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.

----------------------------

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.