CEDARS data so far…

CEDARS has now been open for nearly a week, and we so far have 288 responses, which is exceptional as my records from 2019 tell me that – at this point – we were well below that.

So, first of all, a huge THANK YOU to all of you who have completed the survey so far.

Thank you too to those of you who have booked time in to complete it, but haven’t got there yet. We know you’re on the case.

For others, I’ll be sending you out a link reminder tomorrow.

It’s too early to be making any real analysis of the data, but with one week done, I thought I’d give you a glimpse of some of the issues that are surfacing. These include some challenges that we are aware of. But they also include some other things that we’ll want to also look into carefully, including:

  • Recognition in a host of areas ranging from contributions to grant writing, to supervision of students and other research colleagues. We know that, with future positions often heavily reliant upon CVs and reputation, that recognition is a key issue, so it’s good to have some concrete examples.
  • A need for more information about university policies to do with redundancy and redeployment.
  • Support in how to think about careers, including those beyond academia.
  • Support for those of you managing others. Many of you want more information on how to do this well, but are struggling to find it, or to get practice in how to do it as well as you could.
  • The huge impact of the COVID ‘year’, and its effect on your working environment, workloads and your career planning.

That last point is clearly something that will dominate the 2021 survey. And it’s enormously valuable data for us as we work out how we can best support many of you back into working patterns that are more familiar.

I’ll try and update more as new data comes in.

In the meantime, please encourage as many of your pathway 2 colleagues as you can to complete the survey.

And… stay safe!

 

 

 

CEDARS is live!!

This morning, at about 10 a.m., I pressed the ‘launch’ button on our CEDARS survey.

It’s now live and has (at this moment of writing) been completed by 106 of you.

It’s also generated at least one email asking if answers will be kept anonymous…

So I thought I’d respond by posting a brief FAQ.

What is CEDARS?

CEDARS is the Culture, Employment and Development in Academic Research Survey. It is what – if you’ve been a researcher for a while – we used to call ‘CROS’ (Careers in Research Online Survey).

In short, it is your chance, available every two years, to tell us your experience of what being a researcher at Bristol is like, and what more we can do to support you.

It’s not the only chance – you also get to fill in things like the Staff Survey – but it’s the only survey that is aimed specifically at research staff and those who manage them. And it’s the only survey that delivers its data directly into Bristol Clear and hasn’t been digested by another part of the organisation.

Why should I fill it in?

CEDARS is recognised as an ‘official’ survey for university data-gathering purposes… it’s supported by HR, the Research Staff Working Party, and the university’s management more generally. That means that what you tell us carries weight and is reported. That’s why we work closely with research staff to ask the questions that they want to answer, so that you can tell us what you want to tell us. This year, research staff have added questions on well-being, work-life balance, and the impact of the COVID working patterns.

The data also informs our concordat action plan, and is used by the national body ‘Vitae’ to generate a report for the sector.

How honest can I be?

Although we use information like email to send out the survey, we delete all of that before we do any analysis, we remove all qualitative comments, and we are careful not to release  statistical data unless we have sufficient numbers to ensure that any particular individual can’t be identified by an analysis of secondary evidence (research group, project, funding body etc.). So please be as honest as you can, knowing that you won’t personally be identified in any of the reporting.

When will it run?

CEDARS will close on the 11th June.

How do I complete it?

You should have had an email this morning from ‘jisc.ac.uk’ – it contains a link (which is personalised, but only so that we can track who has filled it in, and stop reminders once you’re done). Just click on it, and you’ll reach the survey.

How long does it take?

The survey is ‘routed’ depending on your answers, so it will vary. But we think, about 25 minutes.

If that sounds a long time, then it might help to know that we ask your PIs, Heads of School, etc. to support you in having time to fill it in. In 2019, about half of our research staff community (over 700 of our 1400 research staff) completed the survey, giving us our best snapshop yet of the culture and employment environment of our research staff.

If I have questions?

… then please let us know by emailing us at bristol-clear@bristol.ac.uk

 

Why complete CEDARS?

CEDARS is your chance, available every two years, to tell us your experience of what being a researcher at Bristol is like, and what more we can do to support you.

