Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Why would you join an ECR Network? (Compiled by Tseen Khoo)

Photo by Christian Bisbo Johnsen | unsplash.com
The first Early Career Researcher (ECR) Network conference took place last year. 

It was organised by a volunteer crew of La Trobe ECRs, who hatched the event plan and ran with it! The conference was supported by the Office of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) and the Research Education and Development (RED) team. 

With more than 60 delegates, and key research leaders featured on the program, it was an important, fun event that galvanised a lot of activity and focus for the campus’ ECRs. You can read up on what happened at the 2015 ECR conference (Storify collection).

One of the best things that I saw before, during and after the event, was the growing camaraderie of the conference committee, most of whom were total strangers to one another before working on organising the event. 

And remember that these are ECRs we’re talking about: researchers who are early in their careers, keen to make their mark, focused on getting all their teaching, research and service activities happening and balanced. That makes them even more busy than normal busy. 

So, why would they put their hands up to be a part of the ECR Network and event committee?

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Thesis writing: an epilogue (Arjun Rajkhowa)

Photo by Davide Ragusa  |  unsplash.com
Time, time, time, see what's become of me
While I looked around for my possibilities
I was so hard to please
Don't look around
The leaves are brown
And the sky is a hazy shade of winter

Simon & Garfunkel, ‘A Hazy Shade of Winter’


My thesis emerged out of a lot of chaos.

I wanted to cover four very different cases and topics. In the end, I could only find space for two.

I wanted to write about a much bigger phenomenon. In the end, I could only discuss one small (or not small exactly… let's say 'significant') aspect of it. While being situated in the Media Studies department, I read and wrote a lot of sociological and political analysis, most of which I had to finally excise from the thesis. In short, my thesis had quite a chaotic coming-into-being.

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

How to be a good conference goer (Tseen Khoo)

Photo by Evan Forester
(Creative Commons 2.0)
Many years ago, when I had to give my first few academic papers and the conference dates loomed sickeningly close, I’d be almost paralysed with insecurity and brimming with angst about what could go wrong.

I’d run through my paper over and over about a fortnight before it was due to be given; no ad-libbing for me!

The whole thing would be planned to within an inch of its life AND chockers with theoretical stuffing because there was a desperate need to make sure that what I presented would be considered ‘serious’ (and we all know that nothing says ‘serious’ like incredibly dense, almost incoherent jargon).

Thankfully, I evolved. A bit. It's all a process, right?

This post focuses on things I’ve learnt in the past decade or so’s conference-going and paper-giving.

Jo Byrne has written on RED Alert about how to prep well for a conference before you even leave home, from the delegate's side of things.

I discovered through being on both sides of this dynamic that this is how you make conference convenors love you:
  • Get your abstract and registration payment in on time.
  • Keep your presentation to time.
  • Be organised, and familiar, with the a/v you’ll need.
  • Remember that Google (or similar) is your friend. Don’t write to convenors and ask things like ‘So, what’s the weather like in X?’ or ‘What currency do you use?’. After all, you’re meant to be a researcher.
  • Turn up for your session. (Yes, it is tragic that I even have to include this, but there it is.)
So, what should you do when you're AT the conference? Your paper’s written (right? RIGHT…?), and you intend to turn up on time to give it. What else does a good conference participant do? So glad you asked!

A good conference presenter or delegate should:

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Want to improve the research culture around you? (Tseen Khoo)

Photo by Luke Michael  |  unsplash.com
If you're like me, you can't help yourself when it comes to being involved in a shiny new project.

It's especially the case if it means working with colleagues you know, trust, and respect.

This has been the story of my academic life, really, and my inability to say 'no' has led to a whole raft of opportunities that I wouldn't have envisaged.

So, it has worked well for me overall, even though there have been times when I've looked at my calendar and lamented humanity's inability to bend time (yet).

While I know that saying 'yes' to every option is not a great way to balance a life, my experiences with working on scholarly community projects have been the highlight of my working days.

The thing I missed most when doing these projects, knowing full well that they'd lead to bigger and better things for my area, discipline or school, was funding. Mostly, the outcomes from this work were not 'counted' the way research output is counted. There were no direct publications. Grant funding may come in, but in an oblique and longer-term manner.

Were the researchers affected happier, more connected with their peers, and likely to foster better relationships overall? Inevitably. Satisfyingly.

So, when I heard that the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research), Professor Keith Nugent had agreed to create the Research Culture Fund (RCF), I was excited.

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Planning for recruitment before your ethics application (Jason Murphy)

Image by Pavan Trikutam
As a communications lead in the Graduate Research School, I'm often asked to support the recruitment of participants for research projects from within and outside of La Trobe.

