I’ve been loathe in the past to talk too much about what I do on an everyday basis in my job.
This is because I’d been made wary by certain (rare, it must be said) attitudes towards sharing information about internal processes for research development and researcher support.
I said then and I’ll say again now for the record: There’s nothing really new or ‘top secret’ in research education and development. As every Australasian Research Management Society (ARMS) conference testifies, there’s much to be gained and nothing to lose by workshopping or sharing your processes.
As yet, there is no laser-pen that will automagically generate a winning grant application. Until that pen happens along, what research education and development people do – academic or professional administrative staff – is hone models and ideas that have had a range of outings.
As in so many areas of intellectual and professional endeavour, lots of people have gone there before you, and they’ve been doing it for longer than you.
This does not mean the work is any less valuable to researchers who need to know about these strategies and methods. Nor does it mean the staff managing these researcher development programs are any less committed to finding better and more effective ways to help researchers make good research happen.
I’m sharing all of this now because I’ve just started a new job. An academic one. My previous position was considered ‘non-academic’, and was under the university’s administrative classification. All smart people know that the term ‘academic’ can be a slippery sucker (as Kieran Fenby-Hulse has posted about recently).
One thing ‘academic’ means to me is that the work that I do and topics I research are part of a broader, public conversation. Indeed, academics are actively encouraged to be part of such a conversation.
Tonight, while commuting home, I was running some of the current new-job deluge of tasks through my ideas bank and came up a little short. I blame the end of daylight savings.
My question was (in full, without Twitter truncation): “What kind of research development / skills talks would you make time to attend? Specific is good.”
I was thinking a couple of buddies might respond. Instead, I had a spate of responses, many with a multitude of suggestions and priorities. Most of the respondents were early career researchers (ECRs) or PhD students.
These are the topics that they said they’d like to see (and would make time to attend):
- A “Stats 101” session for qualitative and/or humanities researchers, and how to be savvy in mobilising stats data. This idea of generating insight and understanding for those from one area (e.g. critical, qualitative, or quantitative methods) about another featured a few times.
- Writing for publication. I’ve seen these become especially useful when paired with sessions with journal editors, who are usually more than happy to pass on the common mistakes that will get your paper desk-rejected!
- Initiating collaborations / Networking. This can be a tricky kind of session to put on because so much about how a person approaches the process is informed by personality (e.g. those who hate conference dinners and will never attend them if they can possibly avoid them…ahem). Still, pushing out of comfort zones can be an extremely good thing at times.
- Grant application development strategies. This is very much my ‘home-ground’ topic at the moment, and I aim to build on my personal experiences of the grant roundabout in the near future.
- Other researchers’ stories. These are invaluable in providing reality checks about the research process, as well as inspiration about what’s possible for a really happening research area.
- New ways to assemble and disseminate research. This is another favourite area for me, particularly on the topic of building a digital profile (and particular efficiency flows, such as enmeshing blogging as part of research reflection/feedback and practice).
I’m listing them here in case it’s useful for others who are thinking through research development programs and their potential terrain. The listing is also for me to look back on, as a mark of my first crowdsourcing foray in this role.
Narelle Lemon (@rellypops), one of my shiny new colleagues, requested: “Could we have presenters who are doing it now and not who have done it from one field and a looooooooong time ago?” This tallied with comments that I’ve heard from various other research development sessions I’d attended. In the same vein are observations that wheeling out a ‘research star’ had limited value for academics who were looking for day-to-day coping and productivity strategies.
On a slightly different track, Ben Kraal (@bjkraal) flagged that he’s found ‘flipped classroom’ formats particularly useful in research development events, and I’d be interested in hearing more about this, Ben!
Happy to hear of other research development program components that have worked well, are in demand, or that you’d like to see!
Thank you to all who RT’d and contributed to the answer stream: Narelle and Ben (mentioned earlier), @liz_beths, @meganjmcpherson, @abbeydiaz_says, @effectsofNAPLAN, @mayukanamori, @kyliebudge, and @vickytnz.