Tuesday, 20 December 2016

2016 - challenges met (The RED team)

Photo by Wu Yi | unsplash.com
It has been quite the year. And is still being quite the year!

In the tradition of RED Alert, I asked my colleagues for their input to this end-of-year post.

My brief to them this year was to reflect on the biggest challenge they've met this year.

This proved in itself to be quite a challenge because the team has implemented big changes and taken risks every year since it has existed!

Here are their responses:

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

About penguins and silent West Coast forests: Fieldwork experiences of an ecologist (Ursula Ellenberg)

Academia is just a lot of sitting around and thinking, right?

Not always! And if you’re a field ecologist, you get to become really dirty, too.

Ursula has recently returned from fieldwork on the Tawaki project, which explores the behaviour and ecology of New Zealand’s elusive forest penguins.

She has written about the experience for us here at the RED Alert.

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

The fourth #LTUacwrimo is done!

Our first all-campus 'Shut up and write' session!
Photo by Tseen Khoo
What a November that was!

You may have seen us spruiking our listing of possibilities and opportunities for researchers and their writing during November.

The RED team put this fabulous program together for La Trobe's Academic Writing Month (#LTUacwrimo).

How did it actually go in the ground? Well, I'm glad you asked!

If you missed the action, here's what went down:
  • The month had two #LTUacwrimo tweetchats that top and tailed activities, and they are Storify'd so that you can benefit from the wisdom of your peers: Opening chat / Closing chat. The chats are full of tips and strategies on how to prepare and clear time for Academic Writing Month, realistic goal-setting, the necessity of self-care in the midst of intensive writing, and much more. Many thanks to all the lovely tweetchatters, whose insights now live on!

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

The power of social media to improve knowledge translation and research accessibility #LTUacwrimo (Dr Christian Barton, SEMRC)

Social media and research dissemination | unsplash.com
Researchers who seek to deliver accessible writing and research must embrace social and multimedia innovations. The consumer demands it. There will be no ‘one size fits all’, with resource needs likely to vary depending on the individual, type of knowledge, and the context it is to be consumed. New innovations to facilitate knowledge translation are also inevitable. Academic journal publishers must watch for their emergence and embrace them. 

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Making research accessible: Is academic journal writing the way forward? (Dr Christian Barton, SEMRC) #LTUacwrimo

Photo by Aleksi Tappura | unsplash.com
On March 6 1665, in the first academic journal ever published, Henry Oldenburg wrote that academic journals were established so that researchers could "impart their knowledge to one another, and contribute what they can to the Grand design of improving natural knowledge, and perfecting all Philosophical Arts, and Sciences."

An enormous profitable industry has grown on the back of Henry Oldenburg and his colleague’s innovation in the past 350 years. As a result, researchers continue to be ineffective at translating knowledge based on their evidence because this profitable model is not effective. 

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Writing groups and the art of the Pomodoro #LTUacwrimo (Priscilla Ennals, Carmel Hobbs and Ingrid Wilson)

Writing in progress!
Photo by Carmel Hobbs, Priscilla Ennals and Ingrid Wilson.
Academic writing and doing a PhD can often feel like a hard and solitary experience, but it doesn't have to.

As part of La Trobe's 2016 Academic Writing Month, this week's post is by Priscilla Ennals, Carmel Hobbs, and Ingrid Wilson, who share their experiences of being part of writing group, and the techniques that got them through the PhD process together.

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Writing a publishable literature review - #LTUacwrimo (Erika Duan, LIMS)

Doodle of the academic writing and submission process (Erika Duan)
Writing and publishing a literature review often seems like the work of established researchers who are leaders in their field, yet this is not always the case.

In this week's blog, Erika Duan from LIMS advocates for PhD students and early career researchers to seek review writing opportunities.

This piece is featured as part of La Trobe's Academic Writing Month, and we'll be featuring articles on the processes and experiences of writing and publishing.

Remember to check out the other activities we have organised, and follow along on Twitter by using the hashtag #LTUacwrimo!


Tuesday, 1 November 2016

#LTUacwrimo photo competition - "Reflect"

Photo by Allef Vinicius  |  unsplash.com
La Trobe's 2016 Academic Writing Month is officially here! For the full program and registration details, visit this year's introductory post. 

For 2016, the RED team is again running an #LTUawrimo photo competition. This year's theme is "Reflect".

The theme can mean different things, and we hope you'll translate it creatively and insightfully! Will the image reflect how you think through your writing, envision your research self, or visualise your project workload for that day? Is it an aspect of your research that is reflected or bounced back? Can you capture the understanding or progress you might gain from reflection?

This competition, with a fabulous book voucher prize, is open to all La Trobe University researchers (graduate researchers and staff) who have signed up for the #LTUacwrimo challenge.

To enter, take a photo that aligns with the theme, and submit it via Twitter (full guidelines below). 

It's as simple as that!

The photo competition's judging criteria are:
  • the quality, composition, and aesthetics of the photo; and 
  • the photo's interpretation of the chosen theme 
The fresher your interpretation of the theme, the better!

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

2016 #LTUacwrimo tweetchats - are you in?

