Researchers Roles: A Big Picture

Categories: Focus Series, Impact, MentorSpace, Other, Research, Research Ethics, Research Roles, Research Skills, Supervising and Teaching Research Skills and Roles

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The focus for January is on researchers’ roles, including characteristics and skills critical to success. Read the whole series here.

The roles researchers play are varied, to put it mildly. The processes involved with planning, designing, conducting, and making sense of data require knowledge and skills, creative and critical thinking. But there is more: as researchers we need what some might call “soft” or “people” skills. Rather than thinking about these dimensions as ancillary, I suggest that they form the foundation for our work as researchers. While there are undoubtedly others, let’s begin with the assumption that researchers are responsible for acting with integrity, collaborating and communicating with others, including those from diverse cultures, disciplines, and practices, and mentoring new and emerging researchers. 

Act with Integrity

Honesty, ethics, and trustworthiness are essential to any research project. If participants don’t trust us, they won’t fully cooperate with the study. If readers don’t trust us, they won’t find the study credible. If we don’t act with integrity, we can jeopardize the field of scientific research writ large, because the public will not see empirical research to be of value. Read more about research integrity and ethics.

Collaborate Respectfully

It is rare for researchers to work alone. We need to collaborate with supervisors, funders, editors, gatekeepers, participants, fellow researchers and others. Complex studies often mean collaboration is necessary with those who have skills we lack, such as data analytics, foreign languages, or cultural competencies. Read more about collaboration .

Communicate Clearly

We need to be able to clearly communicate the aims, purpose, and approach in order to get our studies approved by supervisors or ethics review boards. We need to be able to clearly communicate with participants, or with people who can allow access to sites where we do field work. We need to be able to clearly communicate to get access to Big Data or archives. Importantly, we need to be able to clearly communicate our findings, and how to use them. In today’s world we need to be comfortable communicating with technology tools as well as face-to-face.

Mentor Generously

Whether we are faculty members working with students or we are working with novice researchers on a project or team, we need to encourage others to become ethical, responsible, effective researchers. Read more about mentoring.


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Image credits: Alpha Stock Images – under CC BY-SA 3.0

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