Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Open Access – A Race Half Run (Keir Strickland)

Photo by Alex Holyoake on Unsplash
Next week (October 23rd-29th) is the 10th annual International Open Access Week, a global event which aims to promote the benefits of Open Access to researchers and academics through events and activities both on- and offline. A week to extol the virtues of Open Access, to celebrate how far we’ve come in the last decade and, arguably, a week to recognise how much further we still have to go!

Open Access has come a long way in the last decade, even further since the 2002 Budapest Open Access Initiative (BOAI) declaration calling for “free and unrestricted online availability” of academic literature.

There are now Open Access journals in disciplines from A-Z – from archaeology (my own discipline) to zoology, and most subjects in between. Perhaps most importantly, for effecting change, major funding agencies such as our peak research councils (NMHRC and ARC here in Australia, or RCUK and HEFCE in the UK) have recognised the importance of Open Access to publicly funded research.

In the next UK ‘Research Excellence Framework’ (similar to our own Excellence in Research for Australia), all research outputs will be required to have been deposited in Open Access repositories within three months of their online-publication. Here in Australia, both ARC and NMHRC have well established Open Access Policies, requiring research outputs from publicly funded projects to be made “Openly Accessible”.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Academic Writing Month (#LTUAcWriMo) at La Trobe turns 5!

Since 2013, the RED team has created a month-long, multi-campus and online program to enable and encourage academic writing: with events, blog posts, workshops, and conversation on Twitter around the #LTUacwrimo hashtag. In the last 5 years, papers, books, chapters and theses have been completed and people have built great habits, gained new insights into what works for them as writers, and enjoyed the camaraderie of writing together.

Since 2015, Academic Writing Month has culminated in a three-day writing retreat. We are delighted to offer this program again, but book in early, it is very popular and spaces are limited! (Read about Jason Murphy’s experience of attending the retreat.)

 If you would like to make significant progress on your academic writing, with like-minded colleagues, then this month-long festival of writing is for you. Academic Writing Month has been developed for all researchers at all levels (including graduate researchers), at every campus and externally. 

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Research impact (Helen Young)

If you’ve been to one of the Research Roadshows in the past few months you will have heard that La Trobe took part in the ARC Engagement and Impact Assessment Pilot. Next year it will be the real thing, with an Engagement and Impact 2018 companion to the Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) exercise.

We might be used to thinking about ‘impact’ in terms of our disciplines or academia more broadly, with measures like peer-reviewed publications, journal rankings and citations, but those things are assessed under ERA.

So what is ‘impact?’ The ARC gives this definition:
Research impact is the demonstrable contribution that research makes to the economy, society, culture, national security, public policy or services, health, the environment, or quality of life, beyond contributions to academia’.

So, the big question for researchers is: ‘what has changed because of my research?’

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Reflections on supervision (Helen Lee)

As the September graduation approaches, I look forward to seeing one of my graduate researchers get her degree, after persevering for nearly 15 years to finish her thesis.

Her case is unusual, as she had three periods of maternity leave and other long breaks for a range of reasons. But she was determined to finish, and I’m so proud of her!

It leads me to reflect on my experiences as a supervisor since she was one of my earliest graduate research students.

I’ve now supervised more than 50 postgrads and it’s one of my favourite roles as an academic. The close intellectual relationship that develops between supervisors and graduate researchers is always mutually beneficial and in some cases even leads to enduring friendships.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

My year as President of the LIMS Fellows Society (Rohan Lowe)

Image courtesy of Kha Phan (LIMS Fellows Society)
An interesting thing happened to me in the winter of 2016. Our institutional postdoc society decided it was time to get organised and elect a president.

A distinct lack of volunteers was apparent. I was nominated by another member and, emboldened by their vote of confidence, I agreed I would stand for president.

No other nominations were made, and I quickly became the president of the LIMS Fellows Society.

I’m not a career politician. I may have enjoyed watching House of Cards and loved a good political power move on Survivor, but my election to president of the LIMS Fellows was not in my career plan.

