Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Career planning as a research project (Jason Brown)

Photo by Stefan Stefancik | unsplash.com
I have a confession to make.

I am a career development manager and a doctoral researcher, and I don’t know what I’ll be doing when people start calling me Dr Brown.

I do hope to find the ideal job where I can continue my research, do some teaching, present at international conferences, and perhaps in a faraway place people might start calling me Professor Brown. But I’m realistic enough to recognise that this may not ever happen.

Hey, right now, I’m making a big assumption that I’ll be able to sustain a full-time managerial job, family life and part-time study for another 4 or 5 years!

Given my dream of being a professor of career development, the traditional or deductive way for me to develop a career plan would be to identify all the steps I need to take from where I currently am to get to a professor.

But we know that life doesn’t play out in an orderly, linear path. Stuff happens along the way.

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

What does it take to found and edit a journal? (Sue Grieshaber)

This is the second of the RED Alert’s ‘What do editors want?’ series! 

For this series, we solicited blogposts from La Trobe's experienced academic editors, and asked them to share their perspectives and experiences with us. We're often told about impact factors and citation metrics but it's harder to get to know how journals actually work and what editors look for in paper submissions.

In this second entry, Professor Sue Grieshaber gives us some great insight into the life and priorities of a journal co-editor, as well as top tips for researchers and future paper authors. Sue is the founder and co-editor of Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood (CIEC). CIEC is a peer-reviewed international research journal focused on research addressing new and alternative perspectives on working with young children and their families. 

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Founding a new journal 


One of my mentors inspired me to be the founding co-editor of the journal Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood.

She made the suggestion and we had lots of discussion about it before writing a proposal that we could pitch to publishers.

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

When we go conference-ing (Tseen Khoo)

RED team manager, Jeanette Fyffe, leading the forum for 'Reframing the PhD'
project. Photo by Nigel Palmer.
The one conference that those working in Graduate Research Schools tend to think of as an essential one is the Quality in Postgraduate Research (QPR) event.

It's held in Adelaide every two years, and it's THE conference for those working with graduate researchers and higher degree candidates more broadly.

Why?

The whole program - all two and half days of it - is devoted to presentations, roundtables, and forums about graduate research experiences, processes, environments, and supervisors. The talks range from major research project findings that aim to influence policy around graduate research, to sharing local processes and pilot programs from particular contexts.

Our keynote speakers came from the United Kingdom, South Africa, and locally. The opening keynote was given by Australia's Chief Scientist Alan Finkel, and reflected on the qualities
of the twenty-first century scientist, and the opportunities of a new generation.

And we were there at QPR! Very there, actually!

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Tips from a grumpy editor (Lisa Amir)

This is the first of the RED Alert’s ‘What do editors want?’ series! 

For this series, we solicited blogposts from La Trobe's experienced academic editors, and asked them to share their perspectives and experiences with us. We're often told about impact factors and citation metrics but it's harder to get to know how journals actually work and what editors look for in paper submissions.

In this first entry, Associate Professor Lisa Amir gives us her ‘Top 5’ editorial tips. She founded and is Editor-in-Chief of the online, Open Access journal, International Breastfeeding Journal (published by BioMed Central [Springer]), which began publishing in 2006. 

Lisa has presented on her journal’s Open Access philosophy, and is dedicated to ensuring that quality research about lactation and breastfeeding reaches as broad an audience as possible. 

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Journal editors are busy people.

They do all the things that other academics do, THEN also have to pop their ‘editor’ hat on!

So, sometimes we get grumpy.

Here are five tips from a grumpy editor that will hopefully prevent editors from becoming grumpier!

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Life after a PhD (Anoo Bhopti)

Anoo's faithful PhD companion, Keanu. | Photo by Anoo Bhopti
For this post, I was invited to reflect on my very new life post-submission.

Yes! It has been a month since I submitted my PhD thesis and it's still a very new phase of my life.

