At the REDS conference in October 2019 (which, come to think of it, might have been the last in-person conference I attended before the world became what it is), one of the speakers, Sarah Blackford from Leeds, mentioned that there are two types of researcher developers. One is those who believe in guiding students to the training that is good for them (Team Broccoli 🥦) and the other is those who believe in letting students choose the training they want (Team Ice Cream 🍦). She shared this lovely picture from an 2016 event to make an illustrative point — also available in the conference slide deck, linked above (p.127).
Obviously you do both. The constant challenge, I find, is how you reconcile the two. This is something I regularly ponder, but I have been thinking a lot more about it recently, as I have become more substantially involved in our ESRC DTP this year. The funder articulates their expectations that each student’s self-identified development needs should be at the centre of the training programme and, simultaneously, that the institution should do something proactively about the fact that most students are not necessarily aware of the breadth of post-PhD career paths, especially beyond academia, and hence they do not always know what skills they need to develop during the PhD. Don’t these two statements contradict each other? More to come on my recipe for delicious broccoli ice cream. Watch the space!