Everything we talk about on this course is in the context of a changing academic environment and culture. It’s important to understand this context, which at Dundee is encapsulated in the long-term vision for the institution:
Of course, there are other ‘contexts’ to understand; that of your research culture, the funding landscape and the potential beneficiaries for your research.
Other sources of insights into academic culture include:
- LSE’s blog on the Impact of Social Sciences (not just for social science – all about impact)
- Blogs of senior academic leaders, such as those on Occam’s Typewriter, particularly Athene Donald
- Information from those making sense of the new research funding landscape, such as the Research Fundermentals blog
On the topic of funding, many academics find the process of reviewing proposals has a positive impact on their own grant-writing. There is currently a call from the European Commission for reviewers and evaluators for the Horizon 2020 programme. Sign up here and look at our resources on collaboration for other information on Horizon 2020.
A useful model to help with career reflection is the “I care, they care” map from Michael Bungay Stanier’s book “Do More Great Work”
The maps from the book can be downloaded and with a little flexibility, can be used to reflect on your academic life. (I care, they care is map 7.)
A day on managing your career inevitably involves suggesting new strategies and activities. Few academics are in the position of having capacity in their diaries for new responsibilities. This means that an important part of the day is the time we spend thinking about what you need to STOP doing.
To help this process, we think about:
- a ten year vision – what do you want to be known for in the future?
- your current activity
– what are you doing now that is a ‘hangover’ from a previous role?
– your current activity – what makes you look more junior?
– what have you stopped learning from?
– what could you delegate to a member of your research group or someone who would benefit from it?
- analysing time and your current decisions about how to spend it (with reference to the Time management guide on this site and the blog on time management for academics)
Once good time management practice becomes your habit, you may have time to invest in the promotion and development of your work. Here are some ideas of ways to get people to engage with your research outputs:
- develop a relationship with your institution’s press office so when you produce an important output they are aware of how to promote it and have the right network of contacts
- ensure the work is accessible electronically and seek advice from the Library about sharing published work whilst avoiding copyright problems
- organise a meeting, seminar, workshop around the work and invite key people (funds may be available if this is a pre-cursor to an international network or collaboration)
- talk to the journal about writing a commentary about the article (be aware of upcoming special editions and use the approaches recommended in Rowena Murray’s book – Writing for Academic Journals)
- use professional support to develop effective and engaging graphics – such as that provided by former Dundee post-doc Mhairi Towler’s company, Vivomotion)
- Use social networks to build audience engagement. To consider the value of social media in academia, see the RIN guide – Social Media a guide for Researchers, our notes for unconvinced researchers and Alex Marsh’s recent blog post, One Academic Online.
This activity, which I use in many research leadership programme was inspired by this blog – setting up a researcher blog. There is a lot of debate about the impact of social media on citations and engagement with published work – here is one academic’s experience -Dr Melissa Terras on Open Access and the Twitter effect.
Following on from discussions on building an audience for your research outputs, we consider the audience itself. Who is in your professional network and is it “fit for purpose” when you consider your academic vision?
Does your network contain people who:
- will celebrate your successes?
- can create opportunities which will move you towards your career vision?
- influence decision making and the development of research strategies/funding trends (either to let you know what’s coming or to consider your work when making these decisions)?
- can help you connect with new networks?
- share your values (so you don’t feel isolated)?
- act as critical friends to review your ideas?
- you can have mentoring conversations with?
- who know about funding and can help you to develop more successful applications?
- have complementary research interests which enable you to contribute to wider research questions?
We talked about opportunities to meet these people and mentioned two Scottish opportunities:
Sometimes we are trying to improve relationships with people who are already in our networks.
The NIH Office of the Ombudsman Tools for Handling Conflict may help with any conflicts, particularly the guide to difficult conversations, “We Need to Talk“.
At this stage of your academic career most people are keen to grow their research group. Obviously any advice about recruitment needs to come from human resources within your institution, so we focused on the culture of your research approach and group that is communicated through your university pages. We looked at two examples:
Professor Roberto Cipolla at Cambridge, which demonstrates that if you have a research culture that works, stick with it (last updated 1995)
Our final discussions were on action planning. Having thought about your academic career path, what needs to be different?
You can download the GROW model that we used for this activity.
Finally, if you are a Dundee researcher or academic remember that you can access online development materials at any point through the Pansophix website. You will need the login details (available from OPD) and then you can work through modules including Managing Teams, Delegating, Career Development, Dealing with Difficult Behaviour, Being Influential and Time Management.