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.