The surprising benefits of a read-aloud reading group

Matilda Keynes is a PhD candidate in in the department of History and Archaeology at La Trobe, and lecturer-in-charge at the Australian Catholic University, where she coordinates the subject ‘Education in History’. Her doctoral research explores the educational implications of retrospective politics since the 1980s, focusing on history education in Australia. 

In 2018, Matilda is an Endeavour Postgraduate Research Scholar hosted at Umeå University in Sweden where she is undertaking a comparative study of Swedish-Australian uses of history in processes of transitional justice. She tweets @matildakeynes.

Nikita Vanderbyl is a PhD candidate in the department of History and Archaeology at La Trobe. Her research in Aboriginal Australian history and art history focuses on Wurundjeri artist William Barak and the trans-imperial circulation of Aboriginal material culture during the nineteenth century. 


Nikita’s work has been published in Aboriginal History and The Conversation. 

She tweets @nikitavanderbyl.

This post is co-published today with La Trobe University’s RED Alert blog


Photo by Mavis CW | unsplash.com

Photo by Mavis CW | unsplash.com

Recently, Erin Bartram’s piece ‘The Sublimated Grief of the Left Behind’ made waves on Twitter for its honest and frankly, painful assessment of the experience of leaving academia, after the author failed to secure a tenured position.

As Australian PhD students, we discover early in our candidature that our 3.5-year program likely won’t be competitive in the global market.

For many of us, our further study is born out of a genuine passion for learning, and accompanied by naive aspirations towards an academic career. In most cases, 3.5 years of modest funding isn’t adequate to write a thesis; publish a monograph with a leading academic publisher plus multiple peer-reviewed, tier-one journal articles; present at international conferences; attract research funding; and coordinate and design undergraduate subjects. Let’s not even mention the expectations of attaining a myriad of impressive awards and bursaries. Read more of this post

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Slaying Zombie Papers

jonathan downie - 200pxDr Jonathan Downie is a practising conference interpreter with a PhD in stakeholder expectations of interpreters from Heriot-Watt University (2016).

His first book, Being a Successful Interpreter: Adding Value and Delivering Excellence, was published by Routledge in 2016. He is also a columnist on research issues for two industry magazines and a regular speaker on the academic and translation & interpreting conference circuits.

He tweets at @jonathanddownie (personal/academic) and @integlangsbiz (interpreting/business).


We all have them. Somewhere in a desk drawer or a forgotten folder lies the zombie paper, waiting. For a year or more, they have lain dormant. They took your brains and now they are asking for more.

How does this tale of the zombie paper end?

Will you victoriously dispatch it to a grateful editor?

Will you release it (and you) from its misery by scrapping the whole idea?

Or will you leave it to lie dormant, ignoring its groans every time you clean your desk?

Zombie medical lab assistant

Melbourne Zombie Shuffle 173, by Fernando de Sousa, on Flickr.

I may have over-dramatised (just a bit) but perhaps not as much as you think. Recently, I returned to a paper I had first started drafting nearly two years ago. I began writing it in that strange space between the acceptance of my thesis and my actual graduation. Given that it is a paper on a key finding from my thesis, most of the ideas in it trace back nearly three years. That’s a lot of time from start to finish. Read more of this post

Lights, cameras, science: Using video to engage broader audiences

Katie Pratt is a science writer and editor with an eye for design, a talent she makes use of as a content developer, communications instructor, and video producer for the Deep Carbon Observatory (deepcarbon.net, @deepcarb on Twitter).

She holds a PhD in Molecular Biology, Cell Biology, and Biochemistry from Brown University and was a 2017 American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Community Engagement Fellow.

Katie has organised and participated in field trips around the world, including Costa Rica, Oman, Italy, and the Azores. If you have any questions about the expedition or the film, Katie is happy to be contacted at katie_pratt@uri.edu.


There’s no escaping the fact that having broader impact activities on your CV is a must for any researcher today.

Whether it’s to help you obtain funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF), improve your chances of an academic appointment, or get you a job outside of academia altogether, sharing what you do with someone other than your colleagues can help your career.

It’s one of the reasons I find myself writing this post.

