Major Research Facilities (MRF’s) in Canada have a big impact on the training of highly qualified people (HQP), and especially on students and post-docs who use these facilities as part of their research. MRFs offer valuable hands-on experiences, powerful virtual capabilities, and meaningful engagements in ‘Big Science’ that are inspiring to young people at formative stages of the educational careers. In contrast, young people whose graduate careers are spent primarily in a single principal investigator’s lab or use only the resources typically available to a single principal investigator will miss out on these experiences or capabilities.

Differences in the subsequent academic and career paths between students who use MRFs and those who don’t are now measurable using online resources such LinkedIn, which now offers profiles of about 25% of the estimated 3 billion people working in 70 million companies around the world.

And these differences can now be measured without painstaking manual labor to look up and copy information about each alumnus or about each employer.

Successful studies: proof of principle

Example result: Alumni from a MRF enjoyed faster career progression. They are about 100% more likely to be in executive and other management positions within 10 years, and about 25% more likely even after 20 years.

Two recent studies by Strategy Policy Economics and TVB Associates on the alumni of two MRFs found impacts such as:

  • University alumni who used the online services of an MRF during their degree programs enjoyed faster career progression and longer job tenure than those in a control group of alumni from the same research fields, and these correlations last for 20 years.
  • The hands-on experiences at an MRF inspired undergraduate and Master’s students to achieve greater academic heights, often PhDs. These PhDs then went on to R&D careers in industry in larger proportions than other natural science PhDs (65% vs 51%). Further, most were working in the industry sectors that contribute most directly to innovation in Canada. Alumni who were interviewed for the study attributed part of their career success to the experience using the MRF.

Service offered by TVB Associates

These studies are now offered through TVB Associates as a service. We will conduct, or assist you with conducting, studies of alumni that used a specific MRF or of alumni from research fields that rely heavily on multiple MRFs such as astronomy or experimental particle physics.

TVB Associates can automate the data collection and key aspects of preparing the data for analysis. We have a database of many employers of HQP categorized using the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) codes as defined by Statistics Canada, which reduces manual labor. We have methods to create valid control groups to ensure meaningful conclusions can be drawn.

These factors allow us to conduct the study on your behalf efficiently without breaking the bank—a much more accessible solution than traditional, manual approaches.

Examples of aggregate insights

These studies can provide a range of insights about the alumni in aggregate:

  • Analyzing their academic careers reveals:
    • degrees pursued by alumni after (and potentially inspired by) their interaction with the MRF,
    • demographic characterization of the alumni according to geographic representation of their institutions and research disciplines, and
    • differences in the trends in degrees pursued by research fields. 
  • Analyzing their employment career (current employer, first job, or entire employment history) reveals:
    • the distribution of the alumni across economic sectors,
    • the distribution of alumni by country (a potential indicator of attraction and retention of HQP),
    • career success over time as indicated by progression to supervisory, management, or executive positions,
    • how long alumni stay in their jobs (an indicator of job satisfaction and the fit between the employer and their skills), and
    • differences in the above in comparison to the control group.
  • Analyzing both the academic and employment careers together reveals:
    • how the academic degree or research discipline impacts where the alumni work or their career progression,
    • whether going on to an advanced degree that doesn’t require use of the MRF changes the career path.

Establishing causation through interviews

The insights gleaned from aggregate analysis may show correlations of interest that can be explored further through interviews. The data obtained in the study will identify the alumni that exhibit the trend of interest and provide a means to contact them for an interview (i.e. through LinkedIn). As an option, we can interview a sample of alumni on your behalf, which may result in testimonials or qualitative data that provides evidence for a causal interpretation of the correlations.

Tailoring the study

TVB Associates will tailor the study to your specific interests, and if applicable, correlate the data with other information that you may have available or that may be obtained elsewhere. For example, if you have a records of industry collaborators, we can determine the extent to which these collaborators hire the alumni. Or if employment of alumni in academic research fields is of interest, we can collect their records in online awards databases (e.g. as published by NSERC and CFI) and analyze it for further insights.

What is required for a study?

A minimum requirement is records of former students and post-docs containing names, university affiliation, and a year associated with their engagement in the relevant research. Additional fields, such as research disciplines (e.g. physics, chemistry, engineering) may be valuable as well (e.g. to establish a valid control group). While a spreadsheet format is ideal, we may be able to convert the data from another format (e.g. if only hard-copy records are available from 20 years ago).

The larger the dataset of alumni the better for statistical reliability and to enable some of the best analysis that involves dividing the alumni into various categories. Based on our previous studies, we can expect to positively identify at least 25% of the alumni using automated methods.

More information

Please contact us to discuss your interests in measuring impacts on training of highly qualified people, and we will explore how we can help.

More on this topic:
Demonstrating Impact from Training of Highly Qualified People in Research