Tuesday, 25 February 2020

Preparing for a media interview (David Cann)

Photo by Michal Czyz | unsplash.com

While opening your research up to the public through the media can be a daunting step into the unknown, there are plenty of potential benefits, including a broader audience, collaboration opportunities, and increased funding.

For researchers at La Trobe, there is a cornucopia of resources available for researchers looking to write for the public, write a press release, or broaden their audience. But preparing for a media interview – whether it be for print, radio or television – is a challenging task for any researcher, thanks in no small part to the unpredictability of interviews!

As an agricultural scientist, my run-ins with the media have been somewhat unorthodox, to put it lightly. From small town papers to state-wide radio, giving media interviews has given me opportunities to think about my research from different perspectives, and reframe it in ways that make it accessible to different audiences.

I am a long way from an expert in interacting with the media, but if you feel ready to start answering questions from journalists, you'll need to start asking yourself these questions first!

Tuesday, 18 February 2020

What does it mean to manage your data? (Hannah Buttery)

Photo by Luca Colapinto | unsplash.com

My name is Hannah, and I am a Senior Officer for Research Data Outputs at La Trobe University based on the Bendigo campus. I help academics with their research data management plans, assess these as part of ethics applications and provide help with Researchdata.latrobe.edu.au (powered by Figshare).

Before I worked in the library, I was an orthoptist, an allied health profession involved in the screening and management of eye disease and vision problems. I’ve been involved in eye related clinical drug trials. This work sparked my interest in the use and requirements around data generated through research.

Research data is exactly what it sounds like: data generated through research projects, clinical trials and research higher degrees.

You may not be sure what is included as research data, but it can be almost everything that researchers study.

Tuesday, 11 February 2020

Getting people to talk to you during a poster presentation (Wade Kelly)

Interactive art | Photo by Wade Kelly
Without fail, whenever I give poster sessions or tweet the suggestion that we need to reduce text and clutter on academic posters, I get negative feedback. That feedback can be, more or less, summarised as, “that’s just not how it’s done”. So, it got me wondering, just how long have we been doing things as they’re done?

When did the tradition of academic posters emerge? If we’re this wedded to the format, it must go back to Plato or the Royal Society? Well, no.

According to Nicholas Rowe’s (2017) Academic & Scientific Poster Presentation: A Modern Comprehensive Guide, academic poster’s really only came into their own in the 1970’s. Post-WWII, as the number of academics increased, so too did participation in academic associations, which resulted in an influx of submissions for presentations at conferences. Organisations turned to posters in order to have more submissions accepted to the conference.

The academic poster is relatively new to academia — only becoming widespread in the last 40-50 years — yet it seems to have been decided what it must look and feel like. For early poster ‘presentations’, scholars were afforded a 15-minute window to present the contents of the poster. Generally, we’ve dispensed with that formality. Now, poster sessions take place in large halls, often accompanied by drinks and hors d’oeuvres for about an hour. For larger associations, there can be hundreds of posters arranged in rows filling the conference centre floor. If the point is to disseminate your research, how can you expect to stand out in the crowd?

Tuesday, 4 February 2020

Taming the beast (Lynda Chapple)

Photograph by Joel Herzog Unsplash.com 

Exciting news! Dr Lynda Chapple has started at La Trobe as an Academic and Language Skills Advisor in the Learning Hub. In this role, Lynda will have a particular focus on working with graduate researchers around their writing questions. Lynda is available for consultations in person (in Melbourne) and via Zoom. In this post, we invited Lynda to share some insights from her own doctoral experiences.


My PhD experience was, I suppose, like many other people’s: I was excited about intellectual engagement with an academic community and afraid I wouldn’t measure up.

I had been the first in my family to attend university and had a clear case of impostor syndrome. I was also an external candidate, living overseas and holding down a full-time teaching job at a university.

As so many others have noted, it was a lonely and isolating time. I visited my home university when I was on leave back in Australia, once or twice a year, but my main interactions with my supervisors were by email, and I while I had some contact with the broader academic community through my work, I did miss the stimulation that comes from being a student on campus. I had few people to support me or to talk to about my work on a daily basis.

Tuesday, 17 December 2019

Why should graduate researchers undertake an industry internship?

In this post we invited APR Intern’s Justin Mabbutt to share more about why La Trobe graduate researchers might be interested in joining an internship program. Justin works for APR Intern and is based at La Trobe for part of the week. Any supervisors or students who are interested in speaking to him are invited to get in touch.

Seeking a career following graduation has never been a simple enterprise. Indeed, previous RED Alert post writers have shared: career advice to your 16 year old self, top career tips for ECRs, and how to approach career planning as a research project itself. However, it is clear that employment markets for researchers have changed over time. One aspect of this change is that there has been greater participation in graduate research, which has produced a higher number of highly skilled researchers. At the same time academic employment markets have remained tight, and there has been evidence of growing demand for researchers in the private and public sector.