It’s not the only chance – you also get to fill in things like the Staff Survey – but it’s the only survey that is aimed specifically at research staff and those who manage them. And it’s the only survey that delivers its data directly into Bristol Clear and hasn’t been digested by another part of the organisation.

Consequently, it’s a survey that we listen to carefully, and draw data from constantly to shape what we do.

The survey runs in May, for one month. The data is then analysed, compared with CEDARS data from across the UK, data from previous CEDARS (CROS) surveys, and shared with both your local Research Staff Reps, and the Research Staff Working Party.

The data also informs our concordat action plan, and is used by the national body ‘Vitae’ to generate a report for the sector.

CEDARS is recognised as an ‘official’ survey for university data-gathering purposes… it’s supported by HR, the Research Staff Working Party, and the university’s management more generally. That means that what you tell us carries weight, and is reported. That’s why we work closely with research staff to ask the questions that they want to answer, so that you can tell us what you want to tell us. This year, research staff have added questions on well-being, work-life balance, and the impact of the COVID working patterns.

CEDARS is being updated for launch as we speak, and should go live next week. Please support us to support you, by filling it in as honestly as possible, and encouraging others to do the same.

If you have any questions about the CEDARS survey, then please let us know by emailing us at bristol-clear@bristol.ac.uk

Groundhog day? Yes please!

People who use Facebook tell me that one of the things most likely to hook you on your Facebook feed is that little post that pops up from time to time, telling you that “5 years ago, you were doing…”.

I don’t need a Facebook feed to tell me what I was doing 2 years ago. I only need to look back on this blog, where I can see that on this day, in 2019, I was writing a first introductory post about the Careers in Research Online Survey (CROS).

Why would I know that?

Because it’s CROS time again!! (and so, in the same way that I did in 2019, I set out to write an introductory piece about CROS, and thought “you know, I’ll just check what I wrote last time…”)

Screengrab from movie 'Groundhog day' showing Bill Murray and the groundhog

Do I feel like Bill Murray?

A little bit.

But in this case, that’s not a bad thing, because our 2019 CROS was, by a long way, the most successful and comprehensive CROS survey we’ve ever run, numerically–it was filled in by over 700 research staff. That’s nearly 50% of our research staff community–but also evidentially. Because the data was so strong, it allowed us to not only continue services which you told us were important (like researcher careers 1:1s), but also add support to make the issues facing research staff even more visible, through initiatives like School-based research staff champions, and the adoption by the university of the new, national Concordat to support the Career Development of Researchers.

So, today, as we did on the 12th April 2019, we’re asking you to take part in CROS again…

… well, not CROS… CEDARS. They’ve changed the name. But it’s the same, useful, powerful, survey.

And it’s running in May again… as it did in 2019.

Groundhog day?

Yes please!

Social Media – Part II – ‘Showcase’ sites

This post covers what we might call ‘Showcase’ sites – tools that are basically designed to allow you to display your work. They range from ORCID, which is designed as a ‘connecting’ site that brings together all of your work but doesn’t really promote engagement around it… to something like PubMed Commons, which actively encourages researchers to discuss and debate work that you post.

With all of these ‘showcase’ sites, the core of them is the material that you (and other academics) add.

ORCIDORCID logo

ORCID stands for Open Researcher and Contributor ID. It’s not strictly speaking a social media site, but it’s a hugely useful tool which allows you to create and manage an online academic profile by providing you with a simple, unique, digital identifier which you can add to publications, grant applications, and other academic outputs so that they all point back to you. This is the ORCID citation as it appears at the bottom of a paper I published, which I’ve linked to my ORCID page, so you can see how it works.

Example of ORCID citation

Three of the advantages of ORCID are:

  1. It’s a permanent ID, so it remains the same… no matter where you work.
  2. It is particularly useful if you are, for example, one of the thousands of people with the same name currently working in academia and need to ensure that you are uniquely identifiable. Note, the search means that you don’t even have to remember what your ORCID ID is, as you can look yourself up each time you need it!
  3. It works with most other systems, so once it’s set up, if you include your ORCID ID when you publish, or apply for a grant, then ORCID will link those outputs to your page for others to find.

