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 producitve 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.

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Open Access Afternoon report (Helen Young)


It's International Open Access Week!

Just yesterday, La Trobe held its second Open Access Afternoon, and this report is for those who want to re-live the excitement - or who couldn't make it on the day.
DVC - Research Keith Nugent opening the event
Photo by Tseen Khoo

The Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research) Keith Nugent opened proceedings by emphasising La Trobe’s commitment to Open Access as a key tool in the University’s engagement and impact agenda. Open Access is an important way of making sure that people know about our work and are able to use it. Major funding bodies, including the ARC and NHMRC, prioritise making publicly-funded research openly available. As Keith said, it's important for the future of the university as an institution and for the future of research.

Simon Huggard, Deputy Director of Research and Collections at the Library, then spoke about the purpose of the week, giving an overview of current issues and initiatives around Open Access. The increasing monopolies of major journal publishers are a significant challenge for libraries and researchers. Australian libraries pay more than $200 million for journal subscriptions, a major outlay of resources. Publishers often ‘double dip’ by charging authors to publish Open Access without reducing subscription fees to the same journal.

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!

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

The 3rd LTU Early Career Researcher (ECR) Network Conference CFP

Save the Date & Call for Papers

Monday 25th September 2017 


Life as an ECR can be demanding and stressful as you find your feet as an independent researcher. Being plugged into an active research community can be vital to sustaining momentum, keeping up-to-date with information, and building your network of potential collaborators. 

This one-day conference has been designed by ECRs for ECRs with the aim of providing opportunities for networking, learning, and building a community of support for ECRs at La Trobe University.

What's on for this year’s conference?

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

What’s your handle? (Tseen Khoo)

Sourced from www.publicdomainpictures.net
On social media platforms such as Instagram or Twitter, one of the first things you'll have to set up is your username or 'handle'.

This can cause massive angst for researchers when they're grappling with developing their online identities.

Often, it's because people don't know where to start, or they may not have clarity about why they're building an online identity in the first place.

More often still, it’s because they don’t want to get it wrong. I would like to say that there's no way you can get it wrong because it's ultimately your choice what you want to call yourself, etc, but you can get it wrong, in professional terms.

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

The benefits of working ‘outside’ (Madeleine Kendrick)

Photo by Madeleine Kendrick
I need to start this post with a small disclaimer: I live in Perth, Western Australia.

It's a place that's often described as ‘relentlessly sunny’. The sunny days of mild weather and gorgeous sparkling water vastly outnumber the rainy days, and even the rainy days have their own noir-style charm.

Ever since I moved to Perth to live with my husband, I've been tempted time and again to work ‘outside’ despite growing up indoors, tethered to a desktop PC.

As an academic student, my definition of ‘outside’ is not quite as stark as, say, a fitness instructor. I still require some form of table, electrical outlet, and wi-fi to conduct my work, which limits me mostly to cafes (I’m not complaining at all).

Thankfully, Perth has these by the handful!

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

An insider's view of pitching a project in a competition (Ismael Maclennan)

AMP pitch night participants, image courtesy of AMP Amplify
It was just another day for me, like many of the other days that passed before and perhaps no different from the days that were about to come.

Every day that comes and goes brings you closer to the end of your PhD journey, and during those final days you realise that you devote most of your time to perform one task: writing and writing and writing...

This day, however, was special.

Apart from receiving my usual weekly dose of spam calls, I noticed that someone had left a voicemail.

I was very excited to hear that my application for the AMP Amplify Ignite PhD competition was successful, and I was shortlisted for a phone interview with Jessica Chalker, the event organiser.

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Should I have a website? (Tseen Khoo)

Photo by chrysics | www.flickr.com/photos/chrysics
Most people who know me at La Trobe realise I'm a zealot when it comes to social media and making research accessible.

There are many, many good reasons to give it a go - some people take to it, others don't. Still others like some aspects of social media but will run a mile from others.

