Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Finding your way as a researcher

Photo by Barby Dalbosco | unsplash.com
Research at universities is always breaking new ground.

This could be through conceptual advances, new technologies, moving into new areas, changing funding and policy situations, or the more obvious transitions of starting a research higher degree, moving institutions, or getting a promotion.

Universities are large and complex places, and independent research means you need to find your way through collaboration, technology, permissions or policies for your project.

Guaranteed, things will change, or you'll miss information the first (or second) time around. It can be challenging to be confidently in the know. This lack of knowing how to find the help you need may be holding you back from being able to do what you want.

The start of a new academic year can be a good moment to reflect on this, and find ways to address the gaps in your institutional or researcher knowledge. It's a great chance to orient yourself, which means learning about where you are, then working out how to get to where you'd like to go.

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

What makes a good colleague? (Tseen Khoo)

Photo by Andre Freitas | unsplash.com
Many people lament the growing scarcity of collegiality in our working lives. Many declare, in varying shades of purple prose, that it has been sacrificed on the altar of economic rationalism and for the missions of our managerial universities.

Research stars and groups get imported into institutions, often breeding resentment and discomfort from those who are already there.

Scholars who are already excelling gain more for their work; those who aren't considered as such do not, and often find themselves without support to increase their research capacity.

Despite the rhetoric about collaboration and partnerships, the imperatives for outputs lead many to declare that collegiality and scholarly citizenship are under threat. This seems particularly true when people minimise any commitments that don't directly produce outputs.

The oil that smooths the machine of scholarship is not only what people write, analyse, and publish. It's not only presenting at conferences or supervising a higher degree student. Most of all, it's not what promotions people have had or grants they've won.

There is a whole raft of intangible, essential, labour-intensive work that goes into a healthy research ecosystem. In an almost-metrics way, this work includes being a good critical friend to colleagues and students, especially those who aren't directly in your area; reviewing for grants, book manuscripts, and papers; convening events that set the stage for a field or cohort to develop and progress; mentoring someone without having to... the list goes on.

At a totally non-metrics level, this kind of work encompasses supporting each other and providing encouragement, the social work of building connections between groups and individuals, being good communicators, and that most difficult element of bringing people together because they want to be together. This is the invisible (often feminised) labour of any workplace.

This post examines what makes a good colleague.

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Write it down! (Tseen Khoo)

Photo by Kaizen Nguyễn on unsplash.com
Welcome to the first post of 2018!

Are we feeling fresh and rejuvenated? Popping with ideas and plans for this year? Filled with resolve and determination for the things we want to get done?

Well, I am! Mostly. When I'm not wilting with the heat and contemplating moving to a snow-bound locale for the remainder of the Melbourne summer.

Despite the wilting, the thing that's energising me at the moment is the idea of journalling. It is, after all, a key New Year resolution-ising activity! Here are 14 ways to make journaling one of the best things you do in 2018! How could you resist? I know I didn't!

Journalling means to keep a diary or journal on a consistent basis. It could be a catch-all for your thoughts and ideas across the facets of your life. Alternatively, you can choose to keep a focused research journal, or one that is attuned to your career. It can be private and only for your reference, or you can post your journal online as a tracking and collaborative exercise (many personal blogs started off as online diaries, remember?). Journalling is very different from the craze of 'bullet journaling', a.k.a. 'bujo', which leans much more towards the productivity/to-do list end of things.

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

2017 - why we're thankful (The RED team)

Photo by TN Nguyen | unsplash.com 

It's that time of year when people's thoughts start turning to lazy days at the beach, spending time with loved ones, or generally taking a break from the everyday.

As is the RED Alert blog tradition, we're ending the year with a post that features the voices of the RED teaching team.

Our theme for this end-of-year post is 'what we're thankful for'.

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

My social media strategy for sharing research (Jane Kelley)

I work on a parasite that infects dairy cattle called liver fluke.

It reduces production and compromises the welfare of the animals. Due to the negative health effects of liver fluke inflections for dairy cattle, our research must be communicated to farmers, veterinarians and industry in a timely manner.

In the last post I discussed how I created a project website. In this post, I discuss the use of Twitter and how we intend to blog our findings.

Friday, 1 December 2017

LTUacwrimo wrap up - and looking forward to a summer of productive writing

The silent room at the RED writing retreat | Photo by Katherine Firth

La Trobe's Academic Writing Month (#LTUacwrimo) 2017 is finished for another year!

