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…)

Creating the best culture for researchers to thrive

…is the aim of the recently updated “Concordat to support the Career Development of Researchers”. In an earlier blogpost we offered some of our reflections and thoughts on what the 2019 version of the Concordat might look like. Now that the updated Concordat is published, and we as the University of Bristol have signed up to it, what does it actually mean?

We are all responsible for creating a positive environment to thrive in

The Concordat sets out that the responsibility for implementing the Concordat, and therefore the responsibility for creating a positive culture in which researchers can thrive, is a joint responsibility. We are all responsible for creating this change. We, that is institutions (the University), funders, managers of researchers (PIs, Heads of Schools), and last but not least researchers (you!).

This means that the University of Bristol will be working to create the work environment, policies and practices which will allow researchers to thrive. The University is developing an action plan for the implementation of the Concordat, which it will be held accountable for.

We will be working with managers of researchers to offer support and information to help them support you effectively.

And we will be supporting you as researchers directly, by continuing to offer you development opportunities, career support and clarity, and by working closely with you to identify what support you need the most.

But no support, no policy, no action plan will make any difference if individuals don’t play their part in the story. Only if we all work together towards this goal of creating a positive and supportive culture is there a chance for it to become reality.

 

What can you do?

As a first step, familiarise yourself with the Concordat and reflect on its expectations of you. Start having conversations with your PI/manager about the Concordat, and explore together how you can use this as a framework to create this positive environment, and to develop your career.

You may want to map your skills against the Researcher Development Framework and use this as a starting point for your continuing development. Check for staff development opportunities, 1:1 appointments, find mentors if you haven’t got any already (you may want to use the Bristol Clear Mentoring Scheme which has 2 cohort intakes per year), and talk to your Rep if you have any suggestions or would like to highlight any issues.

We believe that together we can make a difference, so we are looking forward to continuing to talk to, and work with, you over the coming weeks and months.

 

Find your Why…

We all know that we’re researchers… and that researchers research stuff… But, if I asked you to tell me why you do what you do in one sentence, could you tell me?

If you can’t – then perhaps you need to find your why.

Find your Why’ is a concept created by Simon Sinek who believes that each of us has a ‘why’ at our core. Our ‘why’ affects the decisions we make and is the inner driver for why we do what we do. Our ‘why’ is the reason we get out of bed in the morning, the thing that makes our lives worth living.

Sinek believes that most of us know what we do…. “I’m a Research Associate”

He believes that we know how we do it … “I run tests in a lab / I create new technologies /I look at the worlds history/ I study the earth etc….”

But most of us never stop to think about why we do what we do.

Finding your ‘why’ is all about digging deep to explore who you are as a whole and find that unique ‘why’ that makes you tick.

Why is ‘why’ Important?

Why is important for you on a personal level because you’ll find energy a lot more sustainable if you act in harmony with your why. When you are faced with choices, if you are making a decision that aligns with your why, then that decision is likely to bring you greater fulfilment and contentment than a decision that goes against your ‘why’. Knowing your why can help you to show up as who you want to be in the world.

But why is also very important for us as researchers because the ‘why’ of research is what hooks people’s interest and gets them to back what we do.

Consider these examples:

“I analyse microbes. My research is ground-breaking. It could change the world.”

“I change the world. I do it by carrying out groundbreaking health research. I analyse microbes.”

Who would you rather listen to?

How to discover your why…

Whys are strange things – because they tend to float to the surface in everything that you do.

Simon Sinek’s why is “To inspire people to do the things that inspire them so that, together, we can change our world”, and this has come out in all the different areas of work that he’s been involved in.

So, sometimes it’s enough to just look back and see if there’s a common thread.

Mike – for example – has worked in education, in a bank, for a charity, with children, and now with researchers… but in all those situations, he’s found himself challenging people to recognise that the way things are isn’t the way that they have to be… and to see that change is possible.

Katie – for example – has worked in a museum, for a council, as a self-employed artist, and now as a researcher development advisor… but in all those situations, she’s gravitated towards supporting people to make the most of the opportunities that they have.