And that's all good, as long as researchers keep an open mind about the channels and platforms that are available, and genuinely think them through for their own needs.

One of the common questions I get asked, and have fielded recently many times, is from early career researchers and PhD students: "Should I have a website?"

Most of the time, after having a quick chat, the answer is that it's worth setting one up.

WHY would I want a website? 

The driver to set up a website is usually a combination of these reasons:

1. Developing a profile for the researcher, a particular project, or research issue.
2. Being on - or almost on - the job market and wanting to present a good digital face.
3. Wanting a space to engage with non-academic partners and collaborators.
4. Anticipating recruiting for a research project (and building a base for it)

One of the most important things for emerging researchers is being able to present the strongest face possible to potential employers, funders, and collaborators. It can be hard to do this, for example, when your digital profile is split across several universities where you tutor and all you have on those staff pages is 'Casual tutor' or 'Sessional staff'. That's not the identity that most researchers want on the front foot, and having your own website means that you control that career story!

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Industry mentoring? What's that about? (Marguerite Evans-Galea and Lara Bereza-Malcolm)

During Careers Month in May, we had the privilege of having Marguerite Evans-Galea (Executive Director, IMNIS) and Lara Bereza-Malcolm (La Trobe PhD researcher, Environmental Microbiology) as our guest speakers during a session focused on industry mentoring and graduate researchers' experiences of it.

The huge push across the higher education sector for industry collaboration means that these initiatives are more important than ever!

We interviewed Marguerite and Lara separately about their perspectives on the IMNIS industry mentoring scheme and the broader project of bringing academia and industry closer together to collaborate and learn more from each other.

Establishing these connections will also enhance opportunities for highly qualified professionals, with a PhD, in different industry sectors.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

How useful is Twitter professionally? (Jason Dutton)

Image from Esther Vargas
www.flickr.com/photos/esthervargasc
Shared via CC BY-SA 2.0
I’ll open this piece on using Twitter as an academic by admitting I’m not much for technology or computers.

I can hardly do email, and wish we were still allowed to just get up and deliver lectures by writing on a chalkboard.

But I have enjoyed getting on Twitter with a more or less professional focus and it’s given me several opportunities I might not otherwise have had. It's useful for your career to get on Twitter and actively use it.

How useful?

Well…more or less, depending. Some might just get a bit of amusement, but there are scientists I know of in Australia whose effective use of Twitter has made them a personality in the popular media, and this has made their career.

I am definitely towards the less impactful end of the scale, but mine is probably a more typical experience. I’ll start with some of the benefits I’ve experienced.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

What's wrong with the 'pub test'? (Katherine Firth)


Saloon Bar - Royal Hotel, Randwick
| NSW Police Forensic Photography Archive Sydney
Presenting research to a non-expert audience is really important.

Many highly technical fields of research are deeply significant to the every day lives of many people: from health research, to risk analysis, economic research, IT security, political sciences, and media studies.

Everyone is trying to navigate decisions about what medicine to take, whether to update their computer, how to save for retirement, how to make decisions when they vote, how to interpret the news, what book or film to watch and how to think about it when they do. 

Projects like The Conversation, 3MT (heats are on at La Trobe right now!), blogs, TV documentaries, academic Twitter, and mass media paperbacks like Twitter and Teargas, Doughnut Economics and Testosterone Rex, are all fantastic examples of ways to help non-specialists engage with cutting edge research and big ideas. (I have just read the 3 listed books, even though I’m not an information security expert, an economist, or a behavioral scientist, and, in fact, stopped studying any of these subjects half-way through high school).

