Who is allowed to talk about equality, diversity and inclusion?

Lachlan Smith is Director of Cloud Chamber. He supports the Higher Education sector, both in the UK and globally, understand the impact of their research, develop effective research cultures and improve their ability to secure research funding. He has supported a range of institutions and funders including the Royal Society, British Academy and Kings College London. He has delivered workshops in Shanghai and Nairobi, supporting early career researchers access funding and he is an advocate for diversity and LGBT+ inclusion, delivered through his collaboration with Diversiunity. He previously worked in research development at the University of Warwick as well as roles in the civil service and economic development consultancy. He tweets from @HEresearchfund.

This post was written by Lachlan with contributions from Jakob Feldtfos Christensen, who is director of Diversiunity. Jakob provides workshops and consultancy in diversity and internationalisation in research and research management in collaboration with Cloud Chamber. Diversiunity also provide workshops and consultancy for Principal Investigators managing international projects and leadership courses for upcoming research leaders with an LGBT+ background. Before starting his own company, he worked first as a research advisor in the research support office and later as an international coordinator at Aarhus University in Denmark. He is a certified research manager from EARMA, where he has been active for several years. He tweets from @diversiunity.


Image by Volodymyr Hryshchenko | unsplash.com

For many years, I lived as an out gay man. Out in most aspects of my life, anyway, but I didn’t openly talk about my sexuality, LGBT+ issues in general, or the unique challenges of being a gay man.

This all changed for me when I came out at my local cricket club. I had played there for a couple of years but keeping my private life shut off was damaging my relationships with teammates as well as leading to poorer performances on the field. Since coming out, I have been more open about who I am, which means encouraging greater equality in my club and more broadly within cricket, an environment that is very heteronormative and masculine. This has felt appropriate and right. I’m definitely in a minority both at the club and within cricket more generally. Gay men have often found sports, and team sports in particular, to be hostile environments leading to exclusion and lower participation. While most of my interests and activity in this area has related specifically to LGBT+ inclusion, I always try to talk about and promote equality, diversity and inclusion more generally. I’ve learnt a lot from my experiences as a gay man in a traditionally straight sporting environment, both before and since coming out and I’ve talked about them in blogs and for Sky Sports. My views are seen as valid, I’m a minority voice, this isn’t questioned. My experiences count.

Since coming out within a sporting context I have invested more time in understanding equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) issues in all parts of my life and in the world around me. This has included recognising that gay men and other LGBT+ people have unique experiences, stories and lessons within the higher education (HE) sector, the sector in which I have worked for the last decade. With more and more of my work taking on an international dimension it has become clear to me that the experiences of the LGBT+ community within international HE can be profound and unique and drawing on these experiences can offer challenge and lessons across the spectrum of diversity and inclusion both within and outside of HE. Read more of this post

How I build bridges

Sydney Harbour Bridge under construction (July 1930). National Museum of Australia, 1986.0117.6558

Sydney Harbour Bridge under construction (July 1930). National Museum of Australia, 1986.0117.6558

A little while ago, I spent a morning writing introductory letters to people. They came about for a range of reasons:

  • A friend had asked me if I knew someone who could help with qualitative methodology and analysis. I knew a consultant who could help.
  • A colleague was looking for work, and I offered to introduce her to some senior researchers who might know of some opportunities for her.
  • A friend had said that her daughter wanted to be an astronaut. Turned out that I knew two women who were associated with space programs.

One of those people suggested that I write a post on how I go about making introductions between strangers. This is that post.

One of the things that I love about my job is that I get to talk to academics about their research. Because I sit in a Faculty (or College) research office, I talk to people from a range of different Departments and Schools. I end up knowing a little bit about the work of a lot of people.

Occasionally, I talk to researchers who are looking at different aspects of the same problem. When I do that, I like to introduce them to each other. A lot of the time, I suspect that not much comes of it – maybe they have a coffee. Maybe they are too busy. However, when it does work, it seems to work quite well. People meet for a coffee, talk about their respective interests. Sometimes, there is enough there for something more to happen. Most of the time, it is just a pleasant interlude amongst the hurry-scurry of modern academia. But it is enough, I think, to have introduced people who respect one another’s work, given them a different view on their research and created a weak tie between the academic silos.

Read more of this post

What harm can it do? The emotional cost of asking for something in academia

Kylie Smith is Assistant Professor and the Andrew W. Mellon Faculty Fellow for Nursing and the Humanities in the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing at Emory University in Atlanta.

She is a historian, not a nurse, and loves working with nurses as colleagues and students.

Kylie teaches history, ethics and social justice to nurses, and undertakes research on the history of psychiatry. She tweets from @drkyliesmith. Her ORCID is 0000-0002-9249-0355


 

Photo by Keagan Henman | unsplash.com

In academia, people tell you all the time to just go ahead and ask for what you need. ‘What harm can it do?’, they ask. Or, being a woman, they say, “Think what a man would do and do that”, as though it’s literally that easy.

Of course, it should be that easy, but we all know that it’s not.

It’s well understood that women are socialised to undervalue our authority, to put other people’s needs ahead of our own, to think we are not worth what we are actually worth, to not want to be a bother, a burden, or to annoy people by asking. And we all know we should just be our feminist hero selves and get over it, as studies repeatedly show how embedded sexism is in the academy. Sometimes, though, there’s more going on than just gender socialisation.

