2019 was…

… the year of the book series. So I thought a little end of year discussion about book series might be in order.

Book series require a very particular kind of editorial work.

Editors have to have a good analysis of the field, they need to know what is and what isn’t already covered. And this field analysis is not just at the start when series editor wanna-bes convince a publisher that their idea is good. You have to keep up to date with what is being published. You also have to have a view of where the field might go – and where it should go. “We need less of that and more of this”, thinks the series editor.

Series editors have to understand what their series will do. Series need a purpose and a point of view. Some series are knowledge building – usually through monographs and edited collections. Knowledge building books not the same as trade books or text books; these are designed to support readers to understand and do something- think of methods or advice books, these are ‘trade’.

Series editors need to know their potential readers. This not only means who they are (researchers, students and/or professionals in a particular area ) but also where they are located. Once you know the who, what and where, the series…

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Commuting stocktake: De-stressing my schedule

12 November 2019
by Tseen Khoo

This article first appeared in Funding Insight on 31 Oct 2019 as ‘Coping with commuting’. It is reproduced with the permission of Research Professional. For more articles like this, visit http://www.researchprofessional.com.

Photo by Wade Kelly – used with permission

My commute is a big chunk of my working life these days. I’m more than five years into a job for which I commute about 3 hours a day (1.5 hours there and back). It’s usually a two-leg journey—train then bus—and occasionally a three-leg one—two trains then bus.

I love my job and the people I work with. It is a dream job that I didn’t think existed.

I feel profoundly grateful for finding a space in academia where I can make a difference and in which I am (relatively) secure. My manager is sympathetic to my commute and I am able to work flexibly on a consistent basis, whether that’s working from home or leaving earlier to avoid the peak-hour crush.

Even so, if I leave this job, it will be because of the commute.

I wrote about starting this extended commuting life back when I was a month or so into my job. Even though I have…

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Being in a Minority: It’s Not All Bad

Some time ago I wrote a post about what I thought was an ‘anti-PhD attitude’ displayed by some recruiters I interviewed for a research project. In that post I suggested that the small number of PhD graduates in the workforce led to graduates facing similar problems to other minorities who faced problems like stereotyping. After that post came out some people objected to my use of the word ‘minority’, although they did not suggest a better term (I am still trying to think of another way – if you have suggestions I welcome them!). One reader wrote to me with a positive take on occupying a minority status, and I encouraged her to write a post on her experience.

This post is by Michele Seah, a PhD candidate at the University of Newcastle. She recently submitted her thesis on the material foundations of late-medieval queenship, focusing on three queens consort in fifteenth-century England. Her research involved delving into the economic resources, particularly the lands, that provided these queens with their financial and material wealth. She also looked at how those resources were expended in the maintenance of queenly households and networks. She does not consider herself an extrovert at all but has learnt how to harness her…

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How to become more creative, focused, relaxed, and productive

Would you like to become more creative, more focused, more relaxed, and more productive? Did you know research shows there are specific habits you can develop that will enhance your ability to be all of these things?

There are many myths prevalent in academia that make it difficult for many of us to imagine we can be creative, focused, relaxed, and productive. These myths include: “Some people are geniuses;” “the only way to be successful is to work all the time;” “some people are gifted writers;” “I can only write when I feel inspired;” and “a balanced life is impossible when you are on the tenure track.” These myths are counterproductive and prevent many academics from reaching their full potential.

Instead of believing in these myths, I believe that anyone can become a great writer by practicing their writing; that you can be successful and have a life too; and that there are specific strategies you can learn that will help you tap into your creativity.

Developing new ideas, which is at the core of academia, requires being creative. Your ability to tap into your creative potential is severely limited when you are frazzled, stressed, and overworked. Thus, although it might seem contradictory, being productive requires…

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The Superhero PhD Student

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s the Superhero PhD student! The expectations that we face as PhD students can place undue stress upon us. Jenny Mak offers two tips to help you gain perspective and harness your superpower…

Have you encountered the Superhero PhD student? Here are some of her habits: She’s in the library/lab/office every morning at eight and leaves at five, including weekends. She works like a boss on her thesis throughout the day, only stopping for lunch hour. She has garnered teaching awards, postgraduate essay awards, published journal papers, has one book published and another on the way. She has organised and presented at major conferences. She has also been invited to speak at conferences and to conduct workshops. She’s on good terms with professors in the department and leading academics in her field—they’re Facebook friends. She has her own blog and Twitter. She’s on the student committee.

Sound familiar?