The ‘pub test’ is an Australian term for the idea that expert or complex ideas that impact people’s lives need to be comprehensible to an ‘ordinary’ person. This is a longstanding tradition, like the early-twentieth-century legal idea of a ‘reasonable person’, also known as the ‘man on the Clapham omnibus'. This ‘man’ probably doesn’t have a higher degree, but is reasonably intelligent, a reliable worker, takes public transport, keeps up with the news, and is going about his daily business. In Melbourne, where La Trobe is based, this person turns up in legal decisions riding on ‘a Bourke St tram’.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

The perks of being a PhD student rep (Anne Brouwer)

Photo by Howard Lake | flickr.com
Why would you become a student representative?

Let me rephrase that.

Why would you want to read 30-page policies? Why would you want to spend hours in meetings? Why would you choose to put yourself out there and speak up to higher management? Why would you want to deal with other people’s problems? Why would you want to be the one to open up a can of worms?

You won't believe this, but it's actually quite fun!

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Originality sin? Self-citation and self-plagiarism (Helen Young)

Photo by Brooke Lark | unsplash.com
Knowing what to do when it comes to referencing your own publications can be difficult, even for experienced researchers.

Self-citation is sometimes seen as a kind of self-promotion that ‘good’ researchers should not do. But the real issue when it comes to deciding whether or not to reference is audience, not authorship.

According to the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research (2007) “researchers must ensure that they cite other relevant work appropriately and accurately when disseminating research findings” (section 4.6).

This doesn’t only apply to the work of others. If you have been working in a particular field for any length of time then it is extremely likely that you are building on something you have published already in current work. As Sam Cooke and Michael Donaldson have argued we can think of self-citation as “an inevitable outcome of a cohesive and sustained research program.”

Citations give credit where it is due, but they are also there for readers who want to follow up on, and understand more about, a particularly idea, set of data, etc.

Might your readers benefit from the citation? To quote the Code, is a publication “other relevant work?” If it is, then you should cite it, no matter who wrote it.

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Your go-to career resource stash (Tseen Khoo)

Image by Jonathan Simcoe | unsplash.com
What are you doing with your life?

When you start thinking seriously about your career and where you're at, it often happens when the workshops that might've been helpful have already run, the people you want to talk to are away at a conference, and appointments with career advisors can't happen for a month.

It's also often in the middle of the night, you've had too much coffee, and you want direction and answers right now!

Well, this is what this resource stash is about.

Bookmark it.

When you realise you want to know all the things about careers - how working it out happens for others and how you might work your own out - come back here and browse the wisdom and strategies.

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

What does industry want? (Interview with Greg Sheehan)

What is it that industry wants from graduates?

This question occupies a lot of air-time in higher education circles, and the push is on from the Australian government to foster closer collaborations among universities, industry, and graduate researchers.

You'd be right in thinking that not getting on top of these new research priorities could set your career planning back a step or two!

This week's 'Careers Month' post is an interview with Dr Greg Sheehan, Director and Principal Process Engineer with Hatch Ltd. Hatch is an international consultant engineering and project implementation company with offices in ten countries.

Greg graduated with his PhD in Chemical Engineering from the University of Queensland.

"I graduated at a time when the engineering sector, particularly in my field of Chem Eng, was very different, " he said. "I got my first job at MIM Holdings straight after graduation, started at the company the following week, and was on-site in Mount Isa in a day! I've been with Hatch now for nine years."

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Growing into a career (Alex Lugg)

The useless tree  |  Image sourced from
http://www.conures.net/stories/tree.shtml
 
I help academics apply for and manage their grants.

This involves putting together a year-long grant development program for the highly subscribed Australian Research Council schemes, as well as providing ad hoc support for less popular schemes.

I work closely with College Associate Pro-Vice Chancellors (Research) to identify potential candidates for fellowship schemes and coax them into applying for them.

Our office also provides resources to assist academics write their funding proposals. Aside from that, there’s also a bit of problem solving- should anyone have misspent their funds, breached the agreement with their funding body or so on. It’s my role to help resolve these issues.

I didn’t set out to do this sort of work when I began my PhD.

