Classically Inclined

August 17, 2017

On conference papers and workload limits

Disclaimer: I am aware that there are far more important things going on in the world at the moment. I haven’t got the words to write about them, so these are the words I have.

At the start of the week, I posted on Twitter about academic work limits, in particular about how many conference papers people limit themselves to a year. I thought I’d write up the collected thoughts here, as it’s a useful thing to have in mind. As background, I was asking because for the last year, I’ve been following my own version of the guidance given in December by Helen Lovatt on managing academic workloads (which came out of our first WCC UK mid-career event). This is part of that transition from being on a temporary to a permanent contract, but also from being early career to being mid-career – one thing I’ve come to appreciate over the last year is that I simply can’t keep going at the pace I did when was a fresh-faced PhD, as it’s just not sustainable when I now know I’m looking at the long haul.

My personal version of the limits for the 2017-18 academic year looks like this:

– one book review or one book manuscript
– two articles to referee
– one external examiner role (for PhD or MPhil/MRes thesis)
– no more than three current PhD students
– two active national bodies
– one school talk per term
– one invited seminar

There’s flexibility here, of course – I currently have no PhD students, which makes being Administrator of the WCC UK doable, plus if I don’t feel an article I’m asked to referee is any good, I can just say no. Helen’s point was that in saying no to things, and knowing you’ve said yes to your ‘quota’, you ensure you have the space and time to do the stuff you actually want to do rather than these kind of activities which can become rather all-encompassing. Given that we’ve not started the 2017 academic year yet and my school talks and invited seminar are already booked up, you can see why I’m trying to plan ahead.

Helen’s original post says that she tends not to volunteer to do conferences. I can see the logic in this – I was a bit surprised, when looking at my promotion criteria, to discover that just giving a conference paper doesn’t count! (Invitations to give keynotes and seminars count. Presumably even if you turn them down.) But looking at my CV, I’ve still done quite a lot of conferences over the last year, and I thought it might be a good idea to have at least a notional limit in play for me to work with. Hence my call to Twitter.

In terms of numbers, people had a wide range of responses. Some people had no limit or policy at all. Others had one or two; Kate Cook aims for no more than two totally new papers a year, plus one or two papers based on pre-existing material, which I would have been able to sustain earlier in my career but would be out of the question now.

However, the biggest theme that came through was the issue of context and, as Syma Khalid said, judging each invitation (or opportunity) on its merits. Which raises quite an important question – how do you decide what those merits are?

In discussion with Carol Atack and Jo VanEvery, a couple of points for working out how to priorities a conference came up:

  • How long is the talk?
  • Does it relate to existing work? Does it fit with your current project or with a potential next project?
  • Will this introduce you to interesting new people or subject areas?
  • What could I feasibly write up or develop?
  • Have I got some work I want an opinion on?
  • Do I want to gain some exposure for my research?
  • Do I want to get new ideas?
  • What are my pre-existing commitments and what would this do to my workload?

Other important practical issues that were raised were whether or not you would be funded (Minx Marple, Caroline Magennis), how much travelling would be involved (Clare Maas), and whether the obligation would be compatible with childcare obligations (Helen Finch). Another factor I’m also now factoring in is whether the conference will require an overnight stay. When infans was very tiny, I did one conference in Dublin and one in Poland; there were both multi-day affairs, but I only stayed one night. I’m now of the view that while I am in principle willing to do an overnight stay, I won’t travel outside the UK to do it; I also turned down a chance to get involved with the next Celtic Classics conference because the logistics of getting to St. Andrews are such that for me to go and just have one overnight would mean I’d be doing nothing but travelling for two days, which doesn’t sound like great fun to me.

Of course, within this, you want to keep flexibility – if a really exciting CFP or invitation comes along, for instance, you don’t want to have booked yourself to total capacity and not be able to take it up. It’s a fine line between setting things in stone and being so responsive to opportunity that you never have the bandwidth to follow any one opportunity through.

