Assessment of research methods training needs among UK academic social scientists

Moley, Sean and Wiles, Rose (2011) Assessment of research methods training needs among UK academic social scientists. Project Report. National Centre for Research Methods. (Unpublished)

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This training needs assessment comprised an online survey of academic social scientists and a content analysis of academic social scientist job specifications. A total of 2,352 ESRC funded researchers responded to the survey and 85 job specifications were analysed.

High levels of demand exist for both qualitative and quantitative training. In contrast to NCRM's 2005 assessment, training in mixed methods emerged as a training need but our data showed no consensus on what ‘mixed methods’ comprises.

Handling non-response, structural equation modelling and panel data analysis were the three most sought after quantitative topics, while narrative inquiry, action research and ethnographic fieldwork were the most sought after qualitative topics.

Analysis of these data across career level indicated that doctoral students frequently reported a demand for training in ‘mathematics for statistics’ while ‘visual, creative and sensory methods’ came near the top of the list for research fellows and senior research fellows. ‘Log-linear modelling of tables’, and ‘instrumental variables methods’ were often chosen by lecturers and senior lecturers, along with ‘secondary analysis of qualitative data’, which was the top choice for readers and professors.

The need for training in quantitative methods is viewed as the most pressing training need by those involved with the supervision or training of social scientists; this mirrors the findings of the 2005 assessment. However, some respondents noted that a focus on quantitative training should not be at the expense of qualitative training.

In contrast to the 2005 assessment, training needs across a range of methods, including mixed methods, were also identified. The content analysis of research posts provides some support for the need for researchers to have skills across a range of methods as well as specific skills in qualitative methods.

The most common reason given for undertaking research methods training was to meet the needs arising from a current or planned research project. Research projects define the ‘cutting edge’ in the acquisition of knowledge, but also define a cutting edge in the field of training in research methods.

We recommend that applicants for ESRC-funded research projects should be asked in their proposal to indicate the skills that will be needed by the researchers who will work on the proposed project, the plans they have to assess the skill levels of the researchers hired and the means by which they intend to fill any skills gaps identified.

Item Type: Working Paper (Project Report)
Uncontrolled Keywords: training needs, academic, NCRMpublication
Subjects: 9. Research Skills, Communication and Dissemination > 9.6 Teaching and Supervising Research Methods
9. Research Skills, Communication and Dissemination > 9.7 Research Skills, Communication and Dissemination (other)
Depositing User: NCRM users
Date Deposited: 06 Jun 2011 09:15
Last Modified: 14 Jul 2021 13:54

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