My PhD spanned over six and half years (6 years and 7 months to be precise), but it has felt like a whole lifetime!

The immersed body and soul of a PhD student is only known to the one who lives it. The non-PhD world needs to know that what they are getting is only a superficial self. The deep-rooted PhD self within the body just wants everyone to disappear, to be left alone with their work.

We don’t want to be asked questions about when we are going to finish or where we are up to, or any of these questions - they, and the answers to them, can feel absolutely meaningless. You may judge me, but I didn't really care about how that might seem. I truly only wanted to be alone or in the company of other struggling PhD students (not the overachievers, though!), who made me feel a tiny bit better about myself!

Then one day, it happened. Things started to come together and, suddenly, I felt like this was it! It was almost submission time and there was nothing more that I could do. I never thought that I'd get to this stage when I was stuck in those middle years of the candidature! But it happened.

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Speak up! (Katherine Firth)

(Content note: includes material on bullying, harassment, violence and sexual assault).

We all agree that research should be done with 'integrity'. But what does that mean?

Does it mean abiding by the policies and procedures required for Ethics Approvals? Does it mean not breaking the Code of Conduct? Does it mean using software to help avoid plagiarism like EndNote and iThenticate?

Or does integrity also include wider concerns? Might it include every aspect of your relationship to your data, communicating your research, your research relationships with subjects, supervisors, and research team?

La Trobe’s Research values are "Honesty, objectivity, duty of care, fairness, accuracy, reliability and responsibility". They are relevant as much to your decisions about what to publish (are your results really significant?), how you relate to the communities you study (are you giving them data and analysis that helps them as well as your career?), and how you decide who gets authorship on collaborative papers (does authorship reflect contribution?).

There will probably also be a personal aspect to your own code of research integrity.

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

The surprising benefits of a read-aloud reading group (Matilda Keynes and Nikita Vanderbyl)

Photo by Mavis CW | unsplash.com
Recently, Erin Bartram’s piece ‘The Sublimated Grief of the Left Behind’ made waves on Twitter for its honest and frankly, painful assessment of the experience of leaving academia, after the author failed to secure a tenured position.

As Australian PhD students, we discover early in our candidature that our 3.5-year program likely won't be competitive in the global market.

For many of us, our further study is born out of a genuine passion for learning, and accompanied by naive aspirations towards an academic career. In most cases, 3.5 years of modest funding isn’t adequate to write a thesis; publish a monograph with a leading academic publisher plus multiple peer-reviewed, tier-one journal articles; present at international conferences; attract research funding; and coordinate and design undergraduate subjects. Let's not even mention the expectations of attaining a myriad of impressive awards and bursaries.

Given the heavily-skewed ‘jobs available vs. PhD graduates’ ratio in history, it is no surprise really that the few available positions often go to those who earned their doctorates from leading R1 institutions (or equivalent) internationally. All this is happening in the context of an increasingly casualised academic workforce. About 65% of Australian university staff are now employed casually, and the vast majority of the research labour listed above must be done without job security.

This, Bartram’s piece, and the many other varieties of ‘quit lit’ that grace our Twitter feeds daily, as well as the experience of departmental restructures, and the loss of supervisors to illness, redundancy and retirement, can make for fairly low morale among doctoral students. At more than one point, it can feel overwhelming. We won’t pretend we’ve found a way to halt this compounding sense of futility. Even if we did, it would likely vary for everyone as the PhD journey is such a personal one.

What we have found, though, is the surprising morale-boosting benefits of the humble reading group.

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Why podcast your research? (Lauren Gawne)

Lauren Gawne (left) and Gretchen McCulloch.  Photo courtesy of Lingthusiasm - lingthusiasm.com
Lauren Gawne (left) and Gretchen McCulloch.
Photo courtesy of Lingthusiasm - lingthusiasm.com
Thanks to podcasts I now have a new way of keeping myself entertained while tackling some tedious data entry or walking an extra few bus stops home.