Graphic conversation | Photo by Marc Wathieu
Shared via  CC BY-NC 2.0.
As has become the tradition, 2016's #LTUacwrimo will feature two tweetchats to top and tail La Trobe's Academic Writing Month

The first is on FRIDAY 4 Nov, 10-11am. >> REGISTER HERE

Join this first tweetchat to share tips and strategies for finding time to write, writing schedules, what to do about writer's block, and much more! It's the perfect opportunity to meet other participants involved in the #LTUacwrimo challenge!

The second is on WEDNESDAY 30 Nov, 10-11am. >> REGISTER HERE

The final tweetchat gives you the chance to share and celebrate about how you went during the challenge. What have you learned? What were the successes you had, and obstacles you encountered? It will also feature the announcement of the #LTUacwrimo photo competition winner!

If you've done tweetchats before: Drop the 2 tweetchat dates/times in your diary and we'll see you then! We'll be using the #LTUacwrimo hashtag.

If you haven't participated in a tweetchat before: Read on! Don't worry - it's easy!

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Interview with Dr Martina Boese (Department of Social Inquiry)

Photo by Daria Shevstova | unsplash.com
This week's interview with Dr Martina Boese shows how research opportunities can have surprising outcomes, and demonstrates how essential strong collaborative networks are for a successful research career.

Martina is a Lecturer in Sociology, and her research interests in migration and employment have been shaped not only by her own experiences growing up in Austria, but also through working across disciplines with researchers in other fields, and by building up diverse networks with community organisations and government departments.

In her academic career thus far, which spans Austria, the UK, and Australia, she has had very fruitful collaborative relationships, and has great advice to share about them!

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Fieldwork interviews, children and other impossibilities (Miranda Francis)

John Tenniel, via Wikimedia Commons (public domain)
In Through the Looking Glass, the White Queen tells Alice, in her youth, she could believe ‘as many as six impossible things before breakfast’.

As a parent, PhD student and worker, I’m sure that I am not alone in sometimes feeling as though I have achieved many more than six impossible things before breakfast!

Research is difficult and fitting fieldwork into a busy life is particularly challenging as it requires conforming to external timetables.

My fieldwork involves long and often emotional interviews with women in their homes. It all takes time: setting up the interviews, finding my way to unknown places, clearing a whole day in my diary and my mind for an interview. On interview days, when I eventually get the children to school and childcare, I relate more to Alice than the White Queen: ‘I knew who I was this morning, but I've changed a few times since then’.

Yet, I have learnt that parenting and fieldwork can coexist - most days.

So, with apologies to Lewis Carroll, here are six things that have made my PhD fieldwork a little less impossible:

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Academic Writing Month? What's Academic Writing Month?

Photo by Green Chameleon  |  unsplash.com
November is Academic Writing Month (#acwrimo) all over the world!

At La Trobe, we have our own version of it, known on all our social channels as #LTUacwrimo.

For the whole of November, we'll be focused on academic writing of all kinds, and keen to encourage your writing productivity, development, and progress.

The La Trobe program is based on the month-long, amazing, global AcWriMo activity that's taken place since 2011. The concept was created by Charlotte Frost, founder of @PhD2published.

2015 was a great year for #LTUacwrimo, and we had a great crew of participants who found the month energising, rewarding on a collegial and social level, and - most of all - productive!

So, what's in store for 2016, our fourth #LTUacwrimo?

It'll see the return of the fabulous 3-day RED researcher writing retreat - this will take place at the end of the month (21-23 Nov - save those dates now!). There's also the ever-popular 'Turbocharge your writing' sessions by Thinkwell, 'How to edit your thesis' by Magic Typewriter's professional editor Dr Andrew Macrae, our #LTUacwrimo photo competition, and a whole-of-campus 'Shut up and write' session.

It'll all take off in the first week of November with the first tweetchat, dedicated academic writing (#acwri) posts at the RED Alert blog, 'Shut up and write' sessions across our campuses, and fabulous competition launches.

The 2016 #LTUacwrimo program is now up!

If you’ve taken part in Academic Writing Month before, you know the drill:
  • Get your reading done now, stock up on your favourite productivity incentives, and clear your diary as much as you can! November is for writing, writing, and more writing!
If you’re new to Academic Writing Month, here’s the deal:

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

From uncertainty to the semi-structured interview (Jason Murphy)

Image courtesy of Markus Spiske/Unsplash
Taking on a PhD while working full-time can be a rewarding experience. I get to delve into an area of intellectual enquiry in a really rigorous way, and in a fashion that I'd be unlikely to undertake during my spare time!

My post today shares my preliminary experiences with research interviews. I hope it will prove useful to others in the social sciences. I present this post with the caveat that I'm by no means an expert in this area, and that these insights are things that I've learned along the way.

Within the social sciences – my discipline – candidature often involves establishing your position, concerns and argument within the existing literature and defining your methodological approach. This is often done before attempting to collect your data.

For those who are studying part-time, this can be a considerable journey and one that almost risks the complete abstraction of your original question and motivation for embarking on your journey of enquiry.

In my own case, it’s been a truly humbling experience and one where, quite honestly, the more I “learned” (note those deliberate commas); the more I delved and enquired, the further I seemed to drift away from any kind of absolute clarity about what I was doing.

In other words, the more I learned the less I knew. With this came an acute sense of ambiguity within a boundless ocean of perspectives, enquiries, points of view, etc.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Lesson learned - Research Week 2016 (Tseen Khoo)

Our wonderful 3MT finalists
You know that feeling when you say yes to heaps of stuff, then don’t feel like doing it all?

