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.