Individual episodes of on-demand content have breathed new live into the audio genre, and while the medium has many fictional serialised dramas and blokes laughing at their mates’ jokes, there is also a robust, and growing, genre of podcasts that make you feel smart just for listening to them.

In particular, I love researcher-driven podcasts. They make complex topics personable, without necessarily having to sacrifice nuance or complexity.

I enjoy listening to podcasts in my own area, but I also love learning more about Roman history (Emperors of Rome), queer theory (Queers podcast), and science (Science Vs.), from podcasts run by academics, or that frequently interview them. 

Since November 2016, I’ve been making Lingthusiasm, a podcast that is enthusiastic about linguistics, with my friend and fellow linguistic Gretchen McCulloch. Gretchen is a full-time pop linguist, and we met online thanks to our blogs (Superlinguo & All Things Linguistic).

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Tackling illness and a PhD (Laena D'Alton)

Photo by Gaelle Marcel | unsplash.com
“A PhD is one of the hardest things you’ll ever do.”

Sound familiar?

Now imagine embarking on that challenge without something most of us take for granted: good health.

Undoubtedly, anyone who suffers poor health (short-term or chronic) needs to take a different approach to research.

I’ve been tackling a chronic illness for five years, and a PhD for two. I’ve learned a bit about both.

I do things differently and remind myself that it’s OK to do so. I say ‘yes’ only to what matters most to me, I plan my days with a dose of humility (my project is not more important than my wellbeing), and I am more patient with myself in terms of health and research progress (still working on that one!). I’m learning to be a better researcher, and a better me.

Here are a few of my reflections that might help anyone suffering illness to navigate their way through their PhD candidature:

Tuesday, 3 April 2018

New age, new tools: Online Research Notebook (Michele Hosking)

In a world that’s becoming increasingly digital and connected, there are still little analog pockets, spaces where old school is still the school. For many researchers, one of those pockets contains a notebook in which they record their thoughts, observations, and ideas.

These notebooks are the most inspired output produced by a researcher, the very essence of their theories and analyses.

Posterity highly prizes such artefacts.

The 7,000 extant pages of Leonardo da Vinci’s notebooks, known as the Codex Arundel, have been described as “the living record of a universal mind” (Jonathan Jones on art).

By Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

A large collection of Isaac Newton’s papers is held in the Cambridge Digital Library, including his “Waste Book”, in which he developed his seminal work on calculus.

Historians of ancient Rome rejoice in the insightful works of Cicero, Julius Caesar and many other commentators of the Republic.

That such priceless, fragile records have survived through the ages is fortunate indeed. We can only imagine the insights we might have gleaned from the notes of Socrates, for example.

Tuesday, 27 March 2018

My Instagram and me (Georgia Atkin-Smith)

"Microscopy suite > General lab > Tissue culture > Mouse house"
https://www.instagram.com/p/BeUt5jPnJ-6/
Photo sourced from @someblondescientist
George Atkin-Smith only started her Instagram account @someblondescientist in late September 2017. 

In that short time, the account has gained almost 3600 followers and is going strong!  

The RED Alert invited Georgia to write about her Instagram experiences. Read on to see what it takes to create and manage a successful Insta account!

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I had been thinking for a while about setting up an Instagram account about my daily science life and general scientific communications (#scicomm).

But it took a lot of encouragement for me to take the leap!

Personally, I love social media and use many different forms. I reasoned that, if I was going to invest my time in it, it may as well be for something that not only helped me and my career, but also supported others along the way.

I created my ‘InstaBlog’ (an Instagram account that followed my day-to-day research adventures) without even realising the amazing scientific community I was joining.

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

To edit, or not to edit? That is the question… (Dan Bendrups)

Image by Tseen Khoo
In my work in the RED Unit at La Trobe University, graduate researchers and their supervisors approach me with all sorts of questions about graduate research candidature.

Recently, I’ve been fielding various questions about thesis editing.

On the one hand, this is a really good sign - a number of our candidates must be nearing completion.