The truth is, the Superhero PhD student is a myth. It encapsulates the numerous (spoken and unspoken) expectations that are placed on PhD students, whereby they should finish their theses on time while also accomplish other goals that are “necessary” for an academic career afterwards….

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Responding to supervisor feedback: do doctoral students have to agree?

By Susan Carter

My eight years of being a consultant for doctoral students taught me what supervisors sometimes do not see: that candidates can struggle over whether or not to take supervisory advice. Here, I want to defend two suppositions.

1) It is always wise to pick your battles, and on that assumption, students do well to defer to supervisors when the issues are relatively minor.

2) When writing decisions are important, students need to learn how to refuse advice that they disagree with and demonstrate why.

Because students transition towards independent researcher status when they are able to make decisions and then make them work, academics who support them could initiate talk about how to manage disagreement with supervisors.

Often it is tricky responding to supervisor feedback on writing for candidates who don’t really agree with it. Learning how to negotiate diplomatically is a very useful skill that is not gained lightly. The power differential between student and supervisor can make it quite hard for students to hold on to their own choices. Those who come from a culture where it is inappropriate to contradict a teacher could be advised about Western expectations that there are intellectual benefits to arguing. It’s…

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Diary of Dr. Logic: Publication announcement: New short story available!

A week ago Friday, my short story “Being Human” was published in Flame Tree Publishing’s Robots and Artificial Intelligence collection. This anthology of short stories combines classic stories by L. Frank Baum, Jerome K. Jerome, and Ambrose Bierce with twenty new stories, including my own! This was my first pro-rate story sale, and I couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful venue!

I wanted to write a story that could be read at two levels. On the one hand, it’s straightforwardly a classic “robot upgrades from inorganic body to organic body” story, and I hope that read that way it is a rewarding way to read it. Originally I’d intended to have quite a bit more happen after Laura leaves the clinic and meets Asiya and her mother, but when I reached the point of having to write those scenes, they felt forced and awkward and unnecessary. In the end, the story was quite short, but, hopefully, still complete.

But on a deeper level, the story has very little to do with robots at all. A few months prior to when I wrote the story (which was in October 2017), a friend on FB had a link to this What is your gender? quiz, with hilarious results. I took the quiz myself, and was decidedly pleased that my gender came out as “Fine. Seriously,…

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February 12, 1809, and Wikipedia’s Evolution – Dan Cohen

Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin were both born on February 12, 1809, and this odd fact used to be featured at the top of their Wikipedia entries. As Roy Rosenzweig noted 15 years ago in his groundbreaking essay “Can History be Open Source? Wikipedia and the Future of the Past,” this “affection for surprising, amusing, or curious details” was a key marker separating popular and academic history. At the time, Wikipedia was firmly on the popular side of that line.

Whereas history professors highlighted larger historical themes and the broad context of an individual’s life—placing the arc of one person’s existence within the complex patterns of historiography—the editors of Wikipedia often obsessed about single points and unusual coincidences, such as Al Jolson and Mary Pickford being in the same Ohio town during the 1920 presidential campaign, or Woodrow Wilson having written his initials on the underside of a table in the Johns Hopkins University history department.

Since Roy wrote that essay, I’ve kept an informal log of the lifespan of historical oddities on Wikipedia, which acts as an anecdotal measure of the online encyclopedia’s evolution, or perhaps convergence, with more “serious” history. When…

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Post-Election Christmas Reading List

The general election is now done and dusted. The UK’s future is determined, for good or ill. Scientists (along with everyone else) now must work out how to interact with the new policies, new ideas and – if some of the Tories statements are to be taken at face value – substantial new money going into fresh initiatives. One of those touted in the run-up to the election, courtesy of Dominic Cummings, is the idea of a (D)ARPA like funding entity, sitting – as far as current rumours go – outside UKRI. I am sure I won’t be the only scientist up and down the country reading up about (D)ARPA over Christmas; my copy of Sharon Weinberger’s book Imagineers of War is on order (as referenced in David Willetts’ The Road to 2.4%), ready as a distraction from family and…

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Do Academics Devalue Writing?

I meant to write this blog months ago. It is inspired by observations made while at a conference in the spring with other writing scholars. The devaluing of writing is an issue I think about often as I inch ahead in my own PhD studies and consider, while applying for grants for example, how others will perceive my work. How my discipline perceives my work is especially crucial given that I am in a practice-based discipline not a humanities discipline where, you would think but it is apparently not so, that the value of writing would be more self-evident.

My research area is writing in nursing education.  I have conducted research on writing self-efficacy in first-year nursing students in several projects I started before I became a PhD student. When tackling psycho-educational…

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