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Your PhD – Lasers and Pocket Knives (Geoffrey Guilfoyle)

Photo by Alvin Trusty | www.flickr.com/photos/trustypics
Shared here via CC BY-NC 2.0

CC BY-NC 2.0

I was recently talking with a new graduate researcher who was worried whether their intended research topic would get them a job.

I reflected on the number of research candidates I’ve met who focused on asking ‘What have I got by the end of my degree?’.

It’s reasonable enough to focus on the core of your research, and to wonder how many employers will be interested in the deep and narrow laser-beam of knowledge you’ve uncovered. It might feel a bit like having only one string to your bow.

In my experience as a careers counsellor, graduate researchers often expend a lot of energy worrying about only one side of the equation.

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

My Top 4 career tips, as an Early Career Researcher (Sam Manna)

Photo by Martin Reisch | unsplash.com
I have written a few blogs for the RED unit, but when I was asked to talk about the career decisions I'd made and provide advice, it really stopped me in my tracks!

I guess this was my Imposter Syndrome making me think I didn’t have anything significant to contribute to a such topic!

As I started writing, however, it became clear that I was going to have trouble sticking to 800 words!

Here are my Top 4 pieces of career advice, based on my recent experiences as an Early Career Researcher:

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Things I’ve learned about putting together large grant applications (Rachel Winterton)


Elephant in knitted suit plus child | Photo by Kim Tairi
www.flickr.com/photos/angels_have_the_phone_box
Given that I work as a research-only academic, pulling together large grant applications is something that I do a LOT of.

When I started my job as a research officer back in 2009, my contribution was limited to chasing up bits and pieces for senior colleagues who were submitting grants. I was given tasks like adding up budgets and finding references.

Now, I lead my own grant applications (mostly Australian Research Council grants, but occasionally large tenders for industry or philanthropic grants). I collaborate with national and international colleagues, as well as industry partners.

I've had more failures than successes (which applies to just about every other researcher I know) but, regardless of the outcome, there are things I’ve learned over the years about making the process as smooth and stress-free as possible.

Here are my key tips for your grant writing pleasure!

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

iThenticate - it's here to help (Helen Young)

Photo by Jimmy Chang | unsplash.com
We all know not to plagiarise, but managing ethical publication isn’t as simple as saying ‘don’t copy’ like we got told in primary school tests.

Anyone can make a mistake, get a reference wrong, or forget to put quote marks in their notes and think the passage is a paraphrase months later. And what about quoting and citing yourself?

In this day and age of impact and engagement, we often write about the same research more than once as we try to reach the biggest audience we can. It can be hard to find new words to do it in, especially when time is a commodity nobody has enough of.

So, what’s a time-poor researcher to do?

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

The real reason I engage in scientific outreach (Charles Gray)

My best friend is a high school teacher and the question he gets asked the most is “What am I ever going to use this for?”

I would wager that the subject that gets this question the most is mathematics.

As a PhD student in mathematical statistics, I know that problems of today and the problems of tomorrow, such as climate change, income inequality, and cancer, cannot be solved without the mathematical sciences. But high school students don’t necessarily know this.

It’s this message that I, as a careers ambassador for the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute’s Choose Maths campaign, have been sharing with high school students around Australia.

In March 2017, we toured the country screening the movie Hidden Figures, a chronicle of three extraordinary female mathematicians who worked in the space program at NASA in the 1960s, to high school girls. At each event, we have women who work in mathematics-related fields speak and share their journey. This role developed from my work as a student affiliate with Women in STEMM Australia, for whom I curated a feature series on women studying STEMM last year, and various similar projects.

Why would I do something like this?

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

What's the Statistics Consultancy Research Platform? (Xia Li)

The consultancy offers statistical advice about research methods, experimental design and data analysis to improve the quality and impact of research outcomes. Services are available to La Trobe researchers and graduate research students across all campuses, as well as external organisations.

In this week’s blog, Xia Li (Statistics Consultant) shares with us some of her work on the platform, and the experiences of a researcher and student she assisted.

