A tale of two interviews

Our anonymous author approached the Research Whisperers with this post about disrupted research interview expectations and the importance of approaching these encounters with an open mind. This is a lesson at the heart of all research, but it can be easy to build up presumptions around our skills and expertise. 

Having our intellectual expectations upended can be confronting and frustrating, but it can also be enlightening about the topic and ourselves.


Speech bubbles at Erg by Marc Walthieu | flickr.com | Shared via CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Speech bubbles at Erg by Marc Walthieu | flickr.com | Shared via CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

I’m conducting interview-based research on a complex social problem in Australia, and I had the opportunity to interview a woman I’d been looking forward to meeting for some time.

She was the CEO of an organisation that delivers services to a marginalised group, which was an important perspective for one of my case studies. I knew she held some views on my research topic that were very similar to my own, which can help with rapport.

I expected it to be a positive experience.  It ended up being the most uncomfortable interview I’ve ever conducted, for this or any other project.

The awkwardness started before we even sat down, when I held out my hand in greeting and she (let’s call her P01) went in for a kiss on the cheek. Not the way research interviews in office settings are usually kicked off! Once we were seated, one of her first comments was that she doesn’t normally participate in research interviews, so I should feel lucky, and that she had agreed to do it this time because she could tell that I supported the organisation’s work. Also, could we keep it to 40 minutes? I assured her that very much appreciated her time, and quietly panicked at how unwelcoming this little exchange felt.

I started asking my questions, which she answered quite briefly and directly, occasionally chuckling or waiting for me to reframe my words into an actual question before responding. In my experience, participants usually respond at length at the mere mention of a topic (without necessarily waiting for me to ask a question), so muted alarm bells continued to ring.  Read more of this post

The Unwritten Code of Conduct

The author of this post has chosen to remain anonymous for good reasons. The Whisperers know the author, and consider this to be a very important issue in contemporary academe.

Impact and public scholarship have become ever more popular elements in institutions, and more attention and pressure on researchers around questions of what academics are ‘allowed’ to say comes very much to the fore.


Photo by Ondrej Supitar | unsplash.com

Photo by Ondrej Supitar | unsplash.com

Each day this week, my supervisor has walked into my office and made verbal demands that I remove content from my beloved blog.

Each day, the boundaries of appropriate social media usage shift a little, and my requests for some clear written guidance are rebuffed.

I’m a postdoc at a research-intensive organisation.

I work in a typical physical science department. That is, it’s a highly male dominated environment with an age profile skewed towards the era of peak Bob Dylan fandom. This isn’t necessarily a problem. But, in my case, it is.

My department has chronic cultural problems. Bullying, gender and race-based discrimination are commonplace, and things are particularly toxic for early career researchers and female academics. I am both, and have experienced first-hand sexist, homophobic and racist comments, and inappropriate physical contact from senior academics in my workplace. Read more of this post