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.