So, in the end, I’ve plumped for a limit of two conferences this year. That feels about right in terms of pre-existing activity, but also in terms of what I’m willing to do – I’d much rather save an overnight trip for giving a departmental seminar somewhere, for instance, than go to a tangentially relevant conference abroad and spending most of my time in airports. Of course, these limits aren’t forever; I’ll come back to them in the future and revise them as my family and institutional obligations shift over time, as of course they will. However, I’m very grateful to Twitter for the conversation and the ideas it sparked, not least having a properly articulated sense of how to gauge an opportunity rather than going by instinct.

June 22, 2017

Is the academic research seminar series still fit for purpose?

Filed under: Research — lizgloyn @ 11:21 am
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When I joined Royal Holloway four years ago, I was asked to take over the job of coordinating the academic research seminar and reviving it after it had fallen into abeyance (mainly as the department had had its mind on other things). I was delighted to take it on – it would mean I could write to all sorts of interesting people, I would be sending regular e-mails to the Liverpool Classicists e-mail list so my name became familiar,  and it was a research-related sort of admin task. Great. I made a point of putting the seminar in a lunchtime slot, because while I wasn’t pregnant at the time, I was very aware of the issues of family-friendly working and several colleagues had (and still have!) young children. And I got on with it.

By the time I was made permanent, and so could start thinking about what I might want to do differently, I was already feeling that the research seminar wasn’t doing what it was supposed to do. Yes, I invited some great speakers and got to hear some really interesting papers, but the pressures of term (teaching, meetings with other staff and students, preparation, admin that had to be completed right this minute and so on) meant that my colleagues often couldn’t make it. Our graduate students are a geographically diverse bunch, sometimes living quite a distance from campus, and found it disruptive to come in for a single hour if there wasn’t something else happening on the same day. Despite plenty of publicity, we rarely got people from other departments in the college coming along, and in three years we never had a visitor from further afield. So I started wondering what the seminar was actually trying to do.

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February 13, 2014

CRSN workshop: Impact and social media, London, 17 July 2014

Filed under: Out and about — lizgloyn @ 1:32 pm
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Exciting stuff for Classically Inclined – I’ve been asked to take part in a Classical Reception Studies Network workshop on impact and social media! The details are as follows:

CRSN workshop: Impact and social media, 17 July 2014,

Location: The Open University London Regional Centre, 1-11 Hawley Crescent, Camden Town, London NW1 8NP Venue directions and map
Time: 2-5 pm

Classical receptions would seem ideally placed to engage with the current ‘impact agenda’ in UK research funding. Grant application forms include questions about ‘pathways to impact’ and applicants often include some form of social media in their responses. We invite doctoral students and early career researchers to come and share their experiences of using blogging, Facebook and twitter to disseminate their research, create networks and promote their work. Whether you already use social media or are simply wondering if there is any point, this workshop is for you. While we’ll have some experienced users with us (including Emma Bridges, founder of the Facebook page Classics International, and Liz Gloyn, who blogs as ‘Classically Inclined’), the main focus will be on sharing our enthusiasms, our suggestions and our reservations. Spaces are limited; please reply to helen.king@open.ac.uk.

Obviously I’m delighted to be asked to participate in the workshop, not least as I think things like blogging and Twitter are valuable ways for classicists to get outside their departments and share some of the awesome stuff we do with other people. It should be an interesting afternoon. Of course, I should probably make sure I mention that the frequency of my blogging is not entirely unrelated to how much teaching prep  I have on at any given week – speaking of which, back to the grindstone…

 

October 1, 2013

Those summer goals… 2013 edition

Filed under: Research — lizgloyn @ 12:41 pm
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At the end of June, I set myself some summer goals – so it’s now time to see how they turned out…

Personal

  • Have a holiday – achieved! We spent a week in Germany and I had a week in Suffolk, so that’s not bad going.
  • Move – achieved! Although now it looks like I’ll be moving again in the next couple of months as we have (quite excitingly) bought a house, but never mind.

Conferences

The Book

  • Finish sorting out the new chapter four – not-quite-achieved… well, when I wrote my summer goals post, I had a very rough full draft with incomplete footnotes. I now have a chapter that has been past my reading group and thus needs some fairly heavy-weight restructuring, but I know what I’m doing with it. So getting this done involved the first draft being more or less fine, which it wasn’t. This is actually OK, and getting this into shape will be my big autumn project.
  • Complete revisions on introduction and chapters one to three – achieved! The appendix still needs going over and I will need to rewrite the paragraph in the introduction which describes what chapter four does, but that’s fine.

