Biennial survey looks at goals and challenges of today’s junior researchers.
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Nature is encouraging PhD students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics to participate in its fifth biennial graduate-student survey, which is accessible now in English, Chinese, French, Portuguese and Spanish.

Created in partnership with Shift Learning, a London-based research consultancy, the survey is expected to elicit responses from more than 3,000 students worldwide.

This year’s edition — as with previous Nature surveys of doctoral students — will help to illuminate the goals, challenges and sources of satisfaction for those in PhD programmes across seven continents, says Karen Kaplan, the Washington DC-based senior editor of Nature Careers. “This is a crucial time in a scientist’s training and development,” she adds. “We want to learn as much as we can about what they’re going through and what they see for their futures.”

The 2019 survey will include questions on career development, quality of life and experiences with supervisors, among other topics. Questions about mental health and incidents of harassment and discrimination will add to a growing conversation about these important issues, Kaplan says.

Many of these questions were included in the previous surveys, so Careers editors can spot emerging trends over time. The global reach of the survey will help to identify geographical differences in the PhD programme experience. The 2017 survey drew roughly equal numbers of responses from North America, Europe and Asia, and Kaplan says that increased promotional efforts in India, China, Africa and South America should lead to greater participation in those areas.

Survey results will be available in an online database that will be live this autumn. Nature Careers will also report on the results in several feature stories to be published in October. Those stories will include interviews with select respondents who agreed to be contacted for a follow-up.

“Responses to the survey are very valuable, and we learn even more when we can hear from graduate students directly,” Kaplan says. She adds that the results from this and other Nature Careers surveys will help to shape the future content and focus of the section, whose mission is to serve early-career researchers and stakeholders in the global scientific community. “We always want to address the concerns that are most important to our readers,” Kaplan says, “especially those who will take science into the future.”

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