ResearchGate

ResearchGate logo

Research Gate offers you the chance to search through up to ‘135 million publication pages’ and ‘stay up to date with what’s happening in your field’. All of those pages, and all of that ‘up to date’ information has been added by some 17 million academics, as a way to showcase their work. What this means is that Research Gate has become a professional network site for researchers around the world, particularly in scientific disciplines, although it’s increasingly popular with other researchers.

Profiles are largely built around publications, which means that – if you have co-authored with someone who is already on the site – your work might already be there!

Once registered, you can set up a simple profile, upload work (or enter your ORCID to do this automatically), add interest keywords, and ask questions and comment on and request others’ work. You can also ‘follow’ other researchers so that you get updates when they add any new material, and receive notifications when your work is downloaded or cited by others…

screengrab from ResearchGate showing chat and notifications icons

If you like metrics, then ResearchGate also generates information about how much interest your work is generating, which of your publications is most cited, etc.

To learn more:

ResearchGate’s guide to Getting Started https://explore.researchgate.net/display/support/Getting+started

http://blogs.exeter.ac.uk/openresearchexeter/2013/11/06/74/  A review of ResearchGate which is still largely accurate despite its age. Be aware that the numbers mentioned are well out of date.

Academia.edu

Academia.edu was the original Showcasing site for researchers, and was hugely popular until about 2013/14 when it started to charge for some of its more ‘premium’ functionality, and was acquired by one of the key academic journal publishing houses. This latter move was probably the most disruptive as it allowed the publisher to enforce the copyright on published work, which was being ignored by some academics, keen to ‘give away’ their work to those who wanted it, whether they had a subscription to the relevant journal or not.

In the wake of its acquisition, some academics boycotted Academia.edu, and it has since struggled to recover its reputation. That said, for some areas of the world less troubled by an ideology of intellectual property freedom, it’s still the go-to site. It has a greater number of registered users than ResearchGate and is popular with a wide range of disciplines, including those in the Arts and Humanities.

The features of Academia are largely the same as for ResearchGate, so any decision about which to join should be based on finding the community that you want to be part of and visible to. Other researchers in your field are likely to know which of these networks is more relevant or do a quick search for key names or topics on the site itself.

To learn more:

Academia’s introduction to setting up a profile: https://support.academia.edu/hc/en-us/articles/360042888154-Profile-Overview

PubMed

PubMed is an example of a more specifically disciplinary repository – in this case, for the Biomedical community. An early version of this guide included PubMed Commons – which was a pilot, and was hugely successful, but has now been closed down, archived, and replaced with PubMed Central. There is also a European partner: Europe PMC.

PubMed remains a repository for biomedical literature (indeed, a mandatory one for work funded by some bodies), and works in a similar way to the other sites listed by allowing you to upload papers (or links to papers), add comments, and respond and discuss with others.

Both PubMeds are key platforms for their fields of work, but both have evolved from the original PubMed. Their evolution demonstrates how important it is – if you want to reap the benefits of sites like this – not to just ‘dump’ work there and then disengage, but to be a part of the community that builds it, and to continue to interact with those others who are also interacting with you.

Clearly, you can’t do this well without investing some time. And so Social Media is something that – done well – takes some planning and a commitment of involvement. And that’s something we’ll pick up in a later post.

Social Media – Part II – A few things to consider before we show you what’s available.

Having looked at the potential value of Social Media for you, and for your career, we can start to look at what platforms, sites and tools are available.

Before we begin, a few provisos:

First, to make this section as useful as possible, it focuses on sites with active communities engaging with academic material and issues. Guides to ‘all’ social media are available, but it’s not useful to reproduce them unnecessarily. Where we refer to them, we’ll point you to where you can find them for yourself.

Second, the focus of this section will be generally sites for ‘academic audiences’. If your objective is to engage with specific audiences (particularly specific non-academic audiences) then they are likely to be active on many of the sites we look at, but may also have their own specialist communities. A conversation with people in these networks, either online or face-to-face will help you discover these.

Third, Social media changes and develops constantly, and this guide will only be updated periodically, so this shouldn’t be considered a definitive list. Happily, Professor Andy Miah from Salford University maintains a list of the social media resources used by academics which is updated regularly (the last update was Oct 2019). This gives a sense of the variety of sites available, and contains a brief description of each site, with some examples of researcher-led pages.

