Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Career planning as a research project (Jason Brown)

Photo by Stefan Stefancik | unsplash.com
I have a confession to make.

I am a career development manager and a doctoral researcher, and I don’t know what I’ll be doing when people start calling me Dr Brown.

I do hope to find the ideal job where I can continue my research, do some teaching, present at international conferences, and perhaps in a faraway place people might start calling me Professor Brown. But I’m realistic enough to recognise that this may not ever happen.

Hey, right now, I’m making a big assumption that I’ll be able to sustain a full-time managerial job, family life and part-time study for another 4 or 5 years!

Given my dream of being a professor of career development, the traditional or deductive way for me to develop a career plan would be to identify all the steps I need to take from where I currently am to get to a professor.

But we know that life doesn’t play out in an orderly, linear path. Stuff happens along the way.

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

What does it take to found and edit a journal? (Sue Grieshaber)

This is the second of the RED Alert’s ‘What do editors want?’ series! 

For this series, we solicited blogposts from La Trobe's experienced academic editors, and asked them to share their perspectives and experiences with us. We're often told about impact factors and citation metrics but it's harder to get to know how journals actually work and what editors look for in paper submissions.

In this second entry, Professor Sue Grieshaber gives us some great insight into the life and priorities of a journal co-editor, as well as top tips for researchers and future paper authors. Sue is the founder and co-editor of Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood (CIEC). CIEC is a peer-reviewed international research journal focused on research addressing new and alternative perspectives on working with young children and their families. 


Founding a new journal 

One of my mentors inspired me to be the founding co-editor of the journal Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood.

She made the suggestion and we had lots of discussion about it before writing a proposal that we could pitch to publishers.

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

When we go conference-ing (Tseen Khoo)

RED team manager, Jeanette Fyffe, leading the forum for 'Reframing the PhD'
project. Photo by Nigel Palmer.
The one conference that those working in Graduate Research Schools tend to think of as an essential one is the Quality in Postgraduate Research (QPR) event.

It's held in Adelaide every two years, and it's THE conference for those working with graduate researchers and higher degree candidates more broadly.


The whole program - all two and half days of it - is devoted to presentations, roundtables, and forums about graduate research experiences, processes, environments, and supervisors. The talks range from major research project findings that aim to influence policy around graduate research, to sharing local processes and pilot programs from particular contexts.

Our keynote speakers came from the United Kingdom, South Africa, and locally. The opening keynote was given by Australia's Chief Scientist Alan Finkel, and reflected on the qualities
of the twenty-first century scientist, and the opportunities of a new generation.

And we were there at QPR! Very there, actually!

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Tips from a grumpy editor (Lisa Amir)

This is the first of the RED Alert’s ‘What do editors want?’ series! 

For this series, we solicited blogposts from La Trobe's experienced academic editors, and asked them to share their perspectives and experiences with us. We're often told about impact factors and citation metrics but it's harder to get to know how journals actually work and what editors look for in paper submissions.

In this first entry, Associate Professor Lisa Amir gives us her ‘Top 5’ editorial tips. She founded and is Editor-in-Chief of the online, Open Access journal, International Breastfeeding Journal (published by BioMed Central [Springer]), which began publishing in 2006. 

Lisa has presented on her journal’s Open Access philosophy, and is dedicated to ensuring that quality research about lactation and breastfeeding reaches as broad an audience as possible. 


Journal editors are busy people.

They do all the things that other academics do, THEN also have to pop their ‘editor’ hat on!

So, sometimes we get grumpy.

Here are five tips from a grumpy editor that will hopefully prevent editors from becoming grumpier!

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Life after a PhD (Anoo Bhopti)

Anoo's faithful PhD companion, Keanu. | Photo by Anoo Bhopti
For this post, I was invited to reflect on my very new life post-submission.

Yes! It has been a month since I submitted my PhD thesis and it's still a very new phase of my life.

My PhD spanned over six and half years (6 years and 7 months to be precise), but it has felt like a whole lifetime!

The immersed body and soul of a PhD student is only known to the one who lives it. The non-PhD world needs to know that what they are getting is only a superficial self. The deep-rooted PhD self within the body just wants everyone to disappear, to be left alone with their work.

We don’t want to be asked questions about when we are going to finish or where we are up to, or any of these questions - they, and the answers to them, can feel absolutely meaningless. You may judge me, but I didn't really care about how that might seem. I truly only wanted to be alone or in the company of other struggling PhD students (not the overachievers, though!), who made me feel a tiny bit better about myself!

Then one day, it happened. Things started to come together and, suddenly, I felt like this was it! It was almost submission time and there was nothing more that I could do. I never thought that I'd get to this stage when I was stuck in those middle years of the candidature! But it happened.

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Speak up! (Katherine Firth)

(Content note: includes material on bullying, harassment, violence and sexual assault).

We all agree that research should be done with 'integrity'. But what does that mean?

Does it mean abiding by the policies and procedures required for Ethics Approvals? Does it mean not breaking the Code of Conduct? Does it mean using software to help avoid plagiarism like EndNote and iThenticate?

Or does integrity also include wider concerns? Might it include every aspect of your relationship to your data, communicating your research, your research relationships with subjects, supervisors, and research team?

