Katherine Stephen introduces her PhD on metaskills maturity for future workplaces

Katherine Stephen SDS presentation 2020Amongst the doctoral studies undertaken within the Centre for Social Informatics are a number that are co-funded by the ESRC and Skills Development Scotland (SDS). To date, we have:

We have also just admitted a sixth ESRC-SDS funded student. She successfully applied for our recently-advertised studentship on natural languages interfaces to support the career decision-making of young people, and will start the +1 part of her programme in the autumn.

Over the course of their studies these doctoral candidates have several opportunities to present their work to SDS. Last week, on 24th June 2020, Katherine Stephen gave an overview of her research at an online event attended by SDS staff, and by fellow students from across Scotland who are working towards completion of ESRC-SDS collaborative PhDs. The abstract for Katherine’s presentation is given below, and the slides are available on SlideShare.


Metaskills are variously described as “timeless, higher order skills” (SDS, 2018), “faculties linked to communications, critical thinking, interpersonal communications, and leadership” (Finch et al, 2013) or “higher-order skills that enable effective use of pre-existing skills” (Grace et al, 2016). In some literature examples without providing a broader definition.

In the newest predictions for the workplace pre-CoVID-19, metaskills were seen as an important part of a jobseeker’s toolkit (Demos Helsinki, 2017; ILO, 2018) despite this lack of agreed definition. This may be due to (1) the increasing speed and efficiency in machines, intelligent or otherwise, taking on tasks previously assigned to humans, and (2) the rapid senescence of in-use technologies and processes, which continually renders specific technical skills obsolete (Hirschi, 2018).

In a post-pandemic world where workplace guidelines and their implications shift underneath our feet (Alon et al, 2020), these capabilities of adaptation and self-understanding become not just desirable but essential.

Through the lens of information science, this PhD explores how to define, assess and develop these skills in workplace environments, so that workers can remain prepared for new iterations of the labour market and so that workplaces can ensure their employees are capable of pivoting to new tasks and roles. The presentation has a focus on research methods, paying particular attention to how these might be adjusted to work within a physically distant society.


Alon, T. M., Doepke, M., Olmstead-Rumsey, J., & Tertilt, M. (2020). The impact of COVID-19 on gender equality (No. w26947). National Bureau of Economic Research.

Demos Helsinki (2017). Work 2040 – Scenarios for the Future of Work – Demos Helsinki. [online] Demos Helsinki. Available at: https://www.demoshelsinki.fi/en/julkaisut/work-2040-scenarios-for-the-future-of-work/

Finch, D., Nadeau, J. and O’Reilly, N. (2013). The future of marketing education: a practitioner’s perspective. Journal of Marketing Education, [online] 35(1), pp.54–67. Available at: https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ997475

Grace, S., Orrock, P., Vaughan, B., Blaich, R. and Coutts, R. (2016). Understanding clinical reasoning in osteopathy: a qualitative research approach. Chiropractic & Manual Therapies, 24(1).

Hirschi, A. (2018). The Fourth Industrial Revolution: Issues and Implications for Career Research and Practice. The Career Development Quarterly, [online] 66(3), pp.192–204. Available at: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/cdq.12142

International Labour Office Geneva (2018). Global skills trends, training needs and lifelong learning strategies for the future of work. Report prepared by the ILO and OECD for the G20 Employment Working Group 2nd Meeting of the Employment Working Group. [online] Available at: http://www.g20.utoronto.ca/2018/g20_global_skills_trends_and_lll_oecd-ilo.pdf

Skills Development Scotland (2018). Skills 4.0. [online] Skills Development Scotland. Available at: https://www.skillsdevelopmentscotland.co.uk/what-we-do/skills-planning/skills4-0/

Using social media during job search: paper now available as PDF from Sage

Mowbray Hall 2020 Journal of Information ScienceThe article ‘Using social media during job search: the case of 16-24 year olds in Scotland‘, which I co-authored with Dr John Mowbray (University of Glasgow), is now available as a PDF from the Journal of Information Science. Continue reading

How useful are social media for job hunting? Publication in press with the Journal of Information Science

journal of information science coverUsing social media during job search: the case of 16-24 year olds in Scotland‘ is about the the value of social media in providing information opportunities to young people seeking employment. This co-authored paper has recently been accepted for inclusion in the Journal of Information Science.

