The 5-year post-PhD research plan

Yesterday I received confirmation that the final version of my PhD thesis, amended in accordance with the Joint Examiners Report (issued after my viva in April) has been approved.

I have deposited an electronic copy of my thesis with the University of Salford Repository. Each higher education institution has an online repository where all research from its academics are uploaded and made available for public access.

It is now a requirement of both funding councils (AHRC and ESRC) that research paid from the public purse is available via open access. This means that anyone can view and download research that is essentially paid for through personal taxes.

All that remains now is for me to dispatch two hardbound copies of my PhD thesis to the University of Salford and to collect my certificate at the graduation ceremony on July 17th.  I am really looking forward to that day.

However, it is not the end of my academic journey, but rather, the beginning. There is no time to relax. Universities are currently in the process of recruiting full-time permanent posts starting in the new academic year in September.

Competition is fierce. What universities are essentially looking for are candidates with a strong research profile. REF 2014 is over but universities are already looking ahead to REF 2020. They therefore want to recruit staff that already have world class publications (books, book chapters and journal articles) or ‘the potential to achieve this’.

In my case, I do not have REF-ready published work, since I have focused on completing my thesis in the last year. However, I have presented my work at reputable international conferences and I now have three REF-ready peer-reviewed publications ‘forthcoming’ – two book chapters and a journal article that are due to be published in 2015.

But that is not enough to satisfy the demands of recruiting institutions. If you want to be in serious contention for a full-time, permanent academic post then you need to develop a five-year research plan, detailing your research activities for the next five years up to REF 2020.

That means planning ahead for four publications a year up to 2020. Not ‘pie-in-the-sky’ ideas but a concrete plan of research activities and outputs that will contribute to the standing and reputation of a higher education institution.

It may seem a daunting task at first. Initially, it seemed like an impossible task to me. But that is where a good PhD thesis comes in. Once I took a long, hard look at the key themes to emerge from my thesis, it was not difficult to look at converting those into research projects.

In fact ideas for future research were already included in the conclusion to my thesis, so the job was already partly completed. All of the ideas that have been sitting in the back of my mind came to the surface and before I knew it, my five-year research plan was completed.

Before submitting a full-blown job application it is a good idea to submit an informal expression of interest. This might be a phone discussion or email with a copy of your CV to the Head of Department. It is a way of learning more about the job and determining your suitability for the post.

After that, if the response is positive then submit a formal application and hope that you are short-listed for interview.

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4 Comments

  1. Fasil

    Thanks so much Deborah for your thoughtfulness and sharing your exprience. Can we also plan to seek jobs outside of academia. For me the real challenge and pressure to change acdemia should come from a joint effort from society as a whole. Although we can contribute our best in the areas in which we are specialised, our focus and engagement with the wider society is as influential as our engagement in Higher Education. I wish you all the best!

  2. Marion

    Thank you very much for this post!! I am due to finish my PhD relatively soon and was wondering what happens next. Truly, I have left my options open- whether academia or industry but I think academia may be for me. This post has prepared me a little for what is to come. Thank you.

  3. Pingback: Reflecting on new beginnings in academia |

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