Well, that was me at one stage during Research Week.

La Trobe held its inaugural Research Week from 5-9 September 2016. The five days were focused on the university's researchers and their varied, fascinating work, and it was a packed with things to see and do.

It would’ve been excellent to get around to everything but I settled for committing to attending and livetweeting the lunchtime talks as much as I could, as well as La Trobe’s 3MT finals.

Now, when the lunchtime talks came about that first day, I thought to myself, “Hmmm. I have so many things on. I might just skip it…”. I sat there for about 5 mins having that internal argument.

But I forced myself to go – partly because I’d stated on Twitter that I’d be livetweeting (public accountability ftw!), partly because I spend a lot of time in a research bubble of similar disciplines and approaches and it’s always – always – good to break that up once in a while.

I ended up having a hectic, wonderful time over the week, and it was for many reasons. Some may not be the ones you’d think!

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Interview with Dr Rachel Winterton (John Richards Initiative, Wodonga Campus)

Photo by Rachel Winterton
This week's interview is with Dr Rachel Winterton, who is based mostly at La Trobe's Albury-Wodonga Campus.

We say 'mostly' because we know that Rachel clocks up many hours on the road as she is involved with many things that take her regularly to LTU's various other campuses!

Her active support of research culture-building initiatives, including the ECR conference on 26 September, is a hallmark of Rachel's positive, collegial attitude.

How did you end up researching in the field you're in?

Basically, it was a calculated risk that has turned out quite well!

My PhD is actually in historical studies (a social history of aquatic sport in nineteenth century Melbourne!). When I was three-quarters of the way through my PhD, I began to worry about employment, as most doctoral students do, and began scouring the job sites looking at what might be in store for me.

One particular job piqued my interest – a full-time, one-year research position at the John Richards Initiative, an ageing research centre at La Trobe Wodonga. Given that my not-yet-completed PhD was in history and they wanted someone in health sciences, I wasn’t too hopeful of getting an interview – nor was I sure if I wanted to move away from Melbourne – but figured putting together an application would be good experience.

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

I think I’m a data scientist now (Murray Neuzerling)

Image: Murray Neuzerling
At the very least, I’ve taken the first step.

In May, I started my work at ANZ under the AMSI intern program. Until November, I’ll be doing data science-y things in the analytics team in this beautiful Docklands building.

That’s right, I’m making the scary transition from academia to industry.

Except it hasn’t been scary at all.

Sure, working a corporate nine-to-five is a very different experience to the usual t-shirt and jeans academic experience, but there’s been no catastrophic culture shock. Mostly, that’s due to the immensely helpful folks at ANZ who have smoothed the transition for me and two other interns. I cannot overstate just how wonderful these people are.

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

What I’ve gotten out of the 3MT (Anthony Condon)

Anthony Condon's 3MT slide in the 2016 ASSC College finals
It’s 3MT (Three Minute Thesis) Championship time!

First, I wish much luck to those competing for the chance to represent La Trobe at the Asia-Pacific finals at the end of September. Show the country what Eagles do to sandstone buildings!

I wanted to take a moment to reflect on my experience of competing in the 3MT this year.

I’m a first year PhD researcher in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences (HuSS). As I'm an unconfirmed candidate for the moment, I was ineligible to proceed to the University Championship (even if I had made it through in the College finals).

I’m sure many new PhD researchers out there think of 3MT as something to save for their final year, when they have a clue about what they are doing. But that’s precisely why I'd say you should do it earlier!

I did it for several reasons. I have a bit of the natural P.T. Barnum in me (I’m one of those weirdos who likes being in front of a crowd). I thought it would get me out of my office and meeting some other people around campus, which it has absolutely done. Mainly, however, I did it because a few people said to me that it’s a good way to narrow down what your thesis is actually about – and I needed this! Six weeks into my thesis turned into six months, and I realised I had less and less of a clue about what I was doing.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Karaoke in Kazakhstan (Mia Tarp Hansen)

Striking view that meets the traveller landing in Almaty, Kazakhstan
(taken in late spring 2015). Behind the city lies the beautiful
Tien Shan mountain range. Photo by Mia Tarp Hansen.
Let’s start out by saying my topic isn’t exactly easy.

Doing research on human rights in repressive states is no dance on roses, as we say in Denmark. Unless you step on the thorns. But it does involve a lot of fun, too.

I remember my very first interview.

I had invited a famous, young, female human rights activist in Kazakhstan for dinner to interview her. She decided on the venue and, at 8pm on a rainy Friday evening in early April, I rocked up to the restaurant that she chose in upper Almaty.

The place was called “Kishlyak” and was serving Uzbek. It was one of those typical post-Soviet restaurants with wooden benches, kitschy interior, live music, and drunken parties full of beer bellies and stiletto heels at every table. There was a distinct smell of beer, cheap perfume, vodka, plov (the Uzbek national rice dish), and a bit of pee stench, too, it must be said. The music and noise was so loud that it was almost impossible to have a conversation.

Having a proper interview would be impossible in this setting.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

From PhD to high Arctic - my postdoc experience (Emma Bland)

Emma during her first days at the high Arctic | Photo from Emma Bland
I’ve just started a 3-year postdoc in middle atmospheric physics at the University Centre in Svalbard (UNIS).

