Getting realistic about your endless list of writing projects

Aila Hoss is a Visiting Assistant Professor at Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law.

Her research explores topics in public health law, health policy development, and the impact of federal Indian law and Tribal law on health outcomes. Her recent projects study law and policy interventions to respond to the opioid crisis. Prior to joining the faculty at IU, Aila served as a staff attorney for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Public Health Law Program (PHLP), where she worked to improve public health through the development of legal tools and the provision of legal technical assistance to state, Tribal, local, and territorial governments.

Aila completed her Bachelor of Arts at Emory University and her Juris Doctor at the University of Oregon. She is an active member of the Indiana bar. She tweets from @ailahoss.


Photo by J.J. Ying | unsplash.com

The entirety of my career in public health law has included some component of research and publishing.

This year, I hit an unfortunate milestone: my writing project list had ballooned to nearly 70 entries.

These projects ranged from articles accepted for publication and undergoing the final editing process to random ideas collected over the course of a decade. The volume of unfinished projects left me completely unable to prioritize how I should devote my writing time.

This week, I finally decided it was time to get realistic and trim the list.

Over the course of four hours, I went through each item and evaluated how much research I had conducted on the project and how much writing I had completed. I compared this investment against my research priorities and then deleted; consolidated; and prioritized them.

Here’s what I learned.

Delete What’s Not on Your Research Arc

I am doing a Visiting Assistant Professorship (VAP) and about to go on the tenure-track job market. My public health law practice, although it had a clear thread, included a hodge-podge of public health research projects because I was working at busy public health agency. Now that I am on the academic path and have a foundation of research interest and expertise, I don’t have to work on every interesting issue that comes through the door. So, I cut out ideas that weren’t on my research arc and that I hadn’t started any meaningful work on. It’s not my job to research every important issue that comes along. Read more of this post

Things it has taken me 8 years to learn

Photo by Daniel Cheung | unsplash.com

Our good buddy The Thesis Whisperer wrote a fab post on ‘how to run a blog for 8 years and not go insane‘ in 2018. It is a cracker of a post and gives excellent insight into how TW has managed to maintain such quality and longevity!

At the time it was published, I read it with great interest, hoping that I’d be able to implement some of the strategies and not be writing things at 11pm the night before our weekly publication slot…

Alas, dear readers, Tseen did not implement any strategies.

Is she sitting on her sofa right now writing this post at 10:36pm? Indeed, she is.

The Research Whisperer celebrated its 8th birthday recently, and we posted this on our Facebook page:

Today, we have published 383 posts, have almost 42,000 followers on Twitter, over 6400 subscribers to the blog, and over 9200 followers on our Facebook page.

It was heartening to think about the community that surrounds RW these days, and the wonderful allies and friends we’ve made. For me, it has been a career transformative time. Just before we hatched RW, I was at a low, low career point. Working with Jonathan has been a delight, and I would never have thought that we’d have travelled this far down the road with our blog, being led by doing what we thought was fun. Read more of this post

A new framework of dynamic authorship

Arjun Rajkhowa

Dr Arjun Rajkhowa works as the manager of the National Centre for Antimicrobial Stewardship at the Department of Medicine and Radiology, University of Melbourne.

His research interests include public health; media, culture and society; human rights; and policy. He writes for academic journals and online media outlets. He has volunteered in the community sector in Melbourne for several years.

His Twitter handle is @ArjunRajkhowa. His ORCID is 0000-0002-3760-2182.


Written in stone, by Jonathan O’Donnell, on Flickr.

In an academic publishing environment that does not require publishers to compensate contributors for their knowledge and output, or to provide an authentically supportive framework for scholars to exercise ownership of their work, what recourse does an author have to dynamic scholarly revision of their work?

English as a second language

Papers produced by academics who use English as a second language, for example, may have language and style-related errors that may need correcting, but this is often not possible. When a paper is accepted by a publication, a modicum of editorial oversight may be expected, but often there is little editorial oversight. If a paper is poorly written, it ought to be rejected. However, if a paper has been written well and yet contains some errors, then it should be possible to revise the work dynamically and correct these minor errors through ongoing revisions. Some writers simply need time to improve their work!

The lack of editorial scrutiny

Unfortunately, even though academic publishers pride themselves on offering rigorous peer review, and sometimes use rejection rates as an indication of academic standing, in many academic journals, there is little (if any) editorial oversight after the article has been accepted for publication.

The peer reviewer’s role is fundamentally content-related. Depending on the nature of the paper, they are to assess whether the paper accurately represents the results of the study, analyses the issues raised in a coherent manner through cohesive arguments, references the appropriate literature in the field, and otherwise presents ‘sound’ scholarship. The reviewer’s job is not, for example, to correct and improve the quality of the language used in the paper.

Unfortunately, many journals do not provide much editorial input once the paper has been accepted for publication. There is little, if any, editorial scrutiny of the quality of the writing. As authors, some of us are acutely aware of the variable quality of our own writing. Those of us who work in collaboration with other authors often find ourselves belatedly struck by (sometimes flagrant) stylistic and linguistic errors in the paper. Read more of this post

How to host a successful chat on Twitter

Helen KaraDr Helen Kara has been an independent researcher since 1999 and writes and teaches on research methods.

She is the author of Creative Research Methods in the Social Sciences: A Practical Guide (Policy Press, 2015). She is not, and never has been, an academic, though she has learned to speak the language.

