Tuesday, 21 May 2019

The Emerging Impact Landscape (Wade Kelly)

White Night Melbourne 2018 | Photo by Wade Kelly
Shared via Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
There’s considerable confusion about what ‘impact’ is, and this is no surprise given that it’s a term that’s used for so many things in the contemporary research space.

For my research, I’ve had many, many conversations with people across higher education in Australia and Canada at all career levels (graduate researchers, Early Career Researchers, Mid Career Researchers). Alongside the confusion about what impact is is what impact means (and will mean) to academics.

The following primer is a brief history of the impact landscape, an exploration of some of the trends in higher education, and some things to consider as you start your ‘impact journey.’

So, let’s start by clarifying some of the many meanings of impact. I find it easiest to consider impact as happening either inside (internal) or outside (external) of academia.

Tuesday, 14 May 2019

How cups of coffee lead to world leading research (Greg Dingle and Sam Grover)

La Trobe Sports Park | Photo courtesy of La Trobe University

What is it about a cup of coffee that can lead to a $48,000 research grant and world leading research?

The answer is that if that coffee is had at a university Early Career Researcher (ECR) event then, more likely than not, emerging researchers will be also talking for the first time with other researchers from outside their discipline where they have exchanged ideas and realised the linkages that exist between their seemingly disparate research interests.

The scenario described above actually happened in October 2015 when we – Dr Samantha Grover and Dr Greg Dingle – were chatting between sessions at the La Trobe University ECR Network Conference in the John Scott Meeting House.

We were there to give presentations on our latest research and explore the potential for collaborating with researchers from outside our disciplines. Sam is a soil scientist, and Greg is a social scientist specialising in sport management. In addition, Greg thinks that the opportunity to have a free lunch should never be missed!

Tuesday, 7 May 2019

Showing up (Rachel Loney-Howes)

This article, written by La Trobe University PhD alumna Rachel Loney-Howes, is cross-posted from the University of Wollongong Careers blog. It is an excellent example of the importance of building your profile and reputation as a scholar and colleague from early in your career. 

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

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Photo by Fabian Gieske | unsplash.com
In recent years, career development researchers have focused on the role of chance and luck in career development. They’ve found that, although on reflection we have a tendency to ‘reframe’ our career success in terms of luck, there are certain behaviours and attitudes that contribute to taking advantage of ‘chance’ events. Dr Rachel Loney-Howes a Lecturer from the School of Health and Society here at UOW was ‘lucky’ enough to start an ongoing academic position 6 months after her PhD (yes – 6 months!) In this blog post, she talks about one of the behaviours that helped make that happen.

Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Using rewards to help you achieve your writing goals (James Burford)

Photo by Jennifer Pallian | unsplash.com

As a lecturer in the RED team, I facilitate learning opportunities for La Trobe’s researcher community. Across these workshops we often touch on one of my favourite topics: rewards, and how they can be helpful for researchers who are trying to motivate themselves to achieve writing goals.

Writing is often a lengthy process for researchers. Motivation can sag as the hours turn to days and the days tick over into months. Added to this picture are the brain bending, shoulder crunching and finger cracking realities of many hours spent at a keyboard trying to get words on a page. It can be exhausting work on all levels, which makes pushing on so difficult sometimes. This is where rewards (some people call them power ups), combined with appropriate planning can be so useful for researchers. Some positive reinforcement can be a really valuable way of sustaining motivation throughout the long duration of a research project.


Tuesday, 23 April 2019

Spaces that matter for graduate researchers (James Burford)


Given that this post is all about the spaces and places research is conducted in, let me start by describing the space I currently find myself in. I am clicking the ‘publish’ button on this post while sitting in a library at Thammasat University in Pathumthani, a province in the northern part of the Bangkok metropolitan area. The library I have been working in this morning is possibly the coolest place on campus, which is important given that the temperature outside is hovering around 40 degrees celsius! This library is named after Puey Ungphakorn, the former Rector of Thammasat University. Professor Puey is an important figure in Thai history. He resigned his rectorship (what we might call vice chancellorship in Australia) in protest following a massacre of university students on campus in 1976 and subsequently fled Thailand for his own safety, ultimately dying overseas. The ground floor of the library features an exhibition about Professor Puey’s life and service, and nearby to here is a memorial to those killed in the 1976 massacre. Sitting in this library, I find myself thinking about the uneasy social space that universities often occupy and the risks that have been taken to defend universities as spaces for critical and creative thinking.


