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

Living the COVID life

Image from the Goethe-Institut Chicago | www.facebook.com/pg/goetheinstitut.chicago
Image from the Goethe-Institut Chicago | http://www.facebook.com/pg/goetheinstitut.chicago

I’ve always enjoyed memes but I never thought I’d come to depend on them to recalibrate my moods.

I’m a person who loves working from home, using communication technologies, and social media. I also tend towards introversion.

You would think that shifting to the current context would be easy and even desirable, with so many of my colleagues and organisations in the sector moving to online-only ‘campuses’ and teaching/ research from home. I thought so, too, for about three days or so…

But let me start at the beginning: 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

How do you start a research network?

Image from Mark Fletcher-Brown | unsplash.com

We had a question recently from Ely asking for pragmatic advice on starting an international research network. Alyssa Sbisa and Sally Grace wrote “Setting up a professional network” a while back and that post has heaps of relevant good advice that I’d strongly encourage you to check out!

I’d written previously on building a research network on a shoestring, and much of that still applies. I realise now, however, that the earlier post presumed a network that needed cohering and development.

I think Ely is after something that addresses a much earlier step: how do you even get a research network started?

This post aims to tackle this, and would welcome others’ input on the topic. I’m speaking very much from my HaSS (Humanities/Social Sciences) point of view, and realise that other areas may have quite different contexts and ways of doing things. One of the things I should make clear from the start is that I’m talking about how to start a research network with few to zero resources. I’m not talking about setting something up with a ready cache of funding, or the need to access such a cache.

These are the key things you need if you want to start a research network: Read more of this post

Stitching together an intellectual life

Photo by Quinn Bidmead | unsplash.com

This post is by a colleague we know through our Research Whisperer community.

She has chosen to remain anonymous to share her experiences of being part of the academic precariat in Australia.


I am looking at a flyer for an amazing opportunity to hear one of my intellectual heroes speaking. Registration for the symposium costs $100. In my head, I do the calculations: $100 for registration, an hour to get there and back and probably two hours if I just stay for one talk, so that’s four times $55 (the per hour rate I would be getting for doing what I am paid to do), which makes it $320 to hear a keynote. I sigh and push away the enticement.

Someone asks me to read their paper, or their ethics application, and the calculation fires up – can I afford to be a good colleague this week?

These are the daily decisions you make when you move from a salaried role to a casual one. They are also the decisions that cost the most, not just in monetary terms but also in professional development, networking, the chance to hear about opportunities and to stay current with reading and thinking.

I read articles about following your passion and chasing your dreams and I am angry and tired. Honestly, I’m pretty much always tired and have a low level thread of anger running through my system. I am a very interesting person.

I think what strikes me hardest about my precarious academic life is that this is not where I imagined I would be at this point in my life. We all have mental pictures of our futures and while mine was necessarily vague, it included worthwhile work, financial security, and intellectual challenge…making a contribution in some way to learning about our world. I believed, perhaps naively, that publishing, getting research money, having industry experience, and teaching would lead to job security. It did not. Read more of this post

Ways to help

Photo by Clint Adair | unsplash.com

How do you help and support your precariat colleagues?

At Research Whisperer, we engage a lot with issues of precarity and casualisation. We think it’s a huge issue that needs urgent address in academia, and it’s a global problem.

We were recently invited to speak to casuals at an NTEU Victoria event where I talked about maintaining a consistent researcher profile while being part of the precariat, and Jonathan spoke on how to get research funding as a casual. We acknowledge from the start that while we focus on individual strategy and knowledge the issues of precarity are systemic and heavily embedded in our sector.

One of the things that I wanted to write about after the event was how those of us in more secure employment can help in this bleak landscape of increasing casualisation, and exclusionary and inequitable institutional dynamics.

Those who are in casual or fixed-term appointments are less likely and able to advocate within the academic system. Short (often multiple, simultaneous) contracts and insecurity mean that it is difficult to build momentum in fighting for equitable conditions and opportunities. That is why actions like joining a union (like the NTEU in Australia) can shift the action to an organisation that has more traction and resources in the system. The NTEU and the Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA) created the Uni Casual website to inform and agitate for change.

Just recently, universities in my state (Victoria, Australia) published data that shows the extent of casualisation in our universities – it’s quite shocking. These figures are for those on casual contracts, and doesn’t count those on short fixed-term contracts (who I would also consider part of the precariat workforce). Read more of this post