When you choose to re-locate

Dr Donna Weeks is an international relations academic specialising in Japan-Australia relations, Japanese and Australian politics and society and related areas. 

In April 2016, Donna relocated to Tokyo to take up a position in the Department of Political Science, Faculty of Law at Musashino University. 

She blogs at Psephy’s ~ologies and tweets from @psephy. Donna is also on Instagram as @psephyspix, where she documents everyday #tokyolyf.


"Walking to work" | Photo by Donna Weeks

“Walking to work” | Photo by Donna Weeks

When your first degree was in Asian Studies and your first overseas trip was as an undergraduate exchange student to Japan, in some ways it shouldn’t be surprising that you end up in a teaching / research position in a university in Tokyo.

But when people here learn that the lecturer in Japanese politics and security is in fact an Anglo / Australian and the course will be taught in Japanese (with an occasional English flourish), there is inevitably a little bit of explaining to do.

This post addresses a question I’m often asked: What factors contributed to a mid-to-late career decision to leave your home city, family, community, friends and the familiar and take up a position overseas?

It speaks to the question of how mobile should we be expected to be in pursuing our careers in academia.

While the weighing up of the factors in any decision ‘to go’ will be many and varied, at the other end, the decision ‘to return’ might be equally vexing. In my case, the opportunity to pursue my research in a way not afforded to me in Australia was, in the first instance, my main motivator in ‘returning’ to Japan to work. But as I enter my fifth year here, with a visa requiring renewal, I find myself setting a different set of parameters that have more to do with questions about ‘What next?’.

There are several reasons why I chose this stage of my career to move to Japan, not the least being the current political environment in Japan and Australia (that’s not a political comment – that is my field of research). Read more of this post

Looking like a scientist

Dr Emma Beckett is an NHMRC Early Career Research Fellow and Lecturer in Food Science and Human Nutrition at the University of Newcastle, Australia.

She is also a passionate science communicator, aiming to empower consumers to make evidence-based decisions.

She can be found @synapse101 on Twitter, @DrEmmaBeckett on Facebook and @emmie_101 on Instagram. Her ORCID is 0000-0002-8888-3789.


Photo courtesy of Emma Beckett.

Photo courtesy of Emma Beckett.

I have a wardrobe full of food-print dresses, hundreds of pairs of food shaped earrings, a collection of food-themed hair accessories, and even a handbag shaped like a lemon wedge.

If you follow me on social media, you will see a new combination of foods multiple times a week. But I’m not a fashion account –  I’m a Food and Nutrition Scientist and Science Communicator. I say, “Come for the food fashion, stay for the food science!”

I didn’t deliberately set out to “build a brand” or become a caricature of myself, but when I stop and reflect on how I ended up here, I’m not sad and I’m not surprised. I am living my best Ms Frizzle life and loving it.

I’m an identical twin

Having a genetic clone, I’ve always used hair, makeup, clothes and accessories to reduce confusion and set myself apart from my sister.

After I finished my PhD and started my fellowship, I went through a phase of “dressing professionally” as I tried to mimic what I saw in the workplace around me. I felt like I lost myself for a little bit in that time, looking in the mirror I didn’t see me, I saw my twin sister. Read more of this post

10 days in

Image from The Leveraged PhD's social challenge page | theleveragedphd.com/social-media-challenge

Image from The Leveraged PhD’s social challenge page | theleveragedphd.com/social-media-challenge

I use Twitter a lot.

I have used it across my various professional faces for over ten years now.

I get invited by other institutions to give masterclasses and invited workshops about creating and managing digital identities.

I teach workshops about ‘researchers and social media’ every semester. I’ve written quite a few blogposts about social media, including what I like seeing researchers post, how to run a shared social media account, what is your social media ‘voice’, what I tweet, why I’d unfollow you (and why I’d follow you), and posts on livetweeting. And I’m still learning a lot about its use and flexibility.

I recently started participating in a social media challenge, and I’m having a great time and feeling rather enlightened about my own practices. I thought I’d share them with you (now, ten days in) and compare my thoughts with when the challenge is over at the end of September.

