Dr Muriel E Swijghuisen Reigersberg is a visiting fellow at the Music, Mind and Brain Centre, Psychology Department, Goldsmiths’, University of London.
She has a doctorate in applied ethnomusicology focussing on Australian Aboriginal choral singing. Her current research looks at the relationship between music, health and wellbeing from an ethnomusicological, cross-cultural perspective.
Muriel is also a research development officer and occasional acting head of research office at Goldsmiths’, University of London. In this capacity, she oversees the University’s UK grants portfolio, sits on the University ethics committee as a full member, and works on the implementation of the UK government’s open access mandates (among a great many other things). She is on Twitter as @murielSR.
Now, there’s a question.
Being both an academic with a doctorate who still conducts her own research whilst holding down a successful post in research administration, I might be qualified to offer a perspective.
My career trajectory also provides an immediate answer to this question, which is: ‘Yes, academics can be good (research) administrators.’
In my experience, however, academics are not all good at research administration. The reasons for this vary from a general antipathy towards engaging with what is seen to be a form of oppression and managerialism to a genuine personal inability to deal with bureaucracy.
Let’s face it: some people are just terrible at paperwork. And being terrible at paperwork tends to have very little to do with whether you are an academic or not. It’s a personality trait.
In my 09:00-17:00 administrative world, I have often come across the suggestion that ‘our academics’ (sometimes you’d think they are a different species altogether) are incapable of filling in forms accurately and in a timely fashion. Why might this be, I then wonder? I seem to manage form-filling quite well, despite my academic handicap.
Another vague and somewhat circular argument that’s put forward is that academics should not be expected to engage with administration because of their brilliant academic status. Being a Dutch social scientist based in the UK, I question whether the British class system is responsible for such attitudes here. When I spend time with my academic peers at conferences and other such events, I am regaled with tales of woe recounting the oppression, ignorance, and administrative managerialism they face. The usual culprits responsible for causing this lamentable hardship are ‘the University’ or ‘Central Services’ – whoever, or whatever, they are. The world of administration seems to be a faceless mystery to many academics.
To demystify this world a bit – my world of being an academic and administrator – I’d like to offer a more nuanced perspective.