School’s Out For Summer?

Leaving aside the very British question of whether summer is actually something of a misnomer for the upcoming season, I’d like to use this post to discuss a tweet I saw from a colleague earlier this week:

What do university teaching staff actually *do* all summer, with no students around to be taught? Now that I’ve finished my marking, I wanted to write this post, to reveal what academics do get up to, and to set out my own plans, which should help me stick to them (in theory…).

So – firstly – lecturers aren’t just employed to teach. They’re also employed to write grant proposals, get grant funding, do research, and write up the research that they then pass on to their students to read. University departments do very little in the way of research without this grant income, and the research that is outputted is assessed in an exercise called the Research Excellence Framework, which determines how much central funding is allocated to the department. The next REF submission is due this December. So lecturers are all pretty busy now with research.

But, I’m not a lecturer, I’m a Teaching Fellow. So what do I do without students (bar the odd research student)? Why isn’t School out for me? It turns out that I need to do research, too. I would anyway, because I research a topic I’m passionate about, but without research, I wouldn’t get very far in my career. Employers in academia (remembering I’m on a temporary contract) are looking for my research to be REF-able. And I’ve made it this time – my research will be submitted in the Department’s REF to help it get as much income as possible – but I have to think ahead to the next REF, in 2018. To be REF-able then, I have to do research now. It can take up to two years between submitting a paper and having it published.

"Piled Higher and Deeper" by Jorge Cham www.phdcomics.com

“Piled Higher and Deeper” by Jorge Cham
http://www.phdcomics.com

Thus, my summer will be spent analysing data and writing. I aim to write several things. Firstly some papers that I’m working on collaboratively, on the ESRC Humour and Bullying Project. Secondly, my PhD papers that have yet to be submitted, need to be trimmed down and submitted to journals. And thirdly, I will be writing a small research grant proposal with a colleague in the Department.

That said, it won’t all be hard work. Not only because I am taking a few days’ leave to go away to Taize (yay!), but because summer is conference season for academics. Since the wheels of publishing in academia turn slowly, conferences help researchers keep up-to-date with current developments, and generate ideas for new research. This year, I’m heading to Reading for CogDev2013 to present research findings on defenders and peer victimisation.

That’s the plan. The kind of thing that lecturers do all summer.

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One thought on “School’s Out For Summer?

  1. Pingback: The Wood and the Trees of Research | Through the Academic Looking Glass

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