What viral means for us

This is based on a talk I gave recently to research administrators at Northwestern University in Chicago. Thanks to the Australasian Research Management Society (ARMS) and the US National Council of University Research Administrators (NCURA) for their fellowship, which made it possible. Thanks also to Kirsten Yehl for making my trip a fantastic success.


Recently, we posted It Gets Worse, an article about the crisis of casualisation in universities. I wrote it in collaboration with the wonderful Karina Luzia and Kate Bowles of CASA, and it was cross-posted to the CASA blog. We thought that it was an important problem.

So, it seems, did a lot of other people.

Graph of daily views, showing a consistent pattern of 200 - 900 views, except for the latest day, which shows almost 3,000

This is what viral looks like for us

The response was amazing – heartfelt and very real. Hopefully, it adds another pebble to the avalanche that will be needed to bring reform to the sector.

While a lot of people were clearly interested in the issue, I thought some might be interested in how it played out behind the scenes, so to speak. This is how we work, and how Research Whisperer got to this point.

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Think of the audience

Click through for Tseen's #ResBaz talk (3 Feb 2016)

Click through for Tseen’s #ResBaz talk (3 Feb 2016)

There are a few things that people are always surprised to find out about me.

First, I haven’t read many classic works of literature despite being awarded a doctorate in literary studies.

Second, I was the editor of the Cactus and Succulent Society of Queensland’s magazine for a decade.

Third, I have an abiding fear of public speaking.

It’s this third fact that makes people look at me most strangely. They say, “But don’t you have a job that means you’re having to do public speaking all the time?”, or “Aren’t you used to it by now?”.

These are good questions.

I do have a job that requires me to get up and talk in front of people all the time. I conduct workshops and seminars, present conference papers and facilitate panels, and give keynote addresses.

And, almost every single time, I range from being moderately anxious to white-knuckled-3am-staring-at-the-ceiling panic. Read more of this post

Who are you writing for?

Screen showing a paper crane with sponsors logos, and a speakers podium in front.

Thanks to our sponsors, by Jonathan O’Donnell on Flickr

Your grant application will probably only be read by half a dozen people who matter.

Sure, you might get your colleagues to read it in draft. It might be reviewed by your local research whisperer. But they aren’t the people who matter! They are not the people you are writing it for; they aren’t your real audience.

They aren’t the six that matter.

Who are the all-important six? Well, one or two people from the funding agency will read it. They might send it out to three to four assessors – not all of them might respond. Between them, those half-dozen people will decide if it gets funded. They will pass a recommendation to a board or a government minister who will approve the funding. Someone from the minister’s office might scan a list of titles and summaries before your application is finally approved. 

That’s it – that’s your audience. Those half-dozen people decide the fate of your application. They are your audience. Wouldn’t it be great if you knew who they were?

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