Miscellanea

  • Complete a book review – achieved!
  • Do an archive trip to Cambridge if possible – achieved! And very positive it was too.
  • Put together a proper research bibliography on Plautus and Roman comedy – possibly achieved? I had an undergraduate student working with me who was putting this together as a bit of an independent research project over the summer, and am waiting to see the final files before I count this as done. But at least that’s a start made!

I said in my original goals post that the focus this summer needed to be on the book. I think it was, not least for getting the earlier chapters sorted out (they needed rather more work than I had hoped, but that’s always the way). This was a more ambitious set of goals than I set last year, but I’ve still actually done quite well in comparison. I do notice some patterns, namely the tendency to bite off more than I can chew on the research front – but I’m assuming that’s a good thing. I’d rather be overambitious than less, not least because the process of working through this stuff makes it better than it would be if I just fudged along. So autumn is going to be all about trying to sort out chapter four, and I should really start thinking about my classical women chapter as well. I draw a veil over my current interior dialogue over whether to submit something for LonCon3’s academic track and/or for From I, Claudius, to Private Eyes: the Ancient World and Popular Fiction, although that may turn up here in due course…

June 24, 2013

Summer goals 2013

Filed under: Research — lizgloyn @ 2:10 pm
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Last year, I found having a set of summer goals surprisingly useful in making sure my work was targeted and well-organised, so I’m going to have another go at it. That’s not to say that I managed to meet all of my goals, of course, but part of the point of strategy is to have a plan and see whether or not it’s a realistic one. Something that’s becoming more and more clear is that I need to be thinking practically about ways that I can keep my research moving over the year to respect the different patterns that the academic year imposes upon academics. The same strategies that work for the summer won’t work in the middle of term, for instance. After an academic year where I’ve been pretty dedicated about carving out half an hour here or there for research, I’m finding that to have days without anything else in them is slightly disconcerting – hence the need for some proper goals to create a bit of structure and order.

Personal

  • Have a holiday! This turned up last year, but it is an important goal, and one that needs acknowledging.
  • Move. This is going to be fairly straightforward, as I have somewhere to move to sorted, but the end of August is going to involve a bit of logistics-wrangling.

Conferences

The Book

  • Finish sorting out the new chapter four.
  • Complete revisions on introduction and chapters one to three.

Miscellanea

  • Complete a book review.
  • Do an archive trip to Cambridge if possible.
  • Put together a proper research bibliography on Plautus and Roman comedy.

There’s a lot of small stuff drifting around the edges, but the main focus over the summer really does have to be on The Book. I’ve made quite big strides with getting the new chapter written during term time, but now I need to pull it all together and get it to a stage where I can send what I have off. Wish me luck!

April 19, 2013

Bibliometrics for Classicists

Filed under: Meta — lizgloyn @ 2:50 pm
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So, on Wednesday I went along to a training session put on by our excellent library team as part of their series on ways for academic staff to raise their research profiles. This was the only one of the four I attended, partly because of time and partly because I’m probably a bit beyond the 101 seminar on how to use social media at this stage (she types optimistically). But bibliometrics are one of those things that turn up frequently in the pages of the Times Higher Education, have hands wrung over them in despair about what role they’ll play in the approaching REF assessment, are derided as being statistically useless and praised as representing the future of research strategy. It was about time that I actually found out what they were and how they work. I should give massive credit for what follows to our stellar library team, in particular Linda Norbury for all the work she put into pulling this workshop together.

Bibliometrics and Classicists

The major question for me, and for some of you reading this, was whether bibliometrics are one of those things that we as classicists have to care about. Some REF panels have decided to use bibliometric data (albeit sparingly) in their assessments this time around, which obviously raises the spectre of this becoming standard practice. Our REF panel is not one of them, and unless the tools available pick up significantly, it’s not going to be – at the moment, we are peculiarly poorly served by the major services which offer this sort of thing. They’ve got good coverage for the sciences; they’ve got good coverage for the social sciences; but the humanities are nowhere.