Tuesday, 16 April 2019

Reflections on HDR supervision: The graduate student experience

Ebony Monson (School of Life Sciences) and Allira Hanczakowski (HuSS) participated in the supervision panel convened by Jamie Burford during our first graduate researcher orientation of 2019. 

The reflections from all participants in this panel were thought-provoking and reflected the diverse ways that supervision occurs across the campus. Throughout this conversation it became clear that there is no one ‘perfect’ model for arranging supervision. It is always a complex negotiation between all the players involved and is responsive to the kind of knowledge that is being produced.


Ebony and Allira generously contributed to this post for us, based on their panel notes.

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Photo by Kobu Agency | unsplash.com

Jamie: Could you please introduce yourselves and tell us a bit about your research project?

Ebony: My name is Ebony Monson and I’m currently beginning the third year of my PhD in the School of Life Sciences. My research focuses on looking for novel mechanisms that drive an immune response to viral infections, with the hope that teasing apart the complexity of an effective immune response will allow the creation of novel anti-viral treatments to combat in-curable viral infections. I currently have 1 primary supervisor (Dr Karla Helbig) and 2 co-supervisors. I also have 2 external panel members who have an input at my progress panel meetings.

Tuesday, 9 April 2019

Learning about conferences by organising a conference (Karen Strojek)


This post is cross-posted from the academic conferences blog Conference Inference, with kind permission. Thanks for sharing your experiences of conference organising with us, Karen! View original post 

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Photo by The Climate Reality Project | unsplash.com


 “The question of “What should I do at a conference” might be answered with a question, “What kind of researcher do I want to be”? …Once students understand the kinds of values they hold as researchers, they can think with greater clarity about how to enact themselves as researchers at conferences” – James Burford, Conference Inference Blog. 

Every year, La Trobe University’s School of Humanities and Social Sciences (HUSS) runs a two-day interdisciplinary conference at which Masters and PhD students present their research to their peers and to academic staff. For many early-stage postgraduate students, this is their first experience of participating in an academic conference. Some approach their first solo performance in a state of high nervousness but, once it is done, most can relax into spectatorhood and many leave with positive memories. In this post I reflect on my experience of being on the organising team for the HUSS HDR 2018 Conference.

Jamie (from the RED team) has already posed some thought-provoking questions at La Trobe conference preparation workshops that I have attended in the past. He addresses the practical what-do-I-do questions but also invites us to be thoughtful about another important question: “What kind of researcher do I want to be?” The ensuing questions of how action might contribute to being and how being is enacted can be hard to disentangle but engaging with them shifts attention to what goes on outside the solo performer’s spotlight. What kind of researcher do we, students, want to be to whom, and how might we achieve it?


Tuesday, 2 April 2019

How uncertainty and doubt are friends of your research writing (John Hannon)

Photo by Kyle Glenn | unsplash.com

During my post-graduate research I needed structure. First, I used goals, theories and methods to structure a space for the exploration of knowledge, then this gradually filled with things that count: progress reports, due dates, prescribed word lengths, abstracts, submissions to conferences, journals and grant bodies. What started as a personal program became populated with institutions, peers, academic traditions and disciplinary cultures. This was my introduction to the academic game, in which researchers have a stake and play by a set of rules. The game offers graduate researchers and academics, both employed or underemployed, a (competitive) position in a field of knowledge, that is, a space of certainty. You are really there when you forget about playing and the game is taken as doxa, the way things are.

 As one who came late to the game, a late ECR, I had no time to lose and plugged in, conferencing, networking, and aiming to produce a little more than the required annual output. Playing the game offered me clarity and certainty that was useful in the fast introductions that are a currency of the academic world.


Tuesday, 26 March 2019

"But you don't look autistic...": Unmasking Autistic representation in academia (Elizabeth Radulski)

La Trobe University Representatives attend the Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre Strategic Plan Launch on January 31 2019. The new strategic plan strives, in part, to increase Autistic representation in academia and research. 

Pictured L-R: OTARC Director Professor Cheryl Dissanayake, PhD Candidate Beth Radulski, Chair & Former Chancellor Sylvia Walton, Chancellor Richard Larkin, Strategic Planner Jan Ferguson, and Vice-Chancellor John Dewar. 
Photo courtesy of La Trobe University.

