PhD education is an important segment of every research field, including the bone field and medicine in general. When choosing students for PhD positions, we tend to give priority to the estimated likelihood of success of a particular candidate. This is typically based on students’ past achievements, research experience, and grades. However, there has actually been little research on factors that drive the outcomes of PhD students.
A group of researchers from Australia has conducted a study to examine the relationship between information known about applicants and their proposed supervisors at the time of application for PhD scholarship with the subsequent research outputs. The authors showed that the research environment had a decisive influence, that is, students who conducted research in one of the University’s priority research areas and who had experienced, research-intensive supervisors had significantly better outcomes (more publications and citations, and higher average impact factor of journals published in). Interestingly, students’ previous academic achievements and research experience did not show statistically significant effects on the students’ PhD outcomes. So, the authors concluded that experienced supervisors conducting research in a priority research area facilitate PhD student productivity, and academic achievements prior to enrollment in PhD studies are less important, provided that minimum entry requirements are met.
These interesting findings emphasize the role of a supervisor in the PhD process, and advocate for stronger focus on supervisor development and creating of strong research environment as important ways to improve outcomes of PhD candidates.