Located in Longyearbyen, Norway, way up in the high Arctic at 78° latitude, UNIS is the world’s northernmost higher education institution.

So, how did a PhD graduate from La Trobe wind up living on Svalbard?

First, there are some world-class research facilities here, including an optical observatory for studying the Aurora Borealis, and a brand-new radar that is part of an international collaboration of which La Trobe is also a member.

Second, I visited Svalbard for a conference two years ago and went home feeling rather inspired! It seemed like such a fun place to live, with many opportunities for hiking, skiing and snowmobiling adventures, as well as unique wildlife and spectacular mountain scenery.

You can imagine my delight when I discovered that UNIS was advertising a postdoc position during the final year of my PhD candidature!

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Have you considered being a mentor? (Ana Garcia)

Image by Dan Carlson | unsplash.com
I am lucky to have a job that is closely related to my PhD research topic: peer mentoring.

I coordinate a program that places university students as online mentors for high school science students. Being able to connect research and practice is definitely helpful and it keeps me motivated to complete my studies.

It also means that since I spend so much time thinking about my topic, it can be difficult to explain what I’m working on to other people.

A few days ago, for example, a friend of mine asked me what mentors actually do when they work with students. ‘Are they supposed to be teachers?’, she asked.

I realised I had been talking about the benefits of having a mentor and the importance of mentoring, but failed to explain what a mentor is!

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

When the levee broke – travelling to the American South (Rachel Loney-Howes)

New Orleans on the ferry crossing to Algiers (the other side of the river)
where African slaves were brought and sold in the 1720s.
Photo by Rachel Loney-Howes.
I remember when the first posters went up advertising the study tour, “When the levee breaks”. The study tour was for undergraduates, but there were a few spots for graduate researchers.

I was thinking that there was NO WAY I’d be selected to go on the trip of a lifetime to the American South.

But there I was on Monday 6 June 2016, at Melbourne airport (at 6am) feeling very nervous and preparing for the longest flight of my life (Melbourne – Sydney – Dallas – New Orleans)!

With me were thirty undergraduate students, six teaching staff (including another three graduate researchers, like me), and five auditors (who wanted to come along for the ride).

After the three weeks we spent on the road together travelling from New Orleans to Memphis via Natchez, Vicksburg and Clarksdale (and a few more stops in between), we became like family.

This trip of a lifetime did not come for free, though!

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Why would you join an ECR Network? (Compiled by Tseen Khoo)

Photo by Christian Bisbo Johnsen | unsplash.com
The first Early Career Researcher (ECR) Network conference took place last year. 

It was organised by a volunteer crew of La Trobe ECRs, who hatched the event plan and ran with it! The conference was supported by the Office of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) and the Research Education and Development (RED) team. 

With more than 60 delegates, and key research leaders featured on the program, it was an important, fun event that galvanised a lot of activity and focus for the campus’ ECRs. You can read up on what happened at the 2015 ECR conference (Storify collection).

One of the best things that I saw before, during and after the event, was the growing camaraderie of the conference committee, most of whom were total strangers to one another before working on organising the event. 

And remember that these are ECRs we’re talking about: researchers who are early in their careers, keen to make their mark, focused on getting all their teaching, research and service activities happening and balanced. That makes them even more busy than normal busy. 

So, why would they put their hands up to be a part of the ECR Network and event committee?

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Thesis writing: an epilogue (Arjun Rajkhowa)

Photo by Davide Ragusa  |  unsplash.com
Time, time, time, see what's become of me
While I looked around for my possibilities
I was so hard to please
Don't look around
The leaves are brown
And the sky is a hazy shade of winter

Simon & Garfunkel, ‘A Hazy Shade of Winter’


My thesis emerged out of a lot of chaos.

I wanted to cover four very different cases and topics. In the end, I could only find space for two.

I wanted to write about a much bigger phenomenon. In the end, I could only discuss one small (or not small exactly… let's say 'significant') aspect of it. While being situated in the Media Studies department, I read and wrote a lot of sociological and political analysis, most of which I had to finally excise from the thesis. In short, my thesis had quite a chaotic coming-into-being.

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

How to be a good conference goer (Tseen Khoo)

Photo by Evan Forester
(Creative Commons 2.0)
Many years ago, when I had to give my first few academic papers and the conference dates loomed sickeningly close, I’d be almost paralysed with insecurity and brimming with angst about what could go wrong.

I’d run through my paper over and over about a fortnight before it was due to be given; no ad-libbing for me!

The whole thing would be planned to within an inch of its life AND chockers with theoretical stuffing because there was a desperate need to make sure that what I presented would be considered ‘serious’ (and we all know that nothing says ‘serious’ like incredibly dense, almost incoherent jargon).

Thankfully, I evolved. A bit. It's all a process, right?

This post focuses on things I’ve learnt in the past decade or so’s conference-going and paper-giving.

Jo Byrne has written on RED Alert about how to prep well for a conference before you even leave home, from the delegate's side of things.