With the majority of these requests, what has struck me is that researchers are limiting themselves to email and flyers posted around campuses when there are a wealth of communication channels at their disposal.

Contemporary society equals communication overload. We're all used to being time poor, and constantly assessing whether the deluge of information coming at us is relevant or of interest.

To have a chance of communicating effectively these days means you need to tell your audience very quickly what it is your message is about. If they're interested, they'll be willing to take further action, such as clicking through to a webpage for more information.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Theory by the tramload (Melissa Kennedy)

Inside the Theory Tram | Photo by Melissa Kennedy
How do you make social theory ‘social’?

This was the question our Planning and Social Theory Reading Group asked ourselves as we developed the idea for a social theory salon. This idea went on to be generously sponsored by the Graduate Research School and College of Arts, Social Science and Commerce's Intellectual Climate Fund.

Importantly, we wanted to ensure that the event would complement the purpose of our reading group, which informally gets together to discuss the application of social theory to our studies in a space where we can 'grapple-in-common'.

While modelling the event on a French Enlightenment-style ‘salon’ evoked an interactive setting for the discussion of ideas, would it be enough to spark broader interest in a social theory gathering?

And where could we hold it? Should it be on campus? What if we took theory ‘downtown’ and held it on a tram...? Would it be distracting, maybe a little too much fun? What if it all went off the rails (literally and metaphorically)? Do we just do it anyway?!

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Finding the perfect image (Tseen Khoo)

Troop inspection | Photo by Pascal
Do you know how long I agonised over what photo should accompany this post about how to find photos to accompany posts...?

I know that's all a bit meta, but stay with me. I'm from the Humanities.

For the RED program, I run a series of workshops about creating and building a digital profile on social media, especially Twitter.

Many of you will have attended them. Many of you run research project blogs, PhD blogs, or regularly contribute to group research blogs.

Many of you organise research events for your colleagues and put together the promotional material for them.

Most salient to this post, many of you who do these things ask: “How do I find free images to use? What are the rules for using them?”

There are plenty of resources on the internet about finding images to use on blogs, image copyright and attribution, licensing, Creative Commons, fair use, etc. Here’s a search I prepared earlier!

What I’m doing with this post is not presenting a comprehensive handbook to online image searching, use, and attribution. I’m giving you my simple (hopefully not simplistic) insight into what I find to be good practice for sourcing and using images for non-profit blogposts and other non-profit projects and events.

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Why litter? Not enough bins? (Lucie Semenec and Jen Wood)

 Everything looks better when there is no litter on the grass.
Our second Department-organised litter clean-up day was held at La Trobe University's Melbourne Campus on 13 May.

We'd spread the word a bit wider this time and were joined by litter-busting volunteers from across the Campus.

Volunteers included those from the Microbiology, Zoology and Ecology departments as well as some RED, and GRS team members. We were also joined by Craig Allen from the Environmental Operations Office, who provided some materials for use in gathering litter. 

This month, we focused on car parks at the University to see where the litter begins, as staff and students enter the uni to start their hard-working day.

The good news is we collected a lot of litter and really cleaned up the car parks. The bad news is, we collected a lot of litter.

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Competitive Early Career Researcher grants - what did and didn’t work for me (Courtney Ennis)

Photo by Edgaras Maselskis | unsplash.com
With internal Expression of Interest (EoI) dates fast approaching for various major funding schemes, La Trobe Early Career Researchers (ECRs) may be weighing up their odds for success.

Considering the substantial time and effort expended in honing grant proposals, could this energy be better spent on, I don’t know, research and writing papers...? I know I had these thoughts.

Reflecting on the vacant application form that confronted me a few years ago, I'm pleased with my former self for saying, “Ugh, fine, I’ll do it!”.

This decision to forge on with the paperwork changed my career.

Taking shape around me today is a small, talented group of graduate researchers, shiny new laboratory equipment and even some modest funds locked in the research account.

And how did I get from staring at a blank application form to here?

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Interview with Associate Professor Lisa Amir (Judith Lumley Centre)

Lisa Amir (left), Miranda Buck (centre) and new family at Royal Women's Hospital

This week, we interview Associate Professor Lisa Amir from the Judith Lumley Centre (JLC; on Twitter at @LTUJudithLumley).

The JLC is a multidisciplinary public health research centre with programs focused on mothers, parents and their infants.

It's great to see Lisa's enthusiasm for her topic shine through.

And the fact that she and her team tried five times before landing that big grant? A perfect demonstration of how persistence is as necessary in academia as expertise!