What if it’s not that simple?

If you can’t see a common thread, then you can start to ask yourself…

What do you do?

… Why?

… And why is that important?

… And why is that important? 

… And… (guess what?)… why?

Or start to ask yourself deep questions (!)

“If you knew you were about to die, what’s the one message you’d like to leave behind for people to think about?”

Or more superficial ones.

“If you went to work in a [insert completely different sector here], what’s the job that you’d really like to do there?”

Try and write a ‘Why statement.’

When you have some ideas, then try and write a ‘why statement’.

Mike: “I believe Higher Education could be radically different… so I try to model new forms of research environment at the UoB… I work in researcher development”.

Katie: “I believe that people are important… so, I set up opportunities for people to develop… I organise the Bristol Clear mentoring scheme”.

You: “I believe that… so I …. I do…  ”

Start living your why

Some people may find their ‘why’s’ quite quickly but for others it may not be so obvious or instant (Katie still struggles to find hers). It may be something you need to explore for weeks, months or years in order to clarify it, and that’s ok.  The closer we get to finding our ‘why’s’ then the more we can live in harmony with it.

Finding your why can potentially be quite alarming. You may find that you have strayed away from your why and that you are doing something that you don’t want to do or behaving in a way you don’t want to behave. It may require you to make a change in some area of your life which can be scary. However, by taking steps towards living our why it will always lead to a more purpose filled life.

So next time you have a big decision to make, an event where you’ll be networking with others or you’re thinking about how to start your grant application… consider starting with why.

Resources:

Simon Sinek webpage

Find your why Book – by Simon Sinek

Simon Sinek – Ted Talk

Bristol Clear – Year round up

And…. that’s a wrap! This week saw the last workshops that Bristol Clear will run for this academic year. Here is a round-up of what’s been on offer since our launch last October, and what we’ve learned for next year.

Before that, though, we have to say thank you… to you! If you didn’t attend the training, participate in writing retreats, book onto 1:1’s, sign up for mentoring, complete our surveys, or read any of our emails, we’d be finishing the year empty-handed. But because you get involved, we have masses to show for the last year.

Training

We’ve run 36 training sessions across the year and trained 530 people. (that’s over a third of the entire research staff community at Bristol!).

This year’s training was similar to last year’s, covering a range of topics that draws on the full scope of the Researcher Development Framework. Topics like careers, grants, writing & publishing, engagement, policy, communication & impact, research project management and personal effectiveness.

What we did differently this year was release the training schedule further in advance to allow you to sign up earlier. This has encouraged people to plan their training better… so we’ll be doing that again next year.

What we also need to do next year is let you know more about what’s coming up closer to the date. So that you can book on, and take advantage of any drop-outs, if you missed the original call.

Careers drop-in

Careers drop-ins were a new initiative this year, 19 were run across the latter half of the year. These sessions give you space to do your own careers research, check a CV, ask a question, or work on job or grant applications. We make laptops available so that you can explore online careers tools, a growing bank of our own online guidance, books and other resources aimed specifically at postdoctoral career level and a quiet space for you to focus.

These have been growing in popularity, but we think we can do more to advertise them… after all, you told us in CROS that you don’t have time to develop your career outside of your normal daily work – and these drop-ins provide just that opportunity.

Writers Retreats’

A day where you can step out of your norm and focus solely on writing – what a luxury! We saw how much you valued these sessions and so this year upped the number of writers retreats’ to one a month. We ran 9 in total at nearly full capacity each time!

Just think what you could achieve by taking out just one full day a month to write!

1:1’s

75 of you have taken advantage of a half-hour coaching session with one of our staff development officers. These are often about careers decisions. But we’ve also talked about things like prioritising writing, negotiating the authorship position you want on a paper, and planning a tricky conversation with a PI.

Mentoring

In September 2018 we launched the Bristol Clear Mentoring Scheme. We’ve run two cohorts so far (Sept 2018, and March 2019) and created 37 (you tell us ‘high quality’) mentor/mentee matches. The scheme will open to all faculties come September 2019 and we’d expect it to then grow considerably.

