As I'm doing my lit review for my dissertation, I'm reading a lot of references about how people who go into doc programs worry about their ability to do research and stats. Why is that?
It makes me wonder: How can we teach people earlier in life that math and science and critical thinking are things they can engage in and find interesting?
Not everyone's going to be a researcher, but why shouldn't more of us be able to look at the research process and say "I get enough of what that's about to take something away"? And maybe a few more of us would be prepared to say "I want us to know about something, and I'm going to find out and tell people about it!" This barrier between researchers and everyone else doesn't have to be there, not in such an opaque way. From what I've read, there's a major divide, and it hurts our ability as a society to use our hardest-gained knowledge to our own benefit (that is, using research to inform policy).
I'm still climbing the ivory tower, but I'm also thinking about how to make useful connections from the research perspective to the rest of life and to people who are not only not trained in it, but might even feel anxious around it. Making that connection to the rest of life is what it's about, after all: across any discipline, we research things that are part of life and our world in some way. As I practice speaking the research lingo, it gets harder to translate back into everyday words and reference points, but I keep reminding myself that that's going to be the most valuable part of all that I'm learning in this PhD program. I don't plan to be a faculty member (at least not at first), so I need to be able to take this degree and use it in ways that people will see the value of in other settings. I need to be able to answer the real important question under all research: what's the point? What does that mean for us? I've been practicing when I share my proposal topic, things I've researched that I put into terms of practice, and in how I presented the results of my first semester teaching a new course.
As a doc student there are so many questions I am learning how to answer--a lifetime's worth! It's exciting to see that as my independence as a researcher grows and as I practice offering these gifts to others, doors are opening already. I like learning with friends, and opportunities seem to find me. I'm glad I'm on a path to sharing the gifts of research with others, and I look forward to the ways I can keep doing that in any roles and opportunities to come.
Research doesn't have to be scary! It's curious, speaks languages besides numbers, and has a lot to offer if we can help each other get to know it better.