All universities have individual differences and special features in their graduate school programs for instructing student scientists working to earn a Ph.D. Nevertheless, during this advanced education leading to a thesis defense, certain aspects of useful and needed instruction commonly are missing. My belief is that these absences often result in practical difficulties for later research activities by scientists working in universities.
The long extent of graduate student education in science (e.g., 4-8 years) is necessary to prepare them to become doctoral researchers and scholars. Three very primary problems arise during any career as a research scientist working in a university: (1) managing time, (2) dealing with the research grant system, and, (3) avoiding any corruption. It seems very surprising that there is not any course work and little special attention currently being given to address these very important practical difficulties.
An intense course in time management would be eminently useful for professional scientists in any branch of science. Another course of instruction or a series of directed discussions about the organization of the current research grant system and how to deal with it would be immensely helpful to all new faculty scientists. The number of courses available concerning integrity and ethics in scientific research now is rising; this instruction certainly is badly needed, but must be expanded even further; in addition, there needs to be better recognition that all professional scientists must accept that there can be absolutely no dishonesty at all within science. General instruction about standards of ethics in science is very important and should commence at a very early age; ideally, this will start long before any actual choice of a career in science has been made.
Some of the classical subjects for instructing graduate students in science now continue to be offered, but are taken only infrequently. These include the history of science, inter-relationships and differences between the major branches of science, the key laboratory experiments which gave rise to famous findings and new concepts, and, general requirements for the design of good experiments and valid controls. A solid course in the use of applied statistics for analyzing experimental data is frequently available, but many graduate students in science choose to not take such; this seems surprising, since most faculty scientists performing experimental research will readily admit that statistics is vitally useful for their data analysis.
In addition to coursework, several other valuable and useful subjects can be covered in semi-formal discussion sessions. These include: how to select a postdoctoral position and mentor, what types of jobs are available for science doctorates, how to find a good job, how to get promoted, how to self-evaluate your progress and reputation as a research scientist, special features of working on scientific research within industry, and, the role of engineering research and development in the modern science enterprise. These sessions are likely to be much better if 3-5 faculty researchers working in different areas of science are present, such that several aspects of each topic within the different branches and disciplines of modern science will be brought forward.
Improving pre-doctoral education in all branches of science will produce a big payoff. Better pre-doctoral science education will make for better scientific researchers!
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