Over the past couple of days I have achieved something that I would never have agreed to attempt in ‘normal’ times: I attended two PhD examinations on two different continents, 19 hours apart*.
Yesterday afternoon, on Thursday 17th June, I served alongside Crispin Coombs of Loughborough University in the UK, and Dario Alliprandini and Claudia Aparacida Mattos of the Centro Universitário FEI in Brazil, as a member of the PhD examination board of Hugo Watanuki.
Hugo completed his thesis entitled The effect of information disclosed via public profiles from social networking sites on the initial formation of trust in new virtual partners at the Polytechnic School of the University of São Paulo, Brazil under the supervision of Renato de Oliveira Moraes.
This morning I joined a Zoom meeting hosted by Åbo Akademi University, Finland for the PhD examination of Ming (Vincent) Zhan. The discussion of Vincent’s thesis Public libraries meet big data: roles, comprehensions and practical applications was chaired by Gunilla Widén. Gunilla is the Director of Studies for Vincent’s doctorate and I his second (external) supervisor. Following Finnish tradition, Vincent had just one external examiner. Vincent’s ‘opponent’ was Mike Thelwall of the University of Wolverhampton.
Although the universities at which the students are registered are almost 7,000 miles apart, the two defences had more in common with one another than with the British viva voce for the assessment of doctoral work. First, they were open to the public. Second, the theses of both students were presented as PhDs by Published Works. In addition, the expectation at this type of defence is that the event marks the end of the PhD process, as was the case for this week’s two successful doctoral candidates. In contrast, in the UK it is more common than not that candidates are asked to make amendments to their theses after the examination. This means that there is usually some extra work for candidates to complete post-viva. Only when they have dealt with their ‘minor’ or ‘major’ corrections can they be confirmed as ready to graduate.
My involvement in the work of both Hugo and Vincent can be traced back to my participation at the 2nd International Data and Information Management Conference (IDIMC), hosted by the Centre for Information Management at Loughborough University on 12th and 13th January 2016. It was here that I struck up a friendship with Hugo’s Director of Studies Renato Oliveira Moraes, and that I met Vincent for the first time (as noted in my blog post about the conference). It is very satisfying that these relationships first established at IDIMC five years ago allowed for my participation in the doctoral work of Hugo and Vincent. The impact of the connections between our institutions is particularly obvious in the write-up of Hugo’s thesis and his application of the doctoral work of Frances Ryan (who also attended IDIMC) to develop his own contribution to theory development on the formation of trust online.
Congratulations to the new doctors Watanuki and Zhan! It has been a real pleasure to play a part in the successful outcomes of both doctoral studies.
*The shortest flight time between the two cities is 16 hours 44 minutes, but I am not sure that I would ever want to go straight from a transatlantic flight into a PhD examination!