On the other hand, these can be tricky questions to answer.

They can generate even more questions: How much should a supervisor contribute to the editing of a PhD? Is it acceptable for a candidate to pay an editor to help them? Where do you even find an editor?

One candidate wondered whether the university might have editors on staff. Another wanted to know how much they should expect their supervisor to help correct their grammar.

The answers to these sorts of questions can reflect a range of different factors.

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Why 'Shut up and Wiki'? (Tseen Khoo)

Photo by Alex Wong | unsplash.com
I'll admit it. I am a latecomer when it comes to things Wiki.

It's not like I've never used Wikipedia, linked to it in blogposts, talked about entries to others, or donated to the Wikimedia Foundation.

I've done all these things, sometimes compulsively, multiple times.

But it never occurred to me that I could actually contribute to it in a more substantial way.

Until I met Dr Thomas Shafee here at La Trobe, and listened to him speak on this topic a couple of times.

It was a revelation to hear from someone who was so au fait with the Wikipedia ethos and how it worked. I had not realised how strong the infrastructure for the platform was in terms of verifying and strengthening evidence bases for statements and details. I had assumed - very wrongly, it seems - that it was a bit of a free-for-all because, y'know, crowdsourced information.

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Getting your research into the media (Claire Bowers)

Professor Chris Sobey's work on stroke recovery received great coverage. 
Full story from Today can be found here: 
https://www.9news.com.au/national/2018/02/20/06/56/
placental-cells-could-heal-brains-after-stroke
Since starting at La Trobe as media manager a few months ago, my team and I have been fortunate to work with some incredible academic talent on a range of high impact, headline-grabbing stories that have really helped lift the University’s research reputation.

From the latest advance in stroke treatment and Professor Jenny Graves winning the prestigious PM’s Prize for Science, to Victoria’s first driverless bus trial, these are stories that generated significant metro and national coverage.

But stories don’t have to be as big as this to attract media attention!

Sometimes, a strategically placed piece in the right media outlet can not only reach exactly the audience you want to speak to but also spark more media interest.

We also encourage more researchers to write opinion pieces – we can help you with this – as well as become media commentators on relevant topics in the current news agenda.

I suspect there are more of you out there with research that will be of media interest. We want to hear from you!

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

How heartbreak took me to Italy (Nicholas Anthony)


Taking a selfie in Genoa, as you do.
Photo courtesy of Nicholas Anthony.
It seems like only yesterday that I was talking about my great experience using Career Ready in a blog post I cunningly called “How I became Career Ready”.

I ended that post with a throw-away line about getting a job.

What I didn’t say was, even with Career Ready, getting a job isn’t that straightforward.

So, let me tell you a bit about my experience.

I left my Career Ready appointment with two things. The first was a list of things to fix in my CV and cover letter, and the second was the confidence to apply for two jobs I desperately wanted.

To me, these jobs were perfect; they were at a well-known research institute, used the skills I’d developed in my PhD, and matched my interests perfectly.

So, not wanting to waste the motivation, I sat down that afternoon, did my edits, and enthusiastically sent off my applications, dreaming of the job that would soon be mine.

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Building a research network: La Trobe's Violence Against Women research Network - LAVAWN (Ingrid Wilson)

Image sourced from Pixabay
We all know that an important part of being a researcher is about connecting with others in our field. 

We often do this through attending conferences, going on study trips and communicating through social media.

Another way is to join a research network.

Or you can do what I did: build one yourself.

In the beginning

I started my PhD with La Trobe University in 2012 at the Judith Lumley Centre. My topic was alcohol-related domestic violence and I was supervised by Professor Angela Taft, a leading public health researcher in the area of violence against women. The issue of violence against women is a public health and human rights issue affecting the health and well-being of women across the globe.

My motivation for starting the research network was both personal and strategic. I was keen to connect with other researchers within La Trobe University, particularly other PhD students, and to learn from them and build a sense of community.

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.