After blogging my way through the second half of my PhD, I was hired by the Deep Carbon Observatory’s (DCO) Engagement Team to write stories about their scientists and the work they do. The DCO is an international network of nearly 1000 multi-disciplinary scientists committed to investigating the quantities, movements, forms, and origins of carbon in deep Earth. Founded in 2009, this decade-long program has brought together biologists, physicists, geoscientists, chemists, and many others whose work crosses these disciplinary lines, forging a new, integrative field of deep carbon science.

Five years on, there’s a lot more to my job and, as a professional “jack of all trades”, I found myself in the field last year with a team of talented early career scientists, investigating the biology, petrology, and geochemistry of the Costa Rican volcanic arc.

When we set out on a field expedition to Costa Rica in 2017, called “Biology Meets Subduction,” we really focused on engagement and outreach.

We were lucky. Our funder, the DCO/Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, was 100% behind the idea, and our budget included money for a professional video crew to join us in the field.

Read more of this post

Goal-setting with a group: The Monthly Weeklies

Jonathan Williams is co-editor of Queer Out Here, writer of blog posts at In Which I, walker of long distances and organiser of things.

In his day job, he wrangles a school database. He completed his PhD on trans cinema at the University of Melbourne in 2011 and has avoided academia ever since.

Jonathan currently lives in East Sussex, UK. You can find him on Twitter: @jonathanworking.


What are you working on? What do you want to achieve by the end of the month? And what do you need to do this week to reach those goals?

Many people are familiar with this approach to time and project management.

But sorting out what you need to do is one thing, while actually following through is quite another!

Photo by Cliff Johnson | unsplash.com

Photo by Cliff Johnson | unsplash.com

This can be especially difficult if you operate in a more solitary environment, as do many writers, artists, researchers, and people involved in projects outside of their paid job or formal study. Without the everyday structure of collaboration deadlines, team meetings, and so on it’s pretty easy to let the weeks slip by, to transfer an item from one to-do list to the next, to de-prioritise your own goals in favour of things that other people want from you. It can be hard to hold yourself accountable.

I started The Monthly Weeklies online goal-setting group with this in mind. My aim was to create a structure that would help me think seriously about short and medium term goals, a place to record those goals and my progress, and a team of people who could help keep each other focussed and celebrate each other’s successes. Read more of this post

Surviving your feminist research project

Dr Meagan Tyler is a Senior Lecturer at RMIT University and a research theme leader (gender, equality and diversity) in the Centre for People, Organisation and Work (CPOW).

Her work is focused on using feminist theory and methods to address gender inequality and violence against women in a range of contexts, from emergency management to the sex industry. You can read more of Meagan’s work here

She tweets (occasionally) @DrMeaganTyler.

There are always joys and challenges in undertaking research, but there are particular joys and challenges associated with conducting feminist research, and there is often precious little space in formal academic contexts to discuss them.

In part to address this absence, in October 2017, the Feminist Forum series in Melbourne included a session on ‘How to Survive Your Feminist Research Project’, and this post is based on Meagan Tyler’s contribution to that session.


Photo by Alex Mazzarello | unsplash.com >> "Protestors in Vancouver, BC as part of Women’s March on Washington, Vancouver chapter."

Photo by Alex Mazzarello | unsplash.com >> “Protestors in Vancouver, BC as part of Women’s March on Washington, Vancouver chapter.”

Most of my colleagues don’t know what it’s like to expect resistance every time they present their work.

I recently found out that many of them simply expect polite applause or – worst case scenario – a curly question from a grumpy professor.

They don’t generally expect to confront accusations of prudery, rape threats on Twitter, attempts at no-platforming, or orchestrated campaigns from men’s rights activists.

But for many feminist researchers these experiences are all too common. It can feel as though there is a significant divide between our working lives and those of non-feminist colleagues. Read more of this post

How the Research Bazaar (#ResBaz) has grown

Dejan Jotanovic was one of the founding members of The Research Bazaar, and formerly the Digital Spaces Manager at Research Platforms (ResPlat) Services at The University of Melbourne.

Dejan has spent his last year living in Brooklyn, New York as a freelance writer drinking awful American coffee.

Prior to this he has completed a Master of Public Policy & Management at The University of Melbourne, with key interests in inequality, social and science policy.