I don’t like to turn down opportunities, however, so this blog post is about my year as president of the LIMS Fellows Society.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Creating a website for your research (Jane Kelley)

Liver fluke is endemic in Australian dairy cattle and has detrimental impacts on milk production, weight gain and fertility.

Our aim is to develop techniques to identify the true extent of the issues associated with liver fluke infections within Victorian dairy herds, with the aim of improving the profitability through the implementation of a liver fluke control program.

A key component of our grant is communication with our stakeholders to create awareness, provide access to information, build understanding within the community, provide opportunities where stakeholders can provide feedback, and make research findings available.

We decided our primary point of contact would be a website, as it would be accessible to both our primary (dairy farmers), and secondary audiences (service providers, dairy organisations, research community) and serve as repository for all project related information.

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

How I became Career Ready (Nicholas Anthony)

There comes a stage where every graduate researcher comes to the earth-shattering realisation that their La Trobe research will not last forever and that, one day in the not too distant future, they will need to find a job.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise. I mean, you do only sign up for three years but, somehow, it does.

Following this shouldn't-be-so-shocking realisation, the thoughts start to flood in:

Photo by Mounzer Awad on Unsplash
What do I want to do?
Where do I want to do it?
How does one actually get a job?
Why hasn’t anyone prepared me for this?!

Unfortunately, at this stage, you’re well and truly an adult and it’s your job to prepare yourself.

Fortunately, however, La Trobe knows we need a little help, and has a service known as “Career Ready”.

Now, I know that a name like that sounds like standard university spin targeted at undergrads to look good on posters, and put bums on seats. In reality, though, it’s not spin, and it's for researchers, too!

Even better, as the name suggests, it is a service to get you career ready!

Why am I telling you about all of this? Because I went through the all of the above and - SPOILER ALERT - I went to a Career Ready consultation and loved it!

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Learning to do interdisciplinary research (Helen Young)

Image by Bre Prettis www.flickr.com/photos/bre/ 
Creative Commons license
The Australian Research Council supports interdisciplinary research, which it describes as:

"research that traverses or transcends disciplinary boundaries and which synthesise or integrate methods and knowledge from multiple disciplinary domains."

But, given that most PhDs are completed in one discipline, how do researchers learn to cross those borders?

And why would they?

The short answer is that we live in a complex world and no discipline can find all the answers to the challenges it reveals.

Working epistemologically and methodologically in only one discipline is necessarily limiting because so are disciplines.

Limits aren't inherently bad, but they are, well, limits.

Research can sometimes feel like a jigsaw puzzle and, sometimes, half the pieces are under the couch or in another box.

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

The finals are coming! (Tseen Khoo)

Researchers at La Trobe's Judith Lumley Centre (Franklin Streeet) 
watching their colleague Catina Adams' presentation (at Bundoora)
Photo courtesy of Lisa Amir
Yeah, nah, I'm not talking about the footy grand finals! It's much more important than that.

The finals I'm talking about involve much shorter performances, fewer meat pies, and appropriate hand gestures.

Yes, it's that time of year again: La Trobe's 3MT grand finals!

As with last year, the university finals will take place within Research Week and it's always a great event. Not only do you get to see our fabulous emerging researchers take to the stage with their powerful, finely honed talks, you also have a chance to vote in the People's Choice Award (which is always a highlight for me - gotta love having a say, right?).

The university 3MT finals have it all: good company, intellectual stimulation, and collegial competition! Make sure you register to attend for 30 August!

I've just attended both the ASSC and SHE College finals in the last fortnight, and livetweeted my way through the presentations and awards. If you have a look over the #LTU3MT hashtag on Twitter, you'll see some of the action that took place.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Practical preparation for collaborative writing (Helen Young)

Photo by Helloquence on Unsplash
In many disciplines co-authored papers are the norm, but collaborative writing is not always an easy process.

Sometimes, one person is mainly responsible for the writing itself, with others contributing ideas in planning and development.

In other cases, multiple people need to be very active in putting words on the page. Negotiating changes, editing, structure, and the direction of the argument can be complicated.

This post provides some practical tips for making the collaborative writing process easier.

It's a good idea to get these things planned and in place before you start writing so that you don’t have to retrofit your collaboration!