Based on an analysis of interview and focus group data, Dr John Mowbray (University of Glasgow) and I reveal that: Continue reading

Networking as an information behaviour during job search: paper now published in Journal of Documentation

networking job search Mowbray Hall 2020Dr John Mowbray and I were delighted to learn this week that our paper ‘Networking as information behaviour during job search: a study of active jobseekers in the Scottish youth labour market‘ is now published. It available in both online and in print in the Journal of Documentation: volume 76, issue 2. Continue reading

Fully-funded PhD studentship opportunity: Natural language interfaces to support career decision-making of young people

ESRC-SDS-Napier studentship logos

Updated with new deadline: midday 30th April 2020

We are currently advertising a fully-funded PhD place within the School of Computing at Edinburgh Napier University for an October 2020 start date. Continue reading

Networking as an information behaviour during job search: Emerald EarlyCite paper now available

Image result for The article ‘Networking as an information behaviour during job search: a study of active jobseekers in the Scottish youth labour market‘, which I co-authored with Dr John Mowbray (University of Glasgow), is now available as an EarlyCite paper from the Journal of Documentation.

In the paper we show that young job seekers acquire a range of networked information throughout a variety of tasks related to job search, and demonstrate the value of active networking during this process. We also highlight that the propensity for job seekers to network is contingent on a host of factors. These include the occupational level of the job role sought, motivation to find a job, and an awareness of the utility of networking as an information behaviour. Continue reading

How do young people use networks when job seeking? Publication in press with the Journal of Documentation

Networking as an information behaviour during job search: a study of active job seekers in the Scottish youth labour market‘ is about the role of networking amongst 16-24 year old active job seekers living in Scotland. Continue reading

Congratulations to Katherine Stephen for an excellent Masters dissertation on metaskills

Katherine Stephen

Katherine Stephen

Congratulations to our PhD student Katherine Stephen, who last week learnt that she was awarded 80% for the Masters dissertation component of her 1+3 PhD. Katherine’s studentship is a collaborative award funded by the ESRC and Skills Development Scotland, and comprises a Masters year at the University of Edinburgh (2018/19) prior to three years of doctoral study at Edinburgh Napier University (2019/22).

Katherine’s Masters dissertation took the form of an extended PhD proposal, and thus has the same title as her doctoral study: Metaskills maturity for future workplaces. The work that she completed for the dissertation last year included a small pilot study entitled Metacognitive experiences of artificial intelligence in the workplace.

In her dissertation Continue reading

Who wants to do a PhD? You do! Apply by Friday 5th July for a funded doctoral study at Edinburgh Napier University

Centre for Social Informatics bannerThe School of Computing at Edinburgh Napier University is currently advertising three funded PhD places. Applications are due by Friday 5th July 2019, with the successful applicants embarking on their doctoral studies in academic year 2019/20. The funding includes fees (UK/EU rates) and a stipend (living allowance) at the standard UK rate (currently £15,009 per annum). Continue reading

Katherine Stephen to present at Tacit Engagement in the Digital Age

Katherine Stephen

Katherine Stephen

Congratulations to our Centre for Social Informatics colleague Katherine Stephen, who has recently learnt that her poster submission to Tacit Engagement in the Digital Age at the University of Cambridge next month has been accepted.

The purpose of the conference is to explore conceptions of tacit knowledge at a time when everyday life is increasingly augmented by artificial intelligence (AI). Katherine will present the research that she is currently undertaking for her Masters dissertation Metacognitive experiences of using AI in the workplace. (Katherine is completing her Masters degree at the University of Edinburgh as the first component of her 1+3 ESRC/SDS-funded PhD studentship on meta-skills maturity for future workplaces prior to joining us full-time in October to embark on her doctoral studies at Napier.) Continue reading