Fourth, because Social Media sites are user-driven, their content, culture, and usefulness often reflects their user-base. This can initially be a bit frustrating – particularly if you’re unfamiliar with them – as you’re never quite sure where to start. In time, that frustration can give way to creativity, as you get to know them, and find ways to harness their flexibility as multi-purpose communication tools. A good rule of thumb is to watch before you engage, and to start with sites that have a clear academic focus and offer features which map against the common activities and needs of researchers across the board. These features develop and evolve, but a comparison of some academic focused sites from 2015 attempted to compare a number of them with a view to the future of academic Social Media use. As with many of the resources referred to in this guide, the associated comments and reactions are as informative as the article itself.

Finally, although most sites won’t mention this up front, they all have to find ways to pay for themselves. How they do this, and what impact that has on the kind of audience, functionality, use of data, etc. is important to consider, therefore.  None of the sites and platforms we will mention charge for access or reasonable use, but it is useful to be aware of their business models and how they maintain viability. Most sites will use your personal data as a business asset and generate income through advertising which will appear in your stream. Some operate in partnership with other organisations – something that may not always be explicit and obvious. Some charge for ‘additional’ functionality. We mention this not to put you off, but to ensure that you stop for a moment and think about the fact that a “free” service needs to generate an income stream and that you should be aware that the data and information you provide may be the source of this. If you are interested in the different funding and income generating models for social media, this article on the different approaches to financial sustainability taken by three research-focused sites, may be of interest.

So, with those reminders in place, on… to the various sites:

Social Media – What value for me, and my career?

What value for me?

If you are itching to Tweet and Post and B/Vlog and Snap and Tik and… you might want to go straight on to the next section.

However, we think that, before you do, it’s a good idea to pause and consider how Social Media can benefit you and your career. That’s because, although Social Media can support you at all stages of the research cycle, it requires an investment of time (although not as much as you may fear). So, it’s important to minimise confusion and wasted time by working out why you might engage with it, so that you can engage most effectively.

A useful analogy for many of the sites we’ll consider is to view them as an empty room into which you will invite people or a room full of people with a shared interest. You have control over who to invite into your empty room and control over which rooms you enter, but little control over what people say in them – just as in physical environments.

What do you need?

With this in mind let’s start by thinking about what you need to hear and see in those rooms to help you.

  • Do you need to find out how to be a researcher, meet others who will support you to move to research independence, or address an audience of people eager to hear from you as a leader in the field?
  • Are you looking to discover and join academic and other professional networks? Share knowledge with them? Or recruit people to help set up new networks from scratch?
  • Are you trying to explain your ideas to a new audience? Challenge existing ideas?
  • Do you need to be recognised for what you share? Or are you just ‘giving things away’?

Where you’re up to in your career, and where you want to go next will shape what you do… for example:

Doctoral researchers need to manage the demands of their PhD, keep on top of literature and developments in their field, disseminate their work, maintain their momentum, develop their employability, write a thesis, prepare to defend their work in the viva and prepare for the transition into whatever will follow.

  • Who could help you find ways to tackle these demands?
  • What information would help you understand academia and research?

Postdoctoral and contract based research staff need to develop a research profile, develop their independence, disseminate their work and ensure it has maximum impact, understand the funding landscape, develop links to future collaborators, be aware of opportunities and again, be ready for the end of their contracts and what will follow.

  • Who needs to be aware of you and your work?
  • What information or opportunities would help you be more successful?

Established researchers need to develop new research ideas, publish work which is important and influences their field, attract new students and staff, build relationships with partners to enhance impact, manage their time and prioritise effectively, add value to their institution and research community, find partners for projects and proposals and demonstrate their esteem in their field and community.

  • What individuals or communities do you want to connect with? 
  • What kind of influence and impact would you like to have?

Deepening your knowledge of academic careers

Given that you will be building your profile and contributing material potentially for many years, you also need to look ahead in your career and think about future challenges and demands.

Many online resources are available to help you think about these demands and broaden your thinking about your current situation. Note that these aren’t solely focused on social media although we discovered them through social media – either through the individuals or organisations that produced them or seeing them recommended and discussed by others.

The University of Manchester’s “An Academic Career” site includes advice and insights into the demands and opportunities ahead.