The RED Alert will feature posts on the experiences of each of the new research platforms over the coming weeks. These have been created to bring together capabilities, expertise and technology from across the university under defined structures to enhance how La Trobe researchers do their work, so we hope you enjoy learning about them.

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As the Statistics Consultant, I’m supported by a team of statisticians: Dr Leila Karimi, Dr Graeme Byrne, Dr Jerry Lai, and Dr Masha Fridman.

Our aim is to raise the quality of research by providing advice on experimental design prior to the conduct of research, as well as the analysis of data, so that more of the results are publishable.

We have experience in a broad range of statistical methodologies, and offer support across all disciplines of research.

Since the launch of our platform in September 2016, we’ve assisted researchers and students across nine schools.

Here's a breakdown of what we can do for you:

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Beer and Ideas: Presenting research to a general audience (Sarah Hayes)

Before the microphone at the pub
Photo by Marcella Carragher
As a historical archaeologist it's very easy to get stuck in the past. Being included in the ‘History Matters’ series for Melbourne Free Uni was an opportunity for me to reflect on the current relevance of my research and share it with an interested audience over a glass of wine.

But talking to a general audience was a new experience for me, and the preparation turned out to be quite different to my previous academic papers!

Suddenly, I found myself thinking much more about the audience, hooks, and narrative.

About unleashing my academic third person distance from what I was discussing and putting myself in the picture.

About being a little creative - gasp!

I thought I'd share a bit about my experience here.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

3 ways to fix those meetings (Tseen Khoo)

(Image origin unknown)
Every academic I know loathes meetings. Loathes them.

They view meetings as obstacles to (rather than elements of) work, wasted time, forced upon them, and – even worse – as forums for awful colleagues to showcase their awfulness.

Having attended many meetings in my academic and other professional lives, I can’t rally much of a defence for meetings. They are the bane of many working lives, academic or not.

Now, I’m not talking in this post about getting together with collaborators, new colleagues, or catching up with buddies under the guise of ‘meetings’. These could turn out badly, but they’re more likely to be energising and fun events. And they’re often by choice.

However, no-one’s ever said that of the majority of work meetings, particularly those regular committee and staff ones.

Despite initial appearances, this post isn’t just another long whinge about meetings!

This post is about how to try to fix the main things that are wrong with meetings. I want to help you help others make meetings useful. Yes, useful. As a baseline, you should be observing meeting etiquette no matter how cheesed off you are that you have to attend.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

From documenting live art in Rome to copyediting books: Research experiences with the Social Research Assistance Platform (Amy Kong)

Documenting live art performances in Melbourne and Rome; archiving endangered languages that are accessible to the wider language community and linguistics researchers; reading and analysing key texts written in old Romanian; contributing to an open-access archaeology database; copyediting a book for publication with Oxford University Press; and entering and coding data on NVivo. 

These are just some of the many projects that the Social Research Assistance Platform has supported since its inception in May 2016.

In this week's blog, Amy Kong (Platform Coordinator) shares with us her work on the Social Research Assistance platform, and some of the experiences of researchers who've used it so far.

The RED Alert will feature posts on the experiences of each of the new research platforms over the coming weeks.

These have been created to bring together capabilities, expertise and technology from across the university under defined structures to enhance how La Trobe researchers do their work, so we hope you enjoy learning about them!

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

What does La Trobe's Proteomics Platform do? (Matt Perugini)


Proteomics at La Trobe
The Comprehensive Proteomics Platform provides postgraduate students and senior researchers with priority access to contemporary technologies for identifying and quantifying proteins, determining protein structure, and looking at how proteins interact.

Essentially, it is a “one stop, proteomics shop” that brings together specialised technologies and expertise in gas, solution and crystal phase protein analyses that complement the La Trobe Genomics and Biostatistics platforms.

In this week's blog, Matt Perugini (Platform Director) shares with us his work on the Proteomics platforms, and some of the experiences of researchers who've used it so far.