I discovered through being on both sides of this dynamic that this is how you make conference convenors love you:
  • Get your abstract and registration payment in on time.
  • Keep your presentation to time.
  • Be organised, and familiar, with the a/v you’ll need.
  • Remember that Google (or similar) is your friend. Don’t write to convenors and ask things like ‘So, what’s the weather like in X?’ or ‘What currency do you use?’. After all, you’re meant to be a researcher.
  • Turn up for your session. (Yes, it is tragic that I even have to include this, but there it is.)
So, what should you do when you're AT the conference? Your paper’s written (right? RIGHT…?), and you intend to turn up on time to give it. What else does a good conference participant do? So glad you asked!

A good conference presenter or delegate should:

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Want to improve the research culture around you? (Tseen Khoo)

Photo by Luke Michael  |  unsplash.com
If you're like me, you can't help yourself when it comes to being involved in a shiny new project.

It's especially the case if it means working with colleagues you know, trust, and respect.

This has been the story of my academic life, really, and my inability to say 'no' has led to a whole raft of opportunities that I wouldn't have envisaged.

So, it has worked well for me overall, even though there have been times when I've looked at my calendar and lamented humanity's inability to bend time (yet).

While I know that saying 'yes' to every option is not a great way to balance a life, my experiences with working on scholarly community projects have been the highlight of my working days.

The thing I missed most when doing these projects, knowing full well that they'd lead to bigger and better things for my area, discipline or school, was funding. Mostly, the outcomes from this work were not 'counted' the way research output is counted. There were no direct publications. Grant funding may come in, but in an oblique and longer-term manner.

Were the researchers affected happier, more connected with their peers, and likely to foster better relationships overall? Inevitably. Satisfyingly.

So, when I heard that the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research), Professor Keith Nugent had agreed to create the Research Culture Fund (RCF), I was excited.

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Planning for recruitment before your ethics application (Jason Murphy)

Image by Pavan Trikutam
As a communications lead in the Graduate Research School, I'm often asked to support the recruitment of participants for research projects from within and outside of La Trobe.

With the majority of these requests, what has struck me is that researchers are limiting themselves to email and flyers posted around campuses when there are a wealth of communication channels at their disposal.

Contemporary society equals communication overload. We're all used to being time poor, and constantly assessing whether the deluge of information coming at us is relevant or of interest.

To have a chance of communicating effectively these days means you need to tell your audience very quickly what it is your message is about. If they're interested, they'll be willing to take further action, such as clicking through to a webpage for more information.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Theory by the tramload (Melissa Kennedy)

Inside the Theory Tram | Photo by Melissa Kennedy
How do you make social theory ‘social’?

This was the question our Planning and Social Theory Reading Group asked ourselves as we developed the idea for a social theory salon. This idea went on to be generously sponsored by the Graduate Research School and College of Arts, Social Science and Commerce's Intellectual Climate Fund.

Importantly, we wanted to ensure that the event would complement the purpose of our reading group, which informally gets together to discuss the application of social theory to our studies in a space where we can 'grapple-in-common'.

While modelling the event on a French Enlightenment-style ‘salon’ evoked an interactive setting for the discussion of ideas, would it be enough to spark broader interest in a social theory gathering?

And where could we hold it? Should it be on campus? What if we took theory ‘downtown’ and held it on a tram...? Would it be distracting, maybe a little too much fun? What if it all went off the rails (literally and metaphorically)? Do we just do it anyway?!

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Finding the perfect image (Tseen Khoo)

Troop inspection | Photo by Pascal
Do you know how long I agonised over what photo should accompany this post about how to find photos to accompany posts...?

I know that's all a bit meta, but stay with me. I'm from the Humanities.

For the RED program, I run a series of workshops about creating and building a digital profile on social media, especially Twitter.

Many of you will have attended them. Many of you run research project blogs, PhD blogs, or regularly contribute to group research blogs.

Many of you organise research events for your colleagues and put together the promotional material for them.

Most salient to this post, many of you who do these things ask: “How do I find free images to use? What are the rules for using them?”

There are plenty of resources on the internet about finding images to use on blogs, image copyright and attribution, licensing, Creative Commons, fair use, etc. Here’s a search I prepared earlier!

What I’m doing with this post is not presenting a comprehensive handbook to online image searching, use, and attribution. I’m giving you my simple (hopefully not simplistic) insight into what I find to be good practice for sourcing and using images for non-profit blogposts and other non-profit projects and events.

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Why litter? Not enough bins? (Lucie Semenec and Jen Wood)

 Everything looks better when there is no litter on the grass.
Our second Department-organised litter clean-up day was held at La Trobe University's Melbourne Campus on 13 May.

We'd spread the word a bit wider this time and were joined by litter-busting volunteers from across the Campus.

Volunteers included those from the Microbiology, Zoology and Ecology departments as well as some RED, and GRS team members. We were also joined by Craig Allen from the Environmental Operations Office, who provided some materials for use in gathering litter. 

This month, we focused on car parks at the University to see where the litter begins, as staff and students enter the uni to start their hard-working day.

The good news is we collected a lot of litter and really cleaned up the car parks. The bad news is, we collected a lot of litter.

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Competitive Early Career Researcher grants - what did and didn’t work for me (Courtney Ennis)

Photo by Edgaras Maselskis | unsplash.com
With internal Expression of Interest (EoI) dates fast approaching for various major funding schemes, La Trobe Early Career Researchers (ECRs) may be weighing up their odds for success.