Alongside one to one matches, we’ve run Academic journeys events, where academics talk candidly about their own journeys through mentoring. We’ve also run several peer to peer events when staff could practice mentoring with each other and gain the benefits of being mentored by a peer.

Writefest

In November, we worked with the Bristol Doctoral College to run a month focused on academic writing. Throughout the month there were 3 video shorts containing 9 writing tips, 9 book reviews on how to write books, 5 weeks of activities, 4 drop-in writing days, 4 writing workshops, 3 thesis boot camp days, 3 writer’s retreats and 373,000 (approx) words written! Phew… roll on WriteFest2019!

The Post Doc Residential

In May 2019 we ran a 2-day residential for new postdocs. Those who attended spent two days, away from their everyday work, thinking about questions like: Where have you come from? Where are you heading? What are your values? Why do you do what you do? How can you be as productive as possible, and What do you need to do next?

Feedback was generally very positive, with some good ideas about how to improve the experience. One person found it truly transformative, saying

It was fantastic! I came away completely different, I’ve never had a professional development experience like this, it changed the way I feel about my career. I would like more early career staff to be able to experience this

More Communication:

In addition to these events, we’ve renewed and reshaped some of our communication. We’re now using Twitter (@UoB_Researchers), and have introduced this blog – which has run 35 blog posts through the year. We’ve also introduced the weekly Friday bulletins to keep you all up to date with what’s going on.

And other things:

And then there are lots of other things that we also do that are probably less visible: support the Reps network and the work of the Research Staff Working Party, meet with Heads of School, run the CROS survey, etc.

They are hugely important, though, as they support everything else that we aim to do.

This summer, particularly, we’ll be working on analysing the CROS data, and getting an action plan ready for next year.

And that will also detail our programme for next year, so look out on our webpages and blog for updates on what we’ll be doing for 2019/2020!

NEW Early Career and Post PhD funding for Industry engagement and skills training from the BBSRC

Forwarded from RED:

BBSRC have awarded the University of Bristol £251K to run a Flexible Talent Mobility Account (FTMA 2) until 31st December 2021.

The FTMA is targeted at talented early career researchers (ECRs), postdoctoral researchers, PhD students who have submitted their thesis and those early in their career who are equivalent to BBSRC David Phillips Fellows or equivalent from industry (PGRs) who have the potential to be the next generation of leaders within UK academic and industrial research.

(Translation: This means that the UoB has been given funds to support researchers to spend time training and preparing to move (or to be ready to move) outside of academia and into industry (usually) – see below for what can be applied for – usually secondments, placements, or other specific ‘mobility’ training).

The deadline is the 11th February.

The focus areas are:

1) Innovation Fellowships. Through awards of up to £20,000 we will support the mobility of talented ECRs and industrialists to realise the potential of their research and innovation. Secondments will take place in areas which align to Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) themes of: ‘early diagnosis and precision medicine, leading-edge healthcare, transforming food production, and manufacturing and materials’. The duration and nature of each secondment will be determined case-by-case. Secondments may be up to 6 months, carried out as a block of time or a series of shorter visits, to maximise exposure to different research environments and technologies and to facilitate new interactions or support established collaborations. Inward secondments to the University will be designed to align with company needs. International mobility: 25% of the funding available is ring-fenced as part of the Rutherford Fund, to recruit researchers from outside of the United Kingdom (including UK Nationals) to live and work in the UK for the duration of their award. See Guidance and Innovation Fellowship Application form.
Funded Awards need to be spent by 31/12/2021.

2) Innovation Placements. These awards are up to £15,000 to support Submitted Postgraduate Students (S-PGs) to second into Industry for up to 3 months. Projects should align to the ISCF themes given above. We are looking for novel ideas that develop new collaborations with Industrial partners and have a transformative impact on the careers of our talented students. See Guidance and Innovation Placement Application form.
Funded Awards need to be spent by 31/11/2020.

