Classically Inclined

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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December 17, 2012

End of term wrap-up

What with one thing and another, I’ve been run off my feet for the last fortnight or so. Term has now officially been over for a week, but I don’t feel as if I’ve got the paperwork and administration for everything quite under control yet. It’s getting there, but there are a couple of things that still need finishing off. I have, of course, finished all my teaching. The Roman novel first year seminar is working much more smoothly than it did last year; this is partly due to the department increasing seminar lengths from one to two hours across the board, meaning there’s more space for presentations and discussions, but I think the tweaks to the syllabus that I made at the start of the year have paid off as well. There’s still one class that isn’t quite working as I want it to work, but I’ve had another go at redefining the discussion questions, so we’ll see if that helps. It is, in fairness, the class dealing with literary form (e.g. why are parts of the Satyricon in poetry, and do we care?), so I think it’s going to be a case of continually experimenting until I get the formula right. I shall miss my first year tutees, who will be disappearing off to pastures new, but it will be good to meet some more of the first year intake next term.

The Roman Life Course lectures are going well – I have a good group of students, and we’ve established what feels like a productive discussion-based atmosphere to complement the parts of the session where I lecture more traditionally. The material seems to be engaging the students’ interest, and I’m sneakily incorporating as much philosophical evidence for social history as I can – one of the surprise hits was Plutarch’s The Training of Children, which seems to have gone over rather well! The blog posts are still working more or less as I want them to, and the students seem to like the idea of blog-based work in principle even if the practice is a little shakier. I’m also glad that I decided to stick it out with the critical incident questionnaire, for the simple reason that it’s really helping me see what is and isn’t working with this sort of teaching.

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November 19, 2012

Hosting #ECRchat

Filed under: Meta — lizgloyn @ 5:02 pm
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I’m delighted to say that I’m going to be hosting #ECRchat on Twitter again this week! As usual, the chat will take place on this Thursday at 10am UK time and will last an hour. All you need to do to take part is follow the hash tag! If you haven’t come across #ECRchat before, there’s plenty of information on the website. You can also vote in the poll to decide what the topic of the chat will be – this week’s theme is ‘early career researchers and families’. I hope you can join us!

October 25, 2012

#acwrimo and me

Filed under: Research — lizgloyn @ 1:43 pm
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Most people will now be familiar with NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, which has been running since 1999 with the goal of making November the time when people let out their frustrated inner novelists. Last year saw the arrival of AcBoWriMo, or Academic Book Writing Month, in an attempt to bring a tried and tested method of productivity to the field of academic writing. This was not without its problems – a lot of constructive debate took place about whether this was a healthy thing to be aiming for, giving the need for academic writing to simmer and mature, and the general pressure on academics to work flat out doing all of our seventy-two top priority things at once anyway. I didn’t take part – I certainly didn’t have a book to write, was finding my feet in a new job, and generally looked on in a ‘good luck if you’ve got it in you’ sort of way.

Well, this year, the project is back and it’s developed a bit as the result of the discussions last year – now it’s simply AcWriMo, or Academic Writing Month, recognising that academic writing isn’t always about generating fresh text, and isn’t always about books. As the Thesis Whisperer has noted, this explicit widening of the project to all kinds of academic writing makes the project more hackable to suit where each individual researcher is at when November starts. NaNoWriMo asks potential novelists to make the committment to generating crazy amounts of fictional prose; AcWriMo asks researchers to set crazy goals suitable for them. If that crazy goal is to prioritise your own research for an hour a day through the month, then that’s a crazy enough dream to head for.

I’ve been pondering this for some time, and I’ve been thinking about whether this will work for me – and, do you know, I rather think it will.

As some of you may remember, I have that whole thesis thing sitting and waiting revision into a book manuscript. I actually made a start on that this Monday (shock! horror!), and it’s not half as bad as I thought it was going to be. But I need to get on with it, and I need to prioritise it – there is a real pay-off here, in that the sooner I can get enough revised text to my publisher, the sooner I have a chance of getting a book contract, and the sooner that contract can appear in job applications and on my CV. (Mercenary, I know, but the current market doesn’t leave me much choice.) So here I am, getting on the #acwrimo bandwagon by publicly declaring my goals:

  1. By the end of November, I will have revised the introduction and first three chapters of my book manuscript.
  2. From 5th November onwards, I will spend at least one hour every weekday working on revisions.

There’s no point in me setting a word-related goal, as I’m not generating new material but reworking older stuff. As I’ll have prepared my teaching notes up to week 9 as of next week, I should be able to find the hour a day without taking away from teaching-related work. Having the pressure of revising three chapters over the course of the month should stop me getting precious about the whole affair and fussing that it’s not quite perfect – and should also capitalise on the sudden burst of confidence I find I have now that I’m coming back to the revision process after eighteen months thinking about the project but not looking at it.

And if it doesn’t work out to plan? Well, I’ll have a couple of revised chapters in hand, and that’s still going to be a positive result.

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!

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