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.


$1000 to stimulate and improve the research culture around you? That's very welcome news!

The fact that I work in the Research Education and Development (RED) team and can't apply? That's not so good for me! But it means that I'm channeling my doing-community-good tendencies and flagging the scheme to you and strongly encouraging you to get in there and apply.

If you've ever complained about how 'nothing happens for research' where you are, now's your chance to make things happen.

The RCF is open for applications now and closes on 25 July. Make sure you read the guidelines (because I'm a zealot about guidelines) and hatch those plans ASAP.

Good things to think about when you're putting that application together:
  • Who is benefiting from these activities? Pro-tip: the answer should be La Trobe researchers. Seriously, though, you'll need to articulate clearly who the cohort is that the initiative benefits - and how. 
  • What happens after you spend the initial $1000 or so? It shouldn't be surprising that applications for activities that have longer-term effect will trump those that are presented as one-offs. Remember that the name of the scheme is 'research culture fund' - and we know that cultures aren't created or transformed overnight. 
  • The emphasis is on research culture. I know that having coffee is a great networking given, but putting in an application so that you and your peeps can have coffee is probably not the strongest idea out there. A few ideas are listed on the RCF webpage, but the key is to think laterally, creatively, and excitingly. You'll have to sell the idea of your initiative to the scheme's application assessors and - if successful - you'll also have to ensure it's something your colleagues will be keen to support or attend. Canvas suggestions and talk to the people in your research community.
  • The RCF encourages matched and complementary funding. If you're only starting to think about a project now, one of the first things you need to do (after coming up with a snappy, snazzy idea) is to start talking to people around you who might support your initiative with some of their own organisational or unit funding. This could be Heads of Schools or Departments, lab leaders, or Centre or Institute Directors. Submitting your application with additional funding secured is always better than additional funding only requested! 
  • Activity MUST take place by the end of 2016. You need to be able to move on the project as soon as you know the outcome of the scheme round. It's a fairly tight timeline and whether your proposed initiative is feasible for the second half of this year will be a consideration for the assessment panel. 

We're looking forward to seeing your great ideas for the RCF!

Research Climate Fund webpage (includes link to download application form): 
http://www.latrobe.edu.au/researchers/grs/red/initiatives/research-culture-fund-for-la-trobe-researchers

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Dr Tseen Khoo is a lecturer in research education and development with the RED team at La Trobe University. Melbourne. She has held research-only fellowships at the University of Queensland and Monash University, and was a research grant developer at RMIT University.

Tseen created and manages the Research Whisperer with Jonathan O'Donnell. 

She convenes the Asian Australian Studies Research Network (AASRN), and publishes on critical race studies, diasporic Asian cultures, and racialised academic identities. 

She's on Twitter at @tseenster.

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