In some ways, this might be enough for you to throw up your hands, declare that there’s no point bending over backwards to learn about another science-generated form of measurement imposed on the discipline, and request that bibliometrics hie themselves to a nunnery. It’s tempting. Unfortunately, the funding landscape is starting to get a bit keen on this sort of data – and knowing why we don’t have it available is perhaps as useful in applications as being able to provide it, particularly for cross-disciplinary schemes. It’s a little frustrating to try out this stuff and realise that ‘your field’ isn’t being looked after properly, but being familiar with the principles now will mean that when the providers do eventually catch up, we’ll be ahead of the game.

If the throwing up your hands option still appeals, you can stop reading now.

What can bibliometrics tell you?

Bibliometrics can tell you two things – the impact rating of a journal, and the h-index of an individual researcher. Well, they can tell you more than that, but those are the two things that they’re most commonly used for.

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October 15, 2012

So, those summer goals…

Filed under: Research — lizgloyn @ 10:57 am
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Back at the end of July, I wrote about my summer goals for the upcoming vacation – perhaps a little late, but better late than never. One of the tricks to setting goals, of course, is to look back over them and see how one has done, so in the spirit of intellectual honesty, here is a quick review!

Personal

  • Have a holiday – achieved! I managed to have not one but two of these, counting the honeymoon, so I get a pat on the back for that.
  • Get married – achieved! This happened, and happened successfully! All the hard work and planning that went into it paid off, and it was a lovely day.

Abstracts

  • Classical Association 2013achieved! I followed my instincts and put together an abstract thinking about Seneca’s De Matrimonio; I’m now waiting for the conference organisers to let me know their decision, which should come through by the end of this month.
  • Swords, Sorcery, Sandals and Space: The Fantastika and the Classical Worldachieved! Alright, this got done in the weekend before the deadline, but never mind. The abstract also fell into place nicely with the ideas I was tinkering with and what the texts actually said, which is always a nice surprise. The conference organisers should be in touch at some point this month.

Publishing

  • Condense Chapter Five – achieved! The summer goal was to tighten the chapter up and have it with the editor by mid-August, and I managed that. However, I also managed to do a first stage of edits and refinements that the editor suggested, and am now awaiting a second batch. So this is still a work in progress, but it’s moving along at a healthy speed.
  • Revise and Resubmit the Ad Polybium – almost achieved! No, the Ad Polybium article still hasn’t made it out of my hands, but it’s so very very nearly there. I have set firm limits on how much more reading I’m going to do (one German book down and one to go), and after that it’s a question of checking that the writing is Good Enough and letting it go. So very nearly within my grasp – but not quite there.

All in all, I think that looks like a pretty productive summer. I do wish I had got the Ad Polybium article out of the way, but I feel a lot better for setting firm boundaries about how much energy I’m willing to give it and the end of the tunnel is looking fairly close. There have been substantial improvements from the version that went to the journal originally, and that in and of itself is good enough for now. I also want to get my attention focused on the process of revising the Book, especially as I have a slot coming up at the end of November in the department’s Work in Progress seminar – I want them to have a look at a hacked-about version of my first chapter, and in order to get that into shape, I need to start paying it some serious attention!

July 31, 2012

Summer goals

Filed under: Research — lizgloyn @ 11:35 am
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Lately, my bit of the Twittersphere has been talking about how best to survive the summer. There have been two threads to this discussion. The first has focused around how to formulate and tackle summer goals – Flora Poste seemed to start the trend on this. The second has looked at ways of using the summer as a space to decompress and recharge – that was what I took away from the last #femlead chat I attended, and you can read the Storify archive if you’re interested. Summer may be late coming in this year, but I thought it was probably a good thing to share my summer goals now that they’ve actually solidified! They’ve also changed a lot since the summer started, mainly because of some unexpected opportunities that have turned up; now is (oddly enough) probably the right time to post them, especially as I’m extending my definition of summer to ‘when term starts’. My overarching aim is to Get Some Research Out There And Stay Sane, which doesn’t sound like it should be too difficult… (famous last words).

