Automatic Thesis Agreement Generator Tool for Supporting Fresh Researchers
Topic: Open Science & Responsible Research & Innovation
As the operating environment of universities of applied sciences becomes increasingly complex, it is useful to adopt holistic approaches to students’ thesis work. As potential future researchers, their thesis work emerges as one of the focal points of many issues contributing to this added complexity. These issues include rapidly developing data protection regulations and methods, varied business cooperation, the open science paradigm shift, increasing awareness of ethical and IPR issues as well as the diversification of education due to multimodal learning environments and e-learning methodologies.
To overcome these accumulating challenges, Turku University of Applied Sciences is in the process of adopting a new self-developed tool for all students and their thesis supervisors. The background juridical material for the tool has been created in the “Open RDI, learning, and the innovation ecosystem of Finnish UAS” project co-funded by the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture. Thus far, the tool has piloted by a total of 25 thesis supervisors.
The automatic thesis agreement generator tool combines an electronic thesis preparation form with a flexible thesis agreement template. In practice, each individual thesis agreement between the student, the university and the possible third-party client is generated automatically based on the input to the form, without any manual additions required to the final agreement text. Instructions relating to each section and the terminology are provided as an integral part of the form.
The preparation form is also meant as a pedagogical tool for ascertaining that the student and the supervisor share a common understanding of the thesis process. It also makes sure issues like the handling of personal data, rights to results, consent, data lifecycle management, terms of non-disclosure and ethical ex-ante evaluations are formulated into the research frame in an appropriate manner. The pedagogical approaches built into the form are supported by other tools, such as a thesis course template on a e-learning platform and a guide for supervisors.
With the multitude of potentially significant issues to cover with the tool, the form is designed to be interactive, the number of sections varying depending on the user’s choices. Before any data is filled in, the tool narrows down its scope by three multiple choice questions, the answering of which reshapes the electronic form to make it as user-friendly as possible. The questions – concerning the existence and role of third-party clients commissioning the thesis – allow one to skip sections that are not necessary in the context of one’s thesis. The interactive quality of the tool continues throughout the form. The sections that influence the content of the agreement typically refer to confidentiality and the rights to results for each contracting party. After the form has been approved by the supervisor, the agreement document is ready to be signed electronically.
Via the tool, graduating students become more familiar with all the requirements potentially facing them when they take their first steps on their researcher’s career. Thorough preparations implemented within this structured process help mitigate unpleasant surprises and extra work during these important steps and beyond.