Tracking trends in demand for Australia’s research workforce

Tracking trends in demand for Australia’s research workforce

Author: Will Grant – Australian National University, Australia

Inger Mewburn – ANU
Hanna Suominen – ANU & Data61/CSIRO

PhD students and graduates are perhaps the most potent mechanism for enabling collaboration, communication and knowledge transfer between universities and industry. Yet Australia stands out amongst developed countries for the relative disinterest non-academic employers display towards PhD graduates. Australia has, as former Chief Scientist Professor Chubb noted, “one of the lowest numbers of researchers in business enterprises in developed nations.”

This is a critical issue for contemporary Australian science communication. If we are not connecting our researchers with the places in industry where they can have enormous impact – and if we are not demonstrating to Australian industry that these researchers can add enormous value to their bottom line – then we have failed in a core part of our duty.

As Chief Scientist, Professor Chubb asked if the reason for this gap was a cultural problem amongst Australian industry, or a failing in our Phd training process. For him it was both.

This paper reports on two phases of a project designed to help address both the problematic cultural perceptions and the training of our research workforce.

The first element of this project has been to map the non-academic demand for Australia’s research workforce using a machine learning-based natural language processing (ML-NLP) algorithm that can ‘read’ job advertisements and sort them according to research skills intensity. This mapping has revealed a range of unexpected findings, including a much higher demand for Australia’s research workforce than expected, yet a demand framed in terms that speak poorly to the workers desired.

Following on from this initial mapping, we are now in the production phases of a web implementation designed to better match Australia’s Phd candidate cohort with ‘dream jobs’ outside of academia.

The author has not yet submitted a copy of the full paper.

Presentation type: Individual paper
Theme: Society
Area of interest: Influencing policies through science communication