La Trobe’s Research values are "Honesty, objectivity, duty of care, fairness, accuracy, reliability and responsibility". They are relevant as much to your decisions about what to publish (are your results really significant?), how you relate to the communities you study (are you giving them data and analysis that helps them as well as your career?), and how you decide who gets authorship on collaborative papers (does authorship reflect contribution?).

There will probably also be a personal aspect to your own code of research integrity.

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

The surprising benefits of a read-aloud reading group (Matilda Keynes and Nikita Vanderbyl)

Photo by Mavis CW | unsplash.com
Recently, Erin Bartram’s piece ‘The Sublimated Grief of the Left Behind’ made waves on Twitter for its honest and frankly, painful assessment of the experience of leaving academia, after the author failed to secure a tenured position.

As Australian PhD students, we discover early in our candidature that our 3.5-year program likely won't be competitive in the global market.

For many of us, our further study is born out of a genuine passion for learning, and accompanied by naive aspirations towards an academic career. In most cases, 3.5 years of modest funding isn’t adequate to write a thesis; publish a monograph with a leading academic publisher plus multiple peer-reviewed, tier-one journal articles; present at international conferences; attract research funding; and coordinate and design undergraduate subjects. Let's not even mention the expectations of attaining a myriad of impressive awards and bursaries.

Given the heavily-skewed ‘jobs available vs. PhD graduates’ ratio in history, it is no surprise really that the few available positions often go to those who earned their doctorates from leading R1 institutions (or equivalent) internationally. All this is happening in the context of an increasingly casualised academic workforce. About 65% of Australian university staff are now employed casually, and the vast majority of the research labour listed above must be done without job security.

This, Bartram’s piece, and the many other varieties of ‘quit lit’ that grace our Twitter feeds daily, as well as the experience of departmental restructures, and the loss of supervisors to illness, redundancy and retirement, can make for fairly low morale among doctoral students. At more than one point, it can feel overwhelming. We won’t pretend we’ve found a way to halt this compounding sense of futility. Even if we did, it would likely vary for everyone as the PhD journey is such a personal one.

What we have found, though, is the surprising morale-boosting benefits of the humble reading group.

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Why podcast your research? (Lauren Gawne)

Lauren Gawne (left) and Gretchen McCulloch.  Photo courtesy of Lingthusiasm - lingthusiasm.com
Lauren Gawne (left) and Gretchen McCulloch.
Photo courtesy of Lingthusiasm - lingthusiasm.com
Thanks to podcasts I now have a new way of keeping myself entertained while tackling some tedious data entry or walking an extra few bus stops home.

Individual episodes of on-demand content have breathed new live into the audio genre, and while the medium has many fictional serialised dramas and blokes laughing at their mates’ jokes, there is also a robust, and growing, genre of podcasts that make you feel smart just for listening to them.

In particular, I love researcher-driven podcasts. They make complex topics personable, without necessarily having to sacrifice nuance or complexity.

I enjoy listening to podcasts in my own area, but I also love learning more about Roman history (Emperors of Rome), queer theory (Queers podcast), and science (Science Vs.), from podcasts run by academics, or that frequently interview them. 

Since November 2016, I’ve been making Lingthusiasm, a podcast that is enthusiastic about linguistics, with my friend and fellow linguistic Gretchen McCulloch. Gretchen is a full-time pop linguist, and we met online thanks to our blogs (Superlinguo & All Things Linguistic).

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Tackling illness and a PhD (Laena D'Alton)

Photo by Gaelle Marcel | unsplash.com
“A PhD is one of the hardest things you’ll ever do.”

Sound familiar?

Now imagine embarking on that challenge without something most of us take for granted: good health.

Undoubtedly, anyone who suffers poor health (short-term or chronic) needs to take a different approach to research.

I’ve been tackling a chronic illness for five years, and a PhD for two. I’ve learned a bit about both.

I do things differently and remind myself that it’s OK to do so. I say ‘yes’ only to what matters most to me, I plan my days with a dose of humility (my project is not more important than my wellbeing), and I am more patient with myself in terms of health and research progress (still working on that one!). I’m learning to be a better researcher, and a better me.

Here are a few of my reflections that might help anyone suffering illness to navigate their way through their PhD candidature:

Tuesday, 3 April 2018

New age, new tools: Online Research Notebook (Michele Hosking)

In a world that’s becoming increasingly digital and connected, there are still little analog pockets, spaces where old school is still the school. For many researchers, one of those pockets contains a notebook in which they record their thoughts, observations, and ideas.

These notebooks are the most inspired output produced by a researcher, the very essence of their theories and analyses.

Posterity highly prizes such artefacts.

The 7,000 extant pages of Leonardo da Vinci’s notebooks, known as the Codex Arundel, have been described as “the living record of a universal mind” (Jonathan Jones on art).

By Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

A large collection of Isaac Newton’s papers is held in the Cambridge Digital Library, including his “Waste Book”, in which he developed his seminal work on calculus.

Historians of ancient Rome rejoice in the insightful works of Cicero, Julius Caesar and many other commentators of the Republic.

That such priceless, fragile records have survived through the ages is fortunate indeed. We can only imagine the insights we might have gleaned from the notes of Socrates, for example.