3) Prospective Engagement Awards of up to £1,000 to support ECRs on short visits to companies of interest in the UK and abroad to explore secondment and collaboration opportunities. We want this fund to help develop ECR’s/PGR’s own relationships with Industry and develop their own network and understanding of industry prioritises, aiming to create the next generation of Research Industrialists. Eligible costs are travel and subsistence. See Guidance and Prospective Engagement Application form.
Funded Awards need to be spent by 31/12/2021.

4) Skills Development and Training awards enabling ECRs to take training opportunities tailored to their development needs: these may be internal or external courses and seminars. The ambition of the fund is to create a step change in the translational culture of our ECRs by enabling them to acquire new translational skills, recognise innovative starting points for translation. Eligible costs are course, travel and subsistence costs. See Guidance and Training Application form.
Funded Awards need to be spent by 31/12/2021.

If you are interested, then please contact lisa.kehoe@bristol.ac.uk, RED, Knowledge Exchange Associate (KEA) for Life Sciences to discuss your ideas for secondments, prospective engagement and/or training.

And… that’s a WriteFest wrap!

It’s the 30th November. Which means that tomorrow it’ll be the 1st December. Which means that Academic Writing Month, aka WriteFest 2018, is done!

So what have we achieved

Well, this month, as a university, we’ve produced

  • 3 video shorts containing 9 writing tips
  • 9 book reviews on how to write books
  • 5 weeks of activities
  • 4 drop-in writing days
  • 4 writing workshops
  • 3 thesis bootcamp days
  • 3 writer’s retreats
  • Several other blog posts
  • 1 limerick (a bad one)
  • … and written 373,000 (approx) words.

(All sung to the tune of ‘On the first day of Christmas’)

It’s not just about the words, or the events though. Because what comes from writing is theses, and articles, and books, and grant proposals, and job applications, and these lead to PhDs, and grants, and publications on CVs, and jobs.

So, we have reason to be proud. And next year, we’ll try and do more.

Thanks for spending the month with us!

 

 

 

 

 

A Tuesday limerick

Since writing comes in all shapes and sizes, here’s a limerick for a WriteFest Tuesday:

There once was a male academic
For whom writing was a bit of a gimmick
When at last he was fired
He claimed he’d retired
But his victory was somewhat pyrrhic

(OK, it’s not very good, but you try find something to rhyme with ‘academic’!)

 

 

Writing for peer reviewed journals: Strategies for getting published – by Pat Thomson and Barbara Kamler

(by Sérgio Waitman, Research AssociateDepartment of Aerospace Engineering)

As I was midway through the book by Pat Thomson and Barbara Kamler, it occurred to me that the choice of the subtitle “Strategies for getting published” might seem a bit misleading. Indeed, as the authors themselves emphasize throughout the text, the objective of the book is not to provide a set of writing guidelines with dos and don’ts and article recipes. Instead, they focus on more conceptual notions about the development of the writer identity and how the text should be seen as part of a conversation among members of a particular scientific community.

The book is mostly aimed towards PhD candidates and early career researchers. The first chapters are of particular interest, as they help inexperienced writers to understand the importance of locating their argument within the body of literature of a given journal as well as that of the scientific community in which it exists. The focus is then not on how to write a good report of results, but on how to put forward an argument that fills in a previously identified gap of knowledge.  The author is encouraged to present its paper as another brick in the ever growing research wall, building on previous results and theory, but with a distinctive new take that will allow the wall to keep going up.

The last chapters are more directly related to the writing work per se and provide some good insights into how to put all this in the paper, as well as how to deal with co-authoring duties and feedback from peer review.

My only criticism of the book is its insistent reliance on examples from the field of Education. Even though it is understandable, given the background of both authors and their active research in this area, I would have expected more variability, especially with the extensive experience of the authors in ministering writing workshops around the world. Even though most of what is being said should remain valid and helpful for the majority of academic researchers, it is sometimes hard to appreciate how some of the arguments would be translated to the specificities of different subjects. Nonetheless, I would recommend this book to anyone starting their academic career and struggling to find their voice in the scientific discussion.

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