Considering the substantial time and effort expended in honing grant proposals, could this energy be better spent on, I don’t know, research and writing papers...? I know I had these thoughts.

Reflecting on the vacant application form that confronted me a few years ago, I'm pleased with my former self for saying, “Ugh, fine, I’ll do it!”.

This decision to forge on with the paperwork changed my career.

Taking shape around me today is a small, talented group of graduate researchers, shiny new laboratory equipment and even some modest funds locked in the research account.

And how did I get from staring at a blank application form to here?

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Interview with Associate Professor Lisa Amir (Judith Lumley Centre)

Lisa Amir (left), Miranda Buck (centre) and new family at Royal Women's Hospital

This week, we interview Associate Professor Lisa Amir from the Judith Lumley Centre (JLC; on Twitter at @LTUJudithLumley).

The JLC is a multidisciplinary public health research centre with programs focused on mothers, parents and their infants.

It's great to see Lisa's enthusiasm for her topic shine through.

And the fact that she and her team tried five times before landing that big grant? A perfect demonstration of how persistence is as necessary in academia as expertise!

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Reading, Writing, Supporting (Anthony Condon)

They say a PhD is a lonely road.

It’s all too easy to spend all day behind the computer, in the lab or deep in the archives. But we’re social creatures and even if we’re alone in our topic, it doesn’t mean we need to be alone in our shared experience.

Do you want to read, write and be supported in a group environment?

I’ve gotten a lot out of the two regular Shut Up and Write! sessions I attend at the Melbourne campus.

One's on Tuesdays 9.30 - 12.00 in the Postgraduate Study Area (aka The Qantas Lounge) on Level 2 of the Library and the other is on Thursdays 9.30 - 12.00 in the Teaching and Learning Commons (TLC), room 114. I've also been a part of the 'how to write a journal article in 12 weeks' workshops (get in touch with Kirsty Duncanson to know when the next one will start up). I like the social aspect of sharing what we’re writing, as well as remaining accountable to a group to keep our work going.

It's for these two reasons that I’ve decided to start a reading, writing and peer support group (snappy name pending a group decision). This initially started out as a reading group. In the History department, we have many reading groups, but I wanted something where I could focus on what I was reading rather than something general. I also wanted to hear what other people in other fields thought about the things I was reading. In return, I thought I’d be able to offer the benefit of my context for other peoples’ reading and gain insight into a broader range of topics.

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

INTERVIEW with Dr Emma Sherry (Centre for Sport and Social Impact)

Photo courtesy of Emma Sherry
This interview with Dr Emma Sherry shows that sport research is about more than just the sport!

Emma's research is a great example of engaged, sustained academic work that has outcomes directly applicable to improving various developing communities' quality of life.

As an added bonus, she sounds like she has a great time doing it all!

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Get your butt off the lawn (Lucie Semenec and Jen Wood)

Some areas of our campus are still beautifully undamaged by our waste. Let’s make all of our campus look like this! (Photo courtesy of Oonagh Bodin)
Although we see litter on our Melbourne campus every day, it's probably not something we actively notice anymore.

Maybe we’re just too busy studying or socialising, or perhaps we’ve become desensitised to it because it’s always there. Or maybe we know it’s wrong but turn a blind eye because it’s just easier to think of it as someone else’s problem.

Those of us who create the litter may not fully understand the problems it causes, and those of us who just see the litter as a problem don’t really know how to go about fixing it! But surely we can all agree that it doesn’t look nice!

This is why like-minded individuals from the Department of Microbiology decided to take action on this litter problem and clean up our campus! This is the story of our experience and what we discovered.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Mastermind groups: Creative tactics for thriving as an ECR (Marcella Carragher, Rochelle Fogelgarn, Hannah Robert)

Graphic conversation | Image by Marc Wathie
Being an Early Career Researcher (ECR) can feel a bit like being Red Riding Hood setting out into the dark forest.

We're armed with our basket of goodies (our research qualifications and experience) and we know where we're supposed to be going: heading for Grandma's house (i.e. working towards becoming an established and productive researcher).

But, like Red Riding Hood, the path is by no means clear or without hazards. That was certainly how we felt when we attended a RED-hosted ECR Career Planning day in 2014.

Little did we know that one of the strategies that emerged from that planning session, Mastermind groups, would become a central part of our own research career planning!

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Interview with Dan Bendrups (Research Education and Development (RED))

Image: Rapanui dancers at the 2012 Festival of Pacific Arts, Honiara (Photo D. Bendrups) 
In this week's RED Alert, we interview Dan Bendrups, who recently started with the RED team at Bendigo Campus. Dan talks candidly about his research background and offers some great advice to Early Career Researchers.

1. How did you end up researching in the field you're in?

I’d love to say that it was all part of a well-planned career strategy, but to be honest, my transition into a research career was part serendipity and part pragmatism. Like many current HDRs, I entered research from an industry or ‘practice’ background. My field of practice was music performance. When the opportunity arose to do a PhD with a scholarship (something quite attractive to a struggling musician), I took it, but without much thought for where it would lead. My doctorate considered the role of music in cultural sustainability on remote Easter Island (Rapanui). This led to further engagement with music and culture in the Pacific region, especially in Polynesia and Pacific-rim Latin American countries, where I already had some language and cultural knowledge. My emerging profile in this area led to my first real academic appointment in New Zealand, where Pacific-focused research is strategically significant to the nation’s cultural and research agendas. I maintain a specific interest in Rapanui as a primary research field, however, I have also been able to extend this to include topics in which Rapanui (and, for that matter, music) is perhaps more peripheral. At present, this is reflected in my work concerning trans-Pacific cultural phenomena, especially those that connect Oceania with Latin America.