Jobs.ac.uk includes a substantial careers advice section with many different articles and a series of e-books on different aspects of academic careers

Oxford University’s Apprise site brings together resources from a range of projects aimed at those in the early stages of an academic pathway and includes prompts for personal reflection.

The Wellcome Trust offers a guide detailing the kinds of things to think about for those returning to academic careers after a break, or other time away.

Vitae, a national organization for researcher development, has published a series of reports on the destinations and subsequent career paths of doctoral graduates.

There are also offline sources, like Liz Elvidge, Emma Williams and Carol Spencely’s “What every postdoc needs to know” (summary here) – a book that breaks down the whole postdoctoral career journey, and asks challenging questions that you might want to consider.

What are the challenges that you’re facing now? At the next stage? In 5 years? In 10 years?

With these challenges in mind, if you now feel ready to explore the role of social media in your career, the next section will provide an overview of social media and the platforms available.

If you aren’t ready to move on yet, you can work through the more detailed questions in the worksheet and arrange to discuss your thoughts about your career challenges with a colleague or mentor.

Social Media – A series for researchers

Social Media offers researchers huge potential to communicate with a range of audiences. Researchers who have developed an effective social media presence will talk about the ease with which they can engage people, strengthen their networks and receive key information. Reaping the benefits requires an investment of time, but just as with established networking, there are strategies to hit the ground running, to benefit more quickly and have a greater impact.

Current limitations on social interaction, and focus on working from home means that not only is Social Media particularly useful now to maintain visibility for present and future posts, but that researchers may have more time than before to engage in developing a Social Media presence.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be publishing a series of blog posts to help researchers to better understand the potential of social media to enhance their research activities and develop a strong, credible profile. We’ll look at the key sites and tools, and guide you through a process to evaluate any new networks you encounter.

If you’re familiar with social media, the posts will help you reflect on your communication style and career objectives, investigate unfamiliar platforms and learn from the experiences and advice of other researchers.

The posts are structured into five sections. Each will include an overview, links to resources which explore the topic in more detail and a worksheet designed to help you reflect on your approach and set clear objectives. The sections are written to help you:

  1. Reflect on your career and how social media might add value
  2. Navigate both generic and research-based social media options
  3. Relate the potential of social media to your career and research goals
  4. Communicate effectively, efficiently and appropriately online
  5. Evaluate and develop your online impact and ambitions

This resource is designed be a relatively concise starting point to the world of social media, so it covers the headlines for each topic and where necessary points to the detail available in a range of articles, books and guides on the web. These will all vary in depth, perspective and age, so you can choose how much to dig into the detail.

Watch this space for the next post… !

Online Writers’ Retreats… what you do when you can’t meet up!

If you search the Internet for writing retreats, you’ll find all kind of images that involve groups of people sat, with laptops, around a table… like this:

group of writers around a table, each with their own laptop

There’s a very good reason for this. When Rowena Murray did her initial work on structured retreats back in 2009, she found that key to success was the ‘doing together’ that comes from all being in the same place at the same time.

Writers on our retreats have told us the same.

“It helps me push through, when I get stuck and I might get distracted and give up, being with others who are also writing means I don’t stop… I keep trying, and eventually I work out how to get past the problem and I can move on.”

What do you do, then, when – like now – you can’t be in the same room? (more…)

The publication pipeline

hat someHow did that submission go? Did you get it accepted?

Yes, all in – reviews done. Now I’m at the foot of Everest again.

The foot of Everest?

Yes… I’ve not really got any writing in progress, so I’m starting again from scratch.

The first time I published, it felt like that. The process was very one-directional. I wrote, I submitted it, I dealt with the reviews, I resubmitted, it was published.

Because it was so single-minded, it was relatively easy. I just did what I needed to do, and then waited for instructions from the editor. But it also took a long time. From initial idea to print, the process was on and off, and lasted a full 2.5 years.

Both of those things – the ease, and the time – aren’t a problem if you’re starting out as an academic. But they become more problematic if you need to be publishing more often. A more recent journal article took me and a co-author nearly 5 years from conception to print.

Adding the time for the first and second publications together, that’s two publications in 7.5 years. That’s waaaay too slow for any kind of academic CV.  (more…)