Tuesday, 10 December 2019

The care-full doctorate: Doing a PhD from home with caring responsibilities (Jane Mantzalas)

Photo by Markus Spiske | unsplash.com

Recently I (RED team member – Jamie) celebrated the publication of an article called
Curating care-full spaces: doctoral students negotiating study from home (co-authored with my colleague Dr Genine Hook). Our article is a personal account that traces periods of our own doctoral journeys when Genine and I managed heavy care responsibilities and worked from home. Genine shared her story of writing her PhD in a walk in wardrobe as she was a sole-parent carer for her son, and I shared my story of caring for my mother and writing my PhD inside my parents’ old bedroom. When I shared the news of this publication online, La Trobe graduate researcher Jane Mantzalas contacted me to share some reflections of her own experience of working (and caring) from home. It is important that we recognise that graduate research is not only written in ‘ideal’ environments. Sometimes, in order to manage other priorities in our lives we need to curate different kinds of spaces in order to get our work done. I have invited Jane to share her experiences in this post.


I am a first-year PhD student from the Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre (School of Psychology and Public Health) where I am investigating autistic burnout.  I’m also the mum and primary carer of three school-aged children. To balance the demands of full-time study and motherhood, I work from home and only go to campus for weekly supervision and to occasionally attend workshops/seminars that aren’t accessible via Zoom. My work is structured around the school run and I need to maximise every minute, so a daily commute is impractical.  Most nights, I try to study after the kids are asleep (if I can stay awake) and while I aim to keep the weekends for family, part of me is always thinking about my research.  Working from home gives me flexibility to take care of the kids when they’re sick and I’m very fortunate to have supportive supervisors and children.

Tuesday, 3 December 2019

Academic Writing Month 2019: Showing up for ourselves and each other (RED team)

The 'Wall of Achievement' at the Bundoora retreat 2019 

November is a time where tiny ducklings scurry about, hot days arrive and are extinguished by cool showers, and the campus takes on that unique rhythm we call 'exam time'.

For researchers of all kinds, November is also Academic Writing Month or #AcWriMo for short. This is a month-long festival of academic writing where researchers of all kinds commit to making progress on our research goals. #AcWriMo is an event that has a long history of being tended to by researchers, and it is celebrated across Australia and internationally.

Tuesday, 26 November 2019

Writing habits of an early career academic (Troy A. Heffernan)

Photo by Lakerain Snake | unsplash.com

At a recent event, I overheard an aspiring graduate researcher ask a colleague, ‘Is doing a PhD hard?’.

After a little thought, my colleague replied, ‘Yes. It’s really tough and takes more thinking and work than you’d believe, but what’s really hard is if life gets in the way’.

I thought this was a very succinct assessment of what completing a PhD can look like, but also of academic writing more generally.

My writing habits as an early career academic began while I was completing my PhD. I achieved what I had to during the initial twelve months of my PhD journey to be ready for my first milestone, but there was no pattern or regularity to what I was doing.

I was fortunate enough to be lecturing early on in my PhD, which was good for the experience, but not so good for my writing. Teaching meant that some weeks a lot would get done, and some weeks very little would get done if marking or other work duties had to take precedence.

When I reflect on the first year of my PhD, I know I’m quite lucky that period went smoothly. It mostly happened because I was fortunate enough that the good days outweighed the bad.

The turn in my writing habits came in the second year of my PhD.

Tuesday, 19 November 2019

Keeping life visible: Balancing all we have to do (Mandi Cooklin)

Image by kosmolaut | www.flickr.com/photos/helico/404640681

Researching parenting and working.

Researching, parenting and working.

Different emphases, but the same idea – I am an academic researcher who does research about work and parenting while parenting and working.

While this is my location (‘woman’ ‘parenting’ and ‘working’), most of us who produce academic work have non-work responsibilities (and, hopefully, some fun and downtime in there, too). These all need to find a balance with the demanding nature of academic productivity.

How do we do this, in an sector that doesn’t always recognise or reward the non-linear stuff of life?

This is a saturated topic, but this post shares a few notes from reading, researching and talking about this (still! again!), which may spark next ideas and conversations.

Tuesday, 12 November 2019

How do I write? (Pam Snow)

Photo by Dan Dimmock | unsplash.com

Being asked to reflect on my approach to writing is probably like asking a cyclist to explain the process of riding a bike.

There’s quite a bit about the business of writing that is so automatic for me that it’s difficult to unpack. Other aspects, though, are under my conscious control and reflect idiosyncratic preferences and habits established over many years.

I consider myself fortunate in the sense that writing is something I enjoy doing and, from a young age, it was one of my strengths (I am very pleased this invitation did not involve me having to reflect on my maths skills….). My late father was extremely well-schooled in spoken and written language and his enthusiasm for words and their meanings was a bug I caught early and have never lost. While this enthusiasm for, and ease with, the written word were a great asset in my early years as an academic, I still had much to learn about the academic voice and adapting my writing for different audiences.