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Isolation (Nicholas Anthony)

Photo by Erlend Ekseth | unsplash.com
“I work with lasers.”

These four simple words regularly save me when some poor individual gets stuck talking to me at a party and makes the mistake of asking what I do.

I’ve tried to give the real answer, that I’m a PhD researcher developing a new technique that uses focused laser light to image materials and biological samples to high spatial resolution.

But who really wants to hear about that when you could imagine I'm on par with supervillains from James Bond movies?!

To my dismay, working with lasers isn’t as glamorous as the movies would have you believe.

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

The 101 on grants for graduate researchers (Clare McCausland)

Photo by Thomas Hawk
As the manager of the Graduate Research School (GRS), I’m keenly aware that one of the topics we’re often asked at the GRS is around grants and additional funds: "how do I find what’s out there and how do I actually get paid?"

We know that research can be expensive!

Apart from fees and basic living expenses, costs associated with research can add up. You might want to travel overseas to conduct your fieldwork, purchase useful equipment to get your project underway and, at some point, you’ll almost certainly want to attend a conference to present your research.

You can also work with your colleagues to build a better intellectual climate – invite a guest speaker, set up a Wiki, or run a well-catered (and therefore well-attended!) reading group or seminar to support the efforts of graduate researchers across your discipline.

Sometimes, it seems like there are floods of cash available for doctoral and research Master’s candidates, but finding it and then seeing the dollars materialise can take more effort than the research these funds are intended to support. That’s not the intention.

I’ve put together some questions and answers here in an effort to shine a light on the sources of funding available and what’s involved in getting paid.

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Three minutes and not a second more (Kelly Farrell and Jason Murphy)

Jen Wiltshire. 2015 La Trobe Competition winner.
A graduate researcher with a story to tell. An audience primed to hear it. Three minutes and not a second more.

One of the University’s premiere research events, the Three Minute Thesis® (3MT®) is on again in 2016!

Started by the University of Queensland in 2008, this unique competition asks graduate researchers to flex their research communication muscles and present a clear and engaging account of their thesis to a non-specialised audience.

No jargon. No disciplinary double-dutch. And all in under three minutes.

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Single quotation marks - for quoting ‘Mr Nobody’ (Teresa Iacono)

When I was young, I had a grandmother figure – that is, she acted like my grandmother, I loved her like she was my grandmother, and she took me to many places as though bent on imbuing a grandchild with cultural experiences.

As a result, I am probably the only person alive who reached the age of 6 having seen Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music three times!

This grandmother figure and I had no blood ties. She taught me a great many life skills, such as how to make a decent cup of tea (much needed for a first generation Australian of Italian parents who knew only how to drink stove-top coffee) and how to make lovely doilies using pin-point needlework (a great skill for a budding academic – not).

Even now, I can still remember how to blanket-stitch, even though I have never had the need to stitch blankets. Take note, ECRs, this is not a life skill, nor the first rung on the academic ladder to success, but it could be good practice for when…actually, I can’t think of any reason to practice this skill.

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

What is 'Shut up and Write!' at La Trobe University? (Tseen Khoo)

Shut up and write in progress (Photo by Tseen Khoo)
‘Shut up and Write!’ (SUAW) is a series of weekly facilitated writing sessions designed to help researchers get their writing done.

They are open to all researchers, hosted by the RED team and other researchers across the La Trobe network, and use the Pomodoro technique of focused writing interleaved with short breaks.

Many scholars find that SUAW sessions have become essential parts of their research practice – here are 5 great reasons to try SUAW out for yourself.

Regular La Trobe sessions take place at many campuses, including Melbourne, Franklin Street, Bendigo, Albury-Wodonga, and online.

How does it work?

  • Each week, people arrive and set themselves up with their gear. 
  • At the session start time, the host begins the first pomodoro (25 minutes). You can shut up and write, or edit, read or analyse. It's up to you - the session gives you focused time with whatever stage of your research needs attention.
  • After 25 minutes, there's a break and everyone can chat, get coffee or tea, or go for a quick walk.
  • Then we write again for another 25 minutes.
  • Rinse and repeat until the end of the session.
SUAW can vary slightly in format from campus to campus but the basic components are the same -  especially needing the coffee.

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Can you actually enjoy a PhD? Notes from someone who did (Merryn Sherwood)

Photo by 301+ Kim | unsplash.com
The PhD roller coaster - it’s a much-used analogy to describe the ups and downs of graduate research life.

As a just-finished candidate, I have happily realised my ride at the doctorate carnival was actually a ferris-wheel. There were a few places where I couldn’t see ahead clearly, or it momentarily stalled but, overall, it was pleasant and even enjoyable.

On reflection, the key to avoiding those terrifying climbs and drops was a simple mind-trick: I changed how I thought about the PhD.

When anyone asked me why I was completing a doctorate, my response became:

“I’d like to be a journalism lecturer, I need a PhD to get there.”

