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Letters to the editor


Let’s replicate this at the national level

This is a fascinating and critically important study that provides much-needed data and insight regarding the career paths of PhD graduates (10,000 PhDs Project tracks career outcomes of U of T graduates). It would be valuable to replicate it at the national level, using this work as a starting common template. At the CIHR Institute of Health Services and Policy Research, we have been engaged in a PhD training modernization initiative focused on health services research (HSR) and, inspired by the 10,000 PhDs Project, plan to track the careers trajectories of HSR PhD graduates across Canada.

Meghan McMahon
Ms. McMahon is a program director with the CIHR Institute of Health Services and Policy Research. She is also a PhD candidate at the University of Toronto and a fellow with the Canadian Centre for Health Economics.

Transparency on PhD outcomes

This is an ambitious project, and a big step forward for university transparency about PhD career outcomes (10,000 PhDs Project tracks career outcomes of U of T graduates). University of Toronto is a major producer of PhDs and highly regarded in graduate education, including the career development of PhDs. The 10,000 PhDs interactive data interface is a powerful tool for prospective students considering graduate study, current graduate students and postdocs, university graduate program directors, career development professionals and policy-makers.

For readers interested in comparisons to U.S. data, there has been recent action at Stanford University, Wayne State University, and (in the life sciences) most recently with a set of 10 universities in the Coalition for Next Generation Life Sciences – though none of these is nearly as large a dataset as what U of T has offered here. This is a growing trend, with the Council of Graduate Schools in the U.S. also launching a career outcomes initiative in the past year.

This type of data analysis and transparency opens the door to a shift in pre-doctoral education from apprenticeship to holistic training of future PhD professionals who will contribute to society in many ways.

I learned of the 10,000 PhDs initiative when visiting U of T last year, and it is exciting to see it come to fruition. Congratulations to the researchers I met last year who took on this project with a passion. I look forward to seeing what comes next!

Cynthia Fuhrmann
Dr. Fuhrmann is assistant dean, career and professional development, and assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular pharmacology, in the graduate school of biomedical sciences at the University of Massachusetts medical school.

The stories behind the numbers

Congratulations to Reinhart Reithmeier and his team, and the University of Toronto, for launching this seminal study (10,000 PhDs Project tracks career outcomes of U of T graduates). It signals a transition in the accounting of the impact of graduate education towards what we’d most like to know: are graduates pursuing careers that they love, while impacting society? It will be great to see how some of these numbers compare to other major academic centres in the U.S. and EU. And, of course, it will be interesting to start to read about the experiences and stories behind the 10,000 data points. Ultimately, it is these stories that will inspire would-be and current graduate students and give them some confidence that there are limitless possibilities for a graduate-level trainee. Well done, all.

Zayna Khayat
Dr. Khayat is the future strategist at Saint Elizabeth Health Care in Toronto and is an adjunct faculty member in the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto.

Skills from graduate education

The 10,000 Phds Project report claims that, “The specialized knowledge and skills obtained from advanced degrees can be successfully transferred to a broad range of professional contexts even within a challenging job market.” It’s true that individuals who have PhDs work in many different careers. That is not the same as saying that they have those jobs because of “knowledge and skills obtained from advanced degrees.” We don’t know what relevance PhD experience has to jobs that came after it. And we don’t know why these PhDs were hired or what skills and experiences they leverage in their positions. We only know organizations and job titles.

Smart people work everywhere, and learning happens outside of classrooms and labs. When PhDs move into non-faculty careers, they have to translate their work experience in academia into core competencies employers are looking for: problem-solving, creativity, innovation, critical thinking and communication skills. These skills and abilities are not unique to graduate education. Far from it.

Jennifer Polk and Maren Wood
Drs. Polk and Wood are co-authors of Beyond the Professoriate. This is excerpted from their blog.

On-campus shooting ranges

Competitive shooting clubs are nothing new at Canadian universities (At home on the range). Prior to the mid-1960s, many Canadian universities had on-campus indoor shooting ranges, quite often associated with the campus contingent of the COTC (Canadian Officers’ Training Corps) at the university.

Shooting, as a competitive sport, requires many of the learning skills the we want to impart to our students: concentration, accuracy, critical thinking and problem-solving. Shooters are trained to focus on the competitive aspect and are never taught to use their weapons on living targets. Safety is paramount in all shooting ranges.

As mentioned in the article, university students who have been members of the Air Cadets, Army Cadets or Sea Cadets will have been exposed to competitive shooting at an early age. Cadets learn the basic skills of shooting using pellet air rifles in their weekly unit training locations. If they are selected to attend a summer camp, they are able to fire .22 calibre rifles on military shooting ranges, and always under the close supervision of a qualified adult. Those who continue on to national and international competition will learn to master more complex rifles similar to the AR-15.

Robert Clarke
Mr. Clarke is university librarian at Trent University and a former Canadian Army Reserve officer.