A recent experience of mine demonstrated how many layers there are to a simple ‘ask for what you need’ instance, and how much more there is to overcome than what society has already told you. For me, I realised how much my own emotional baggage shaped my fears, and how very realistic fears generated by the deliberate precarity of the academic workplace make it genuinely hard to ask for what we need. Read more of this post

The bestest of plans

Photo by Pawel Czerwinski | unsplash.com

Welcome to 2020! I hope you managed a break of some form because we know that rest and recuperation matter. For me, it was good to kick back and disconnect from the work-a-day load and anxieties, and focus on recharging in my own way – here’s how I went.

Seeing the year out in 2019 with a few scholarly ‘presents’ from Twitter colleagues was lovely. If you missed them, here are two to check out: Bronwyn Eager’s Academic Paper Tracker and Pat Thomson’s Checklist for revising methods chapters.

Every year, many people make resolutions and commit to habits that they hope will make them happier, more productive, healthier, and/or a combination of these.

Miraculously, some of these survive more than a few weeks. Most, however, do not. Read more of this post

Once more unto the breach

Image from pasukaru76 on Flickr | Public Domain

Image from pasukaru76 on Flickr | Public Domain

I am a researcher developer in an academic role.

In my field in Australia, this situation of being an academic appointment in a research education/development role is not that common. In my unit, all four of the research educators are academic appointments and we are all active researchers. This is rare.

Many research education and development units are staffed with professional roles, often with academic collaboration and input. It is a field where staff come from a very diverse range of disciplines, and often show up conceiving of it as an “accidental career pathway”. I first realised how prevalent this feeling was when reading my colleague Jeanette Fyffe’s 2018 paper on becoming an academic developer (yes, I’m pushing academic developer and researcher developer into the same bucket and I realise I may well be cursed for life…). Many who are in the researcher development field are PhD-qualified. For some professional staff in these roles, the researcher identity is one that becomes increasingly a remembered or historical one. For academic staff in these roles, the researcher identity is ongoing and always freshly fraught.

This post isn’t to set one against the other as superior (however and whichever way you may think they might be superior), but to talk about how it feels right now to be an academic in a researcher development role. I’m discussing this with the background of having been consecutively in roles there were research-only >>professional >>teaching/research.

Being an academic in researcher development feels like I sit partway between a more standard discipline academic role and a professional one. Across all the jobs I’m talking about for this post, I have stayed in the university sector but felt the pressures around it in differentiated ways. Read more of this post

Translating technology: Infrastructure literacy for researchers

Sara in StockholmSara King is an eResearch Analyst with Australia’s academic and research network provider, AARNet. She has extensive experience in researcher engagement and training, with expertise in research data and technologies in the Humanities and Social Science (HASS) research areas.

She has built this expertise through university lecturing, working with libraries and as a curator for the National Archives of Australia.

Sara is building networks to lower barriers to digital research methods and tools. You can find her on Twitter at @sarasrking. Her ORCID is 0000-0003-3199-5592.


Photo by Nathan Dumlao | unsplash.com

Do you wonder about the difference between coding and programming? Are you new to these concepts?

If you hear the word kernel, do you think about corn before you think about computing? Do you have maths trauma, believe in the ‘geek’ gene, stare blankly at people who mention operating systems, the command line or bandwidth?

Or maybe you think smart phones are ‘magic’ and that a ‘black box’ is an aviation term?

In short, does technology give you the heebie jeebies and you’d rather not think about it?

We need to talk.

This year I started a new job. Like really new. A job my dad doesn’t understand. After almost 10 years working in archives, I came to Australia’s Academic and Research Network (AARNet) with a bag full of 20th century skills like map handling and retrieving paper records from storage.

Before that I worked in a library. Before that I did a PhD, well before Research Data Management was a thing, just as libraries and archives had started digitising collection items. I wouldn’t call myself technical, but after working with digital materials as a curator, I got a little bit of a bug. Later on I heard about ‘Digital Humanities’ and worked on a ‘Digital Treasures’ project, curated some online exhibitions and dealt with some eye-poppingly large archival quality audiovisual files that took days to upload. The potential of digitised collections in research got me really excited.

In 2018, I was lucky to work with the Tinker team, creating the beginning of a digital lab for Humanities, Arts & Social Sciences (HASS) research, and supporting collecting institutions to work more closely with researchers. During that year I learnt the term ‘tech curious’ which described me to a tee. Read more of this post

How to write a successful ethics application

Dr Kathryn Snow is an epidemiologist whose work focuses on vulnerable populations.

She has a particular interest in tuberculosis, viral hepatitis, adolescent health, and the health of people in criminal justice settings.

Kat advises colleagues from diverse backgrounds on research ethics, study design, and data analysis.

She tweets from @epi_punk.


Photo from Bernard Hermant | unsplash.com

Photo from Bernard Hermant | unsplash.com

The word “ethics” strikes fear into the hearts of most early career researchers.

Some of the reasons are beyond our control, but there’s actually a lot we can do to make our own experiences of the ethics approval process less painful.

I’m writing this from two perspectives: as an early career researcher (I finished my PhD in 2019), and as a committee member (I’ve sat on an ethics advisory group since the start of my PhD in 2014).

The job of ethics committees is to identify the possible risks in a project, and then assess whether the research team:

  1. are aware of the risks.
  2. are taking appropriate steps to minimise them.
  3. have a plan to handle anything that does go wrong.

To do this, ethics committees need information. If you want your ethics application to get through the process as quickly as possible, you need to give the committee enough detail so that they understand your project and how you are managing any risks.

Getting your application as right as possible the first time makes the whole process go more quickly. If you don’t provide enough information, the committee will come back with questions. You may need to resubmit your application to the next meeting, which could be a month or two away.

Spending more time on your application for the first meeting can save you months later on! Read more of this post