On 17 August 2016, La Trobe staff and students gathered in the campus Agora to protest the impending deportation of PhD candidate Sarmin Sayeed, whose family was declined Australian Permanent Residency. The reason: Their son’s Autism status. Sayeed’s visa denial exemplifies the Medical Model of disability, which understands Autism as a disease and developmental disorder—a barrier to ‘normal’ functioning. Fortunately, following public outcry over disability discrimination, Sayeed’s family was granted their visa, and allowed to stay.

I attended this protest as a proud La Trobe student and immigrant myself.

I was also there (in secret) as an Autistic person.

Nearly three years on, I am proudly ‘out’ as Autistic, and conducting a PhD exploring the overt socio-political and economic discrimination experienced by many Autistic people, alongside the social drivers which lead many of us to conceal our Autism status.

Tuesday, 19 March 2019

Academic productivity tips for 2019 (Lauren Gawne)

We may be into the third month of the year already - gasp! - but we can look forward to at least nine months of charged up progress! 

This post, bursting with productivity apps and tips, is cross-posted from Lauren Gawne's blog Superlinguo with kind permission. She published this just as she was starting a year's leave. Thanks for sharing your strategies with us, Lauren! View original post.

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Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters | unsplash.com
I'm not really into the New Year's Resolutions thing, but a few conversations over my final few weeks at work made me realise that there are a few things I do to make my work life a bit easier that other people don't know about.

Most of it is about filtering out noise. Whether that means you get more done, or just get through a day with less distraction, it just depends on what you want in life.

I thought I’d share some of them here - maybe I’ll need to remind myself when I get back to work in 2020…

You're the boss of your Inbox


Be ruthless about unsubscribing from lists and events that are no longer relevant. For everything else, set up filters. I have a filter for blog stuff, one for the podcast, another for mailing lists that aren't so important I need to see them immediately (but I do like to check them). I have a boss who gets CC'd into so many things that he doesn't necessarily need to act on but should at least see or know about that he filters them off to a separate folder. This way, he doesn't miss important things that he does have to actually think about.

Tuesday, 12 March 2019

Lab family retreat: building stronger connections (Fung Lay)

As lab-based researchers, we spend so much of our daily waking hours surrounded by people with whom we share work areas, research problems, and our latest findings (good and bad).

We share a lab identity. We are connected. But how well do we actually know our lab colleagues outside of the work sphere? What are their interests? Who are their partners? How much have their kids grown since they last popped in for a visit after a childcare pick up?

In the Hulett and Poon labs, where I’ve been fortunate to work as a postdoc for many years, we make it a point to take time out at the year’s end to reflect and celebrate our collective successes (from grants, conferences, awards, publications to student completions). This could be over lunch (that could span much of the afternoon), a day trip to the zoo (we’ve visited all Victorian attractions by now), or a picnic after a memorable ride on Puffing Billy.

Members of the Hulett and Poon labs. Photo courtesy of Fung Lay.

Tuesday, 5 March 2019

Advice from Future Dave (David Cann)

David Cann out in the field - literally. Photo by James Hunt (@agronomeiste). 

Dear Orientation Dave,

I'm writing to you from February 2019 so congratulations! You've survived the first year of your PhD.

You can take "dying from excess caffeination" off your seemingly inexhaustible list of things to worry about this year. The great thing about a PhD is the time it affords you to make mistakes, then mop up after yourself and try again. The key to not burning out is reflecting on your experiences, celebrating your successes and tweaking your shortcomings.

So, with that in mind, here's a bit of advice from future Dave:

Don't forget your passport.


Learning to drive a 4WD, giving radio interviews, conversing with farmers who somehow managed to find my number, driving a truck and being invited to join a random country football team's end-of-year drinks – at first, all these things seemed like distractions from my magically-extending to-do list. But, the more time I spend talking with other researchers and mentors, the more I start to see it differently.

A PhD is like a plane ticket – a tool to get you from one place in your career to another. But the skills you develop, the connections you make, and the credibility you build during your PhD? They're your passport. If you really want to go places, a plane ticket isn't worth much without a passport.