This is a perfect time to look back at where we started and reflect on our goals.

During November, we planned to work together to:
  •  Think about how we write,
  •  Form a valuable support network for our writing practice,
  •  Build better habits for the future, and
  •  Make progress towards our writing goals!
November is a busy time for academics, with marking, conferences, grants proposals and research all on our desks.

So, #LTUacwrimo can help you think about how to make progress even when it’s busy, and you may end up looking forward to December and January when many things other than writing are already starting to crowd out weekdays and evenings and weekends.

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Authorship and Publishing: a recap of the Research Integrity Forum (Dan Bendrups)

Photo courtesy of Barbara Doherty
On Thursday last week, as part of Academic Writing Month, La Trobe held its first Research Integrity Forum (organised by the Ethics, Integrity and Biosafety team and the RED Unit).

The theme of the forum was ‘authorship and publishing’, which taps into important questions around issues such as plagiarism, appropriate attribution, authorship.

The discourse of academic integrity is a fixture in the twenty-first century university, and has particular nuances when considered in terms of research.

On the one hand, codes and rules exist to govern and promote research integrity, largely aimed at protection from (and prevention of) harm arising from research. However, research integrity is also an approach or state of mind; something arrived at by free choice, rather than compulsion. As Bruce Macfarlane states in his book Researching with Integrity (2009, p.3): “Developing an understanding of what to do is always a more challenging prospect than issuing edicts about what is not right.”

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

What to do when the reviews for your manuscript arrive (Teresa Iacono)

Photo by Dustin Lee on Unsplash
As a researcher, the satisfaction of completing a manuscript and sending it off for review through the manuscript central portal can’t be underestimated.

You have reviewed the literature, conducted the research, written and edited numerous versions after exchanges with your supervisors or other co-authors, and now you have sent it on its way. Sigh of relief, followed by reward (bubbles in a hot bath, shiraz in a glass, and a trashy novel are amongst my favourites and preferably simultaneously).

The best part is that you can maintain that feeling of self-satisfaction for at least 4-6 weeks.

And then it comes in. You recognise the journal name sitting in your email Inbox. You stop breathing for a moment, your pulse quickens and there is a squeamish feeling in the pit of your stomach as you contemplate opening the email. My advice to you is … don’t.

Well, not before you go through some mental health first aid! Let me explain through an anecdote.

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Cross-pollinations (Alexis Harley)

Photo by Kira auf der Heide on Unsplash
I’m no scientist (alas), but I am an obsessive reader of scientific literature from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

It’s a literature I read as much for what it suggests about the culture in which it was written as for its scientific revelations, many of which, while ingenious, have slipped ignominiously from the canon of contemporary scientific belief (here’s looking at you, phrenology, phlogiston, and the gemmule theory of inheritance).

But it’s also a literature to be read for its stylistic innovation.

It’s hard to imagine a modern botanist writing serious scholarly work on the reproductive mechanisms of eighty-three plant species, based on original botanical research, extensive reading and correspondence – as an epic poem, in heroic couplets, with the plants personified as polyamorous demigods. But in 1789? Find a rhyme for stamen, stat.

One of the reasons why scholarly writing could be so polymorphous in the eighteenth century was that scholarship was still becoming disciplined. Writer-researchers often worked in multiple areas of enquiry, some of which weren’t even named, let alone demarcated and institutionalised. That allowed for a discursive cross-pollination that would be frowned upon if practised a hundred years later, even if some of the mainstream disciplinary discourses of the twentieth-century had originally been hybrids themselves.

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

November is LTU Academic Writing Month

Academic Writing Month starts on Wednesday 1 Nov (with a workshop and afternoon tea launch) and runs through to Thursday 30 November (with a closing afternoon tea with the Graduate Research Students Society (GRSS) and the Student Union).

In between there will be a number of special events focusing on academic writing by researchers, including:
You can sign up for the newsletter, or drop in and chat with us on Twitter at the end of each week to let us know how things are going and get set up for the next week at #LTUacwrimo. Here on the blog we will feature La Trobe researchers talking about their writing each week.

But the other really important thing about #LTUAcWriMo is the way it allows us to highlight the support that La Trobe offers for academic writing throughout the year.