In 2015, Helen was the first fully independent researcher to be conferred as a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences. She is also a Visiting Fellow at the UK’s National Centre for Research Methods. Her latest book is Research Ethics in the Real World: Euro-Western and Indigenous Perspectives (Policy Press, 2018).

Helen’s website is helenkara.com and she tweets at @DrHelenKara. You can support her work on Patreon. Her ORCID is 0000-0001-7348-0963.


Image by Marc Wathieu | flickr.com

Image by Marc Wathieu | flickr.com

I have hosted and co-hosted a number of chats on Twitter under existing hashtags, and last month I set up my own Twitter chat on creative research methods.

In case you’re new to all this, a hashtag is a way of keeping track of topics and content on Twitter. For example, if you want to know what people are saying about marmalade, you can search Twitter for #marmalade (pro tip: then click ‘latest’ for most recent content) and you’ll find that marmalade is not only a foodstuff but a popular name for pets. You can use hashtags, follow hashtags and invent hashtags. They’re a great tool for reducing bazillions of apparently random tweets to a string of tweets that you actually want to read.

I write about creative research methods. It’s a topic that holds great interest for me and I know for a number of others too. So I decided to set up a monthly chat on Twitter. I played around with a few ideas for hashtags. The obvious #creativeresearchmethods and #creativeresearchmethodschat were too long and cumbersome. In the end I settled for #crmethods (for discussion in between the monthly chats) and #crmethodschat (for the chats themselves). To my delight, neither of those hashtags were in use on Twitter. It’s always worth checking that before you make a final decision. I remember going to a conference where the event’s hashtag was also being used by a European music festival with some quite, er, liberated practices, which meant the conference Twitterfeed was entertaining in rather more ways than the organisers had intended! Read more of this post

Do or do not. There is no try.

Photo by Matthew Henry | unsplash.com

Are you often a no-show?

Or one of those people who says “Maybe” on a Facebook event?

I’m a veteran events organiser.  Throughout my career, planning and running events has been an integral part of the work I do.

Now, as a lecturer in a researcher development unit, convening programs is a big part of my job. It is my everyday. The joy of room bookings, mailing lists, registrations, and constant event promotion campaigns – they are all mine!

But before you feel that my life is just a big ball of enviable funstering (which, it must be said, it can be because I work with funsters), I think I should tell you about what makes me sad: When people don’t show up.

Now, regular readers of this blog will know that I have some very well-ridden hobby-horses (e.g. open plan offices). I’d like to introduce you to another one: people who RSVP for things, then don’t bother attending, cancelling, or sending an apology. This makes me particularly headasplodey when it’s a fully booked event and there’s a waiting list of eager folk.

We talk about this event ‘attrition’ regularly in my field. It’s a common problem across all institutions and disciplines. We keep stats on it. We brainstorm constantly about ways to address it. There are many ways that others have tried to increase their attendance ratios, including increased tracking of registrations, ramped up reminders, consequences for no-shows, etc. All of these options require significant time and resources to manage.

It’s a lot of work to put into supporting people to come along to something they have already said they’d come along to. Read more of this post

The Emerging Impact Landscape

wade kelly - 150x150Wade Kelly is the Senior Coordinator, Research Impact, at La Trobe University, in Melbourne, Australia.

Wade’s PhD research focused on how and why universities and academics engage with communities.

This is Wade’s personal website and he tweets from @wadekelly.


White Night Melbourne 2018 | Photo by Wade Kelly Shared via Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

White Night Melbourne 2018 | Photo by Wade Kelly | Shared via Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

There’s considerable confusion about what ‘impact’ is, and this is no surprise given that it’s a term that’s used for so many things in the contemporary research space.

For my research, I’ve had many, many conversations with people across higher education in Australia and Canada at all career levels (research higher degree students, Early Career Researchers, Mid Career Researchers).  Alongside the confusion about what impact is is what impact means (and will mean) to academics.

The following primer is a brief history of the impact landscape, an exploration of some of the trends in higher education, and some things to consider as you start your ‘impact journey.’

So, let’s start by clarifying some of the many meanings of impact. I find it easiest to consider impact as happening either inside (internal) or outside (external) of academia. Read more of this post

I’m new

Photo by Aftab Uzzaman | http://www.flickr.com/photos/aftab

I’ve recently started at a new university. This is a good thing. It was time that I moved on, and I’m going to learn a huge amount in my new role. My new manager is amazing, and the team are excellent.

However, it is also a little bit odd. I’ve gone from being the person who knows everything to the person who knows nothing. Literally, nothing. Someone had to show me how to book a room. I don’t know how the systems work. I don’t know how finance works. I don’t know how HR works. I didn’t even know how the microwave worked (sorted this one out by myself, thankfully).

Some of these (photocopier, microwave) are mundane things, to be expected with a new environment. Some are a result of moving organisations – each university has its own way of doing things. In my old role, if I didn’t know how something worked, at least I knew who to ask. In my new role, I know almost no one. In one stroke, I’ve left behind a network that I’d built up over years. I have to build a whole new network (and I’m pretty terrible at the ‘names and faces’ thing).

Because of this, I’m keen to impress. There is so much that I don’t know, I’m trying extra hard when I do know something. I’m that kid in the class with their hand in the air, “Pick me, pick me!”. So keen to impress. So desperately keen. So desperate. Read more of this post