Tuesday, 26 February 2019

Communicating your research: the complex language of science (Ebony Monson)

PAM HDR Student Society at their ICF funded ‘Showcase Symposium’

[Back row, L to R] Keaton Crosse, Troy Raglus, Ellyse Noy & Stephanie Lynch
[Front row, L to R] Jemma Gasperoni, Ella Johnston, Louise Pham, Jordyn Thomas & Ebony Monson

Not only is it important to ask questions and find the answers, as a scientist I felt obligated to communicate with the world what we were learning.” ― Stephen Hawking
As a PhD researcher, you’re often focused on a very niche research area with loads of technical jargon, complex ideas and concepts that can be difficult to communicate to researchers from different fields.

Why is it important to be able to communicate your research?

While your main focus as a graduate researcher might be to write your thesis, you need to be able to communicate effectively in writing and orally for a range of audiences (academic journals, media, industry and the community).

The idea of translating our academic interests into simpler, more engaging words can seem daunting, but it all helps share our work, widen the range of potential collaborations, and create new opportunities.

In research, the ability to succinctly convey your ideas to other researchers and to the public is one of the most important skills you can gain, yet the opportunities to build these skills are often scarce.

That’s why, at the end of 2017, a group of graduate researchers (including me) founded the Physiology, Anatomy and Microbiology (PAM) HDR Student Society with the aim of nurturing social relationships, promote networking and provide platforms to enhance educational experiences, and therefore promote positive outcomes for individuals within the department.

Tuesday, 19 February 2019

Upskilling: learning to code in R (Erika Duan)

Image by Erika Duan
I learnt to code in R out of necessity.

First, part of my research involved the exploration and visualisation of extremely large datasets.

Second, it never hurts to learn a new job skill.

R is a programming language used mostly by statisticians, bioinformaticians and data scientists (due to its vast library of statistical, data exploration and visualisation tools). Code is written via a program called R studio. As a beginner, I found the R studio environment very friendly, as it allows you to write code, test it in small segments (or ‘chunks’) and quickly visualise your results.

When I first started learning R, I had no experience with coding and was utterly clueless. My first coding session happened at an introductory workshop held by Research Bazaar (ResBaz) in 2016. ResBaz is an annual research fair, held early in the year at the University of Melbourne, which promotes computer literacy and digital research. Although I emerged from the workshop only slightly more knowledgeable than before, the biggest impact of attending ResBaz was its introduction to online research communities via Twitter. This allowed me to connect with different data science communities and researchers, and their posts have led me to useful resources for learning how to code.

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Writing together (Kylie Mirmohamadi)

Sue Martin (L) and Kylie Mirmohamadi | Photo courtesy of Kylie
Kylie Mirmohamadi (HuSS) participated in the panel convened by James Burford about 'writing together' during #LTUacwrimo in 2018. 

The presentations from all participants were thought-provoking and reflected the diverse ways that researchers collaborate (or not!) when writing. 

Kylie generously wrote this post for us, based on her panel notes. 

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What follows is a reflection on the practice of collaborative academic writing, and the way that I have experienced it in my work with Professor Sue Martin (College of ASSC's APVC-Research).

For this post, I’m going to leave aside the much larger issue of how collaborative writing is perceived and received within the politics of academic publishing.

I’ll begin with a few observations from other people that illustrate the often-unacknowledged personal dimension of writing together, and also its gendered aspects.

For me, and I’m sure also for Sue and for Katie Holmes (with whom we have also collaborated), writing together academically is a gendered and a feminist activity. Although this is not always the case with collaborations, ours have been productive of, and pursued within, patterns and modes of female friendship. Those friendships that Kayleen Schaefer sees as captured in women’s late-night request to each other to ‘text me when you get home’, which she shows is not only about safety, but also about solidarity, affection, connection, and holding an ongoing conversation with each other (Text me when you get home, 2018).

Tuesday, 5 February 2019

The pleasure of values (Interview with James Burford)

In this week's RED Alert, we interview James (Jamie) Burford, who started with the RED team in July 2018. Jamie talks candidly about his research background and offers some great advice to graduate researchers.

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Jamie and his co-blogger Emily |
Photo courtesy of Jamie
How did you end up researching in the field you're in?

My primary research field is higher education, with ongoing dabbles in gender and sexuality studies. And it is fair to say that I sometimes feel surprised to find that I have arrived in this space.

One way to answer this question is to say that my arrival was unplanned. I followed my curiosity and it led me here. There are also some other answers. My BA was in political science, my Masters was in Development Studies and I came to my PhD via youthwork, community development and diversity education. These histories continue to shape the way that I think about research.