Personal

  • Have a holiday – what I spent last week doing, so this gets a big tick.
  • Get married – happening in early September, so a lot of energy is going into organising this and it only seems fair to acknowledge it!

Abstracts

Publishing

  • Condense Chapter Five – this would be the completely unexpected opportunity of the summer. I’ve been asked whether I’d like to submit a piece to a collected volume of a conference I was unable to attend last year (it was in Paris on the same day I was graduating with my PhD in New Jersey…), but the deadline is quite tight. My current Major Goal is to have the chapter tidied up and in line with editorial guidelines by the middle of this month. Fingers crossed!
  • Revise and Resubmit the Ad Polybium – oh, this article. I’ve made some progress so far over the summer, but not quite enough. Having to read a lot of work in foreign languages that ultimately turns out to have nothing relevant to contribute isn’t helping (for more on which, see Mary Beard’s latest piece on damn footnotes). I’ve had a first go at revising it, and now have some helpful comments from my reading group, and a whole pile more reading to do – but there’s no deadline. So once I’ve got chapter five out of the way, I’ll sit down and do some more heavy lifting with it.

If all goes according to plan, at the end of the summer I will be well rested and married, have submitted two abstracts, have two pieces off seeking their fortunes with their spotted handkerchiefs, and be ready to pick up the thesis manuscript and get properly stuck into revisions. Fingers crossed!

March 1, 2012

Holy motivational force, Batwoman! Reflections on the first #femlead chat

Filed under: Meta — lizgloyn @ 5:22 pm
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So, last night was the first Twitter chat of #femlead, which is a new project of the University of Venus. You can read more about the logic behind it through the link, but the main goal is to provide a space “for those who lead, those with vision, those who seek to support one another in the challenges and opportunities facing us in all areas of academic life”. I’d count myself in the second and third categories, and I’d like to be in the first category one day, so I thought this was a good thing to take part in – particularly given the lack of women in leadership roles in higher ed. My immediate concerns going into the chat were centred around what opportunities there are to develop leadership in the world of the short term contract, and what I could do to develop my skills and my career path.

I have to say that I got a great deal more than that out of the chat, focused around the topic of service vs. leadership, and which is now available over at Storify. A couple of broad themes emerged. Firstly, leadership has to fit into the wider narrative of who you are and what you do – there’s no point in taking on a leadership role if it doesn’t somehow fit your picture of yourself and where you’re going. There was also a lot of emphasis on noticing the rhetoric of how you present these things.  You need to talk about achievements as demonstrating leadership rather than be modest about them.

The chat wasn’t short of ideas about how to cope with the short term contract problem either. As I was often told, there are plenty of opportunities out there – you need to look for them and make sure it’s clear you are interested in them, and then present them in such a way in the next short term contract that more opportunities arise. There are opportunities for leadership that arise outside the institution you are based in, such as in professional organisations, that aren’t affected by moving about. Whatever the location, you should still be aware of the power structures and create mentoring opportunities, because that’s how you let people know that you want these kinds of responsibilities.

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January 24, 2012

Book review: The Good Supervisor – Gina Wisker

Filed under: Teaching — lizgloyn @ 9:14 am
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Back at the end of October, I went for an afternoon of supervisor training. The point of this experience was so that I could get a bit of advice on how to go about providing useful feedback to the undergraduate dissertation students who have been placed in my tender care this academic year. While my experience with my writing group has given me some experience with how to provide useful feedback, the power dynamic with peers is very different to that with students and, as became clear during the session, there are important differences between how one deals with undergraduates and graduate students.

During that training session, one of the books we were pointed to as a further resource was The Good Supervisor, which deals in the main with how to deal with Masters and doctoral students, although there is some discussion of how to transfer the concepts to undergraduate students (namely, remembering that the average undergraduate thesis is not going to be considered for publication and is thus allowed to be a little less ambitious and more directed than would be expected of graduate-level work). The contents page certainly promises a comprehensive survey of the issues a supervisor will experience, from managing your first contact with a student to how to provide after-viva care. (more…)

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