This re-positioning of the PhD from something steeped in awe and fear to something perfunctory, a 'trade certificate' to practice in academia perhaps, helped in multiple ways.

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

What you need to do before you go to a conference (Jo Byrne)

Photo by Calum MacAulay | unsplash.com
Conferences can be awesome!

You get to listen to the latest research, rub shoulders with the people whose work you keep citing and you’re surrounded by people doing some really exciting work.

What’s not so awesome is the planning and prep-work that you have to do, on top of your already busy schedule!

This is a quick guide for interstate and international conferences that will hopefully take some of the worry out of it for you.

3-4 months before the conference:
  • Did you get an email? Great! Read it. Every word. Then read it again. The emails you get from the convenors of the conference will provide a wealth of information – timetables, prerequisites and sometimes even discounts on accommodation. These are all extremely useful when you’re planning your stay.

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Media training for graduate researchers (Edwina Kay)

Stephanie Amir (right) interviewing Anne Brouwer
(Photo by Edwina Kay)
The importance of sharing our research with a wider audience is something my early career researcher and PhD student colleagues have been talking about for years.

Talking about it is easy, but actually doing it is much harder.

We all think our research is important and suspect other people will find it interesting, too! While we dutifully publish our research in academic journals, and present our findings at conferences, sharing it with a non-academic audience is often something we’re not sure how to do.

I’m an archaeologist, and part of how archaeology as a profession justifies its existence (and the costs of excavation) is by claiming that what we do is in the public interest.

We say the public cares about heritage, and that it’s our job to record it and protect it. Sadly, much of what we find languishes unpublished, or is published in academic journals that aren’t accessible to everyone.

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Why you need a triple backup strategy (Merran Williams)

Image credit: Perspecsys Photos
A couple of weeks ago, a bushfire went through the property where I live.

While there was extensive damage, I was fortunate that most of my possessions survived. My study got very wet, courtesy of the water bomber (I’m not complaining, they helped save the house!), and my desktop computer and backup drive were wrecked.

When the fire started, we had to evacuate quickly and all I took were the dogs, my handbag, phone and laptop. Even if I hadn’t been able to get my laptop, I wasn’t worried about my PhD research. All my notes and writing are backed up in the cloud, together with important family photos and financial records.

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Notes to my grad researcher self (Erika Duan)

Image/doodle by Erika Duan
They say that hindsight is always 20/20.

So, this is the list of hard-won insights I would like to send to my graduate researcher self, if only time machines had been invented:

1. Fighting off the graduate student blues

Looking back at my PhD experience, the aspect I wish I could've changed was my study outlook. Rather than taking all the dead ends to heart and aiming for a magnum opus, it would've been more efficient to round off unexplainable observations much earlier.

The ability to remain positive and move forward - even incrementally - is not only the best antidote to scientific despair (and the fastest way to accrue scientific data), but also a means of demonstrating your ability to organise independent projects and meet expected deadlines to future employers. Twenty years down the track, it is far more likely that these skills and a resilient outlook, rather than the number and impact factor of your PhD publications, will govern your career success and progression. And, to the scientific idealists out there, I felt great satisfaction in pursuing my research questions as far as I did, but this enjoyment has all been retrospective!

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

A little help from my friends (Sarah-Elizabeth Byosiere)

Photo by Anoir Chafik | unsplash.com
As researchers, we spend our lives thinking, breathing, and even dreaming about our topics of interest.

I have focused my PhD topic over time and, finally, have decided that I'll assess 'the limits of perception and metacognition in animals by researching how dogs see and think about their environment'.

As I've gone through this process, I've found it more difficult to explain my interests and goals to my closest friends and family. Where I once relied heavily on their input and feedback, a 10-minute conversation to address a brief question can now turn into a 2-hour overview of basic principles and foundations.

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Livetweeting a conference for the first time (Murray Neuzerling)

Twitter is the opposite of how mathematics is typically communicated.

When you're aiming 140 characters at the general public you don't have room for fancy mathematical words like "automorphism" or "ultraproduct".

You have to sacrifice accuracy and pedantry for the sake of understanding.

A mathematician on Twitter has to learn an entirely new way of communicating.

And we absolutely should!

In 2014, I took over the dormant Twitter account of the Australian Mathematical Society.

I've been building it up since then, learning how to coordinate social media for an organisation along the way. The biggest challenge was livetweeting the 2015 meeting of the AustMS.

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

More than words on a page - the inaugural RED Writing Retreat (Jason Murphy)

I was one of the fortunate few who attended the inaugural La Trobe University RED Writing Retreat.

The retreat was a three-day intensive writing event that took place from 25–27 November 2015, at the home of the Graduate Research School (GRS) at Melbourne Campus.

The retreat was in some ways the capstone of La Trobe’s Academic Writing Month (#LTUacwrimo).

As a PhD candidate, I was one of about 45 participants from diverse backgrounds. We all came from a wide range of disciplines, career stages and campus locations. There were graduate research candidates, and Early and Mid Career academics all present at the event.

As a staff member of the Graduate Research School (my day job), I knew that momentum for a writing retreat had been building for a while. There was huge demand and much curiosity about how this event would work, and the signs from boot-camps hosted by ANU and Melbourne University already indicated they'd be highly productive and constructive ventures.