Read more of this post

Where I stand: Rewriting the academic bio

This piece was first published on Tamson Pietsch’s blog, Cap and Gown (capandgown.wordpress.com) on 17 July 2019.

You can follow Tamson on Twitter at @cap_and_gown.


I’ve been thinking a lot lately about expertise and its history and the ways that academics like me deploy it to underpin our knowledge and authority claims.

This is my current bio, taken from my UTS website:

Screenshot 2019-07-17 at 18.14.11I send versions of this bio to conferences and academic journals and reproduce it in thousands of conversations. It follows a pretty defined formula, beginning with my name (often also given with pre-noms), my position in a hierarchy and my employing institution. It then proceeds to mobilise my publications in order to establish my authority and field of expertise, complete with the sanction of academic publishers and grant-making bodies. At the end come more references to credentialising institutions that stand as further markers of status and serve as evidence of my international formation and legibility. 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

Being seen

Photo by Aaron Burden | unsplash.com

Photo by Aaron Burden | unsplash.com

Looking for another role can be an exciting and/or daunting state. It could mean that you’re finishing your PhD, coming to the end of your contract (still waiting to hear if your contract will be renewed…), or wanting to move on from where you are. There is work to do, however, before you are actually on that market. It is important work that needs to be started before you’re looking.

Let me start with two examples of what I mean:

  1. I was sitting next to a fabulous, proactive PhD researcher at ‘Shut up and write’ recently – let’s call her Nikeisha because that’s her name. Nikeisha was talking about the various things she’d done to position herself well and boost her chances of finding a position after completing the doctorate. These things included having her CV with her at a big conference where she had a poster and could immediately hand it over to interested lab heads or recruiting colleagues, applying to be part of an internship program (post-thesis submission) and specifying exactly the organisation they want to work in, and having a succinct and effective website. She’s a molecular biologist who worked with squid slime so I’m assuming she’ll get a role in no time – who could resist such a thing?
  2. I was cold-called by a PhD researcher who was almost submitting his thesis. Let’s call him Wade. I agreed to meet with Wade because a good friend had suggested me to him and he had flagged this in his email, as well as giving me the context of why he and my friend thought I’d be useful to talk to. While I may have still met him without the friend’s recommendation, I would not have approached the meeting with the same predisposed-to-like-him manner. In addition, he was very clear about why he wanted to meet with me and introduced himself via a courteous email and very slick and professional CV. Overall, I was dead impressed with Wade’s forthright approach, his clarity about his job-search context, and his considerate manner. He’s now a colleague of mine at the same institution.

The critical thread through Nikeisha’s and Wade’s pre-job search activities is that of positioning themselves to be seen. This is most important before you are actually on the market as, once you have to start applying around, the task of standing out in a stack of applications is that much harder.  Read more of this post

Digital portraits for academics

This post started life as a comment on Yammer at RMIT (thanks, Hans).


Drawing Hands by M. C. Escher, 1948, (via Wikimedia).

Recently, Hans Tilstra was talking about digital twins – online identical models for offline objects. He talked about our personal digital twins, the representations of ourselves online. It is an intriguing idea, but not one that I really buy into.

Our various digital personas are too fragmented to be considered real twins. I think of online personas more as digital portraits. Some are pointillist – search results composed of tiny points of information. Some are abstract – the array of data that retailers collect about you, never fully realised, never really seen. Some, like Instagram, could be self-portraits. Others, like Facebook, may be family portraits.

Of all of these digital portraits, I think that there are three that are vital for any academic:

  • LinkedIn: Among other things, this is the perfect place to build your own personal alumni group. It is your industry portrait.
  • Google Scholar: This is where other researchers are most likely to find your work. It is your intellectual portrait.
  • Your university profile: When industry people, journalists, or other academics find you, they will look for your university profile to establish your bona fides, and find your contact details. It is your calling card.

I’m not saying that you should give up your favourite social media space for just these three. I love Twitter and I’m not giving it up for anything. What I am saying is that I think every academic should actively maintain these three profiles.

Read more of this post