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Note: Young Researcher, Doubt Thyself

Aurora Brief Reviews No. 03 February 5 2019

February 2019

Much is going on with regard to Doctoral Education as well as providing for post-doctoral fellows, taken together as ‘young career researchers’. Listening to some excellent presentations at a EUA-CDE workshop at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam last month, I was reminded of the proverbial statement by prof. Ulrich Teichler that the chief purpose of study abroad was “to discover that your professor may be wrong”. Very wise and still pertinent words.
In analogy to that Teichler statement, we may argue that a key component of the training of doctoral students may be to take them one step further: one of the key objectives of doctoral education should be that they discover that they themselves may be wrong.
What do I mean by this? With the increasing prominence of problem-oriented multidisciplinary research, and with the ongoing process of internationalisation of our doctoral cohorts, it seems key to me that these young researchers learn to question and even mistrust the rock-solid validity of the paradigm in which they grew up. Natural science researchers will need to see the relevance of the humanities and social science. Humanities and social science researchers can’t get by with either ignoring the positive science paradigm or make a hopeless effort to mimic it. Researchers in the ‘Western’ science paradigm need to understand that they can learn from Asian and African approaches to understanding reality.
In other words, let’s take Socrates’ ‘know thyself’ one step further and make ‘doubt thyself’ a cornerstone of doctoral education.

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