication, problem-solving and critical and autonomous thinking. Other skills training relating to outreach and entrepreneurship are less frequent, according to findings from this study. Yet there is a need to turn the knowledge that is being created and shared within academia into novel solutions that can be of direct benefit to society, both economically and socially. Facilitating researchers’ mobility across disciplines, sectors and even geographical locations can enable this.
In my case, I am looking forward to creating further collaborations and taking an active role in innovation, by not only answering a research question but becoming involved in the building of technologies to support wellbeing in people with cancer and understanding how business models in technology innovation come to be. In this way, I also hope to learn the industry perspective on co-design, technology development and design iterations, as well as on the commercialisation to enhance the potential impact of my research.