Under the ResBaz bedouin tent at The University of Melbourne 1. Photo from Dejan Jotanovic.

Under the ResBaz bedouin tent at The University of Melbourne 1. Photo from Dejan Jotanovic.

Under the ResBaz bedouin tent at The University of Melbourne 2. Photo from Dejan Jotanovic.

Under the ResBaz bedouin tent at The University of Melbourne 2. Photo from Dejan Jotanovic.

In late 2015, I wrote for The Research Whisperer about an exciting and revolutionary way of teaching digital research skills to researchers across the globe.

We called the project The Research Bazaar (ResBaz), a nod to the ancient Istanbul marketplace where crowds would exchange prized items, listen to bards speak folklore, and ultimately, create a rich and diverse community. In place of clothing, jewels and food (though we always made sure to feed our hungry researchers), ResBaz operated as an exchange of ideas and digital methodology.

Birthed at The University of Melbourne, the ResBaz team offered year-round workshops in number of digital tools (like Python, R, MATLAB, data visualisation, archiving, mining, and 3D Printing).

These workshops operated with core pedagogy principles in mind. This translated to:

  • What is the most effective, dynamic and efficient way of teaching these skills?
  • How do we make researchers retain knowledge in an ever-expanding laboratory or library?

Workshops were designed to be interactive and challenge-based, giving researchers hands-on experience with their digital tool of choice.

Another way to ensure knowledge retention is to build community. All ResBaz workshops were taught by fellow researchers who understand the ins and outs (read: struggles) of the academy. Trainers would organise social events and drop-in sessions outside of the workshop to refresh their newly attained digital skill-sets. This was also key in battling another insidious tenant that plagued our research community: loneliness. Read more of this post

Managing an Early Career Researcher blog

Research Whisperer Tseen Khoo has been a big fan of the Australian Historical Association’s Early Career Researcher blog since it started in October 2016. She jumped at a recent opportunity to invite the blog editors, Carolyn Holbrook and Margaret Hutchison, to write for Research Whisperer about why they do it and how. In a contemporary context where many Early Career Researchers are encouraged to only do things that benefit themselves, we love boosting those who are generous sharers and stage-setters for their peers. The Australian Historical Association’s Early Career Researcher blog, and how its content gets shared, demonstrates the kind of community-building that can happen within disciplines and with the support of an established academic society. More power to these kinds of initiatives! 

Dr Carolyn Holbrook is an Alfred Deakin Research Fellow at Deakin University. She is writing a history of Australians’ attitudes towards their federal system of government, and co-authoring with Professor James Walter a history of policy-making in Australia. Carolyn is the author of the award-winning book, Anzac: The Unauthorised Biography, about the history of how Australians have remembered the First World War. She tweets from @sigmundmarx.

 

Dr Margaret Hutchison is a Lecturer in History in the National School of Arts at the Australian Catholic University. Her research interests include the First World War, war art, memory studies and cultural history.

She tweets from @meggiehutchison.


How did the Australian Historical Association’s ECR Blog get started?

This is a question that requires an origin story — just what we history types love! It’s quite simple really. We started the blog as a way to spark discussion among Early Career Researchers in history, and to highlight the particular challenges we face.

Recording a radio play | Photo from the Spaarnestad Collection of the National Archives in The Hague | flickr.com

Recording a radio play | Photo from the Spaarnestad Collection of the National Archives in The Hague | flickr.com

When we considered the best means of promoting awareness of ECR issues, we came up with the idea of asking people to tell their personal stories.

We thought that these stories could serve several purposes: they could put a powerful, personal face on the challenges faced by ECRs (for example, long hours, low pay, precarity, relationship and mental health breakdowns); create a sense of community and solidarity among ECRs; provide ECRs with practical experience of writing succinctly about themselves and their research; and enhance the profile of emerging scholars among the wider community of historians.

Our blog has grown from that original idea. We now have a Q&A series with senior historians, a series in which historians describe a book, or article, or object, that has inspired their career, and a ‘How To’ series (featuring a very popular post by you, Tseen!), in which experts describe how to do such things as write a book proposal, do a radio interview or write a job application. Our most popular series is about Emerging Historians, featuring profiles of ECRs and their research. Read more of this post