The RED Alert will feature posts on the experiences of each of the new research platforms over the coming weeks.

These have been created to bring together capabilities, expertise and technology from across the university under defined structures to enhance how La Trobe researchers do their work, so we hope you enjoy learning about them!

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Challenges and rewards of submitting your paper to an academic journal (James Kirby)

Photo by Alejandro Escamilla | unsplash.com  
In October 2016, I won a $500 prize for best peer-reviewed article at the Victorian Community History Awards.

The award was given for a piece I had published for Provenance: The Journal of Public Record Office Victoria. My research was a case-study of the post-World War One soldier settlement on Ercildoune Road, near Ballarat.

By showing both the benefits and challenges of publishing my first peer-reviewed article, I hope to encourage fellow students to submit to academic journals.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Homeward Bound: Recipe for a transformative leadership program (Sam Grover)

Photo by Sam Grover

Collect 76 highly motivated women scientists from all over the world, 8 talented teaching faculty, a few dozen humpback whales, and a couple of hundred thousand penguins.

Mix together in a small ship in Antarctic waters for 20 days. Stir thoroughly, agitate regularly, shake occasionally. Dip regularly into the icy waters all around. The mixture will separate, sometimes disintegrate then, with careful tending, reform into something new, something truly transformative.

The Homeward Bound alumni are courageous, newly equipped with the vision and tools to enable them to make a difference to the world.

I was lucky enough to participate in the inaugural Homeward Bound expedition to Antarctica in December 2016. I arrived in Ushuaia at the end of November, jetlagged but excited, anticipating gruelling seasickness, stunning landscapes and empowering leadership and strategy training. Homeward Bound exceeded all of my expectations.

This was a truly transformative leadership program. The insights and connections forged during the 20 days at sea will support me to grow and develop as a leader and scientist for the rest of my career.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

The research foundation for creating Safe Schools Coalition Victoria (Roz Ward)

In the past year Australia has witnessed an explosion of negative media directed at Safe Schools Coalition. 

Safe Schools Coalition Australia
| safeschoolscoalition.org.au
This attention has focused on what many have described as ‘ideological’ elements of the program's content, or on fabricated stories about what actually goes on in schools. 

Despite efforts to discredit the research-base on which the program was founded, the evidence has been crucial in defending the program against these attacks.

The research journey began in 1995 when the Federal Government commissioned the Centre for the Study of Sexually Transmitted Diseases at La Trobe University to conduct a four-year national research program, the National Centre in HIV Social Research (NCHSR), on adolescent sexual risk-taking and wellbeing. This was in response to the HIV pandemic. Its purpose was to find out what marginalised young people needed to do to keep their sexual lives safe and what factors were contributing to risky behaviours.

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Are you in the loop? (Tseen Khoo)

Photo by Evelyn Berg | flickr | CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
You think you have FOMO?

We also have FOMO - on your behalf!

One of the things that makes me the most sadface at work is hearing about disappointed researchers who have missed out on workshops or events because they didn't know things were on.

This is especially the case when we have special events that take place only once a semester, feature invited guests (that is, presentations that may be one-offs), or that we're piloting and would've loved to have more feedback on.

If you have ever been in this position, read on and be in that position no more!

If you want to save your friends, colleagues, and graduate research students from that anguish, point them to this post!

To know all there is to know about what's on offer at La Trobe in the research education, development, and training area, here's what you do:

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Recruiting people for your research project - plan ahead! (Sara Paradowski)

Photo by Connor McSheffrey | unsplash.com
So, you’ve got an idea for a research project.

You’ve probably reviewed some of the literature to help you focus and fine-tune your idea to a more manageable project to fit with the timelines you have.

You have had to constantly remind yourself that you are one person with limited resources and interviewing 5000 people isn’t going to be a reasonable expectation and that’s OK.

In the end, you decide that 32 participants will give you sufficient data to analyse and write about.