My role at Nottingham University Business School is broadly around research development, with a particular emphasis on supporting colleagues in obtaining external funding for their research. I do this by finding, summarising, and distributing funding opportunities, and by supporting academic colleagues in writing grant applications. I’m completely unburdened by any kind of academic background in business and management (my MPhil was in political philosophy), which means I can review applications from a lay perspective.
I had two parallel motivations for starting a blog. The first stems from the impact agenda in research council funding. Gone are the days when writing a ‘dissemination plan’ into a grant application, and for that plan to involve a one day workshop with your mates, was anything like sufficient. Accordingly, I’ve been encouraging academic colleagues to think differently about their communication strategies, and to think about podcasts, vodcasts, blogging, and twitter. I attended the LSE’s Impact in the Social Sciences conference in June this year, and over the course of that day, I came to a rather striking conclusion about some of the ‘advice’ I had been giving.
I had very little understanding of what I was talking about.
It’s not good enough for me to reel off a bunch of trendy, zeitgeisty, down-with-the-kids buzz words like ‘blogging’ and ‘twitter’. It’s not good enough for me to have an informed spectator’s view of these things. And I’m sure it’s not good enough for a funding application either. “We’re going to have a project blog” is unconvincing – “the blog will be about X and Y, our strategy for promoting the project blog is Z” is better. So…. how could I learn? Well, the best way would be to practice what I was preaching, and start my own blog.
Fortunately, the second of my parallel motivations has given me something to blog about.
My job is an odd one. No-one starts out with an ambition to do what I do, and there’s no clear career path in, or career path out. And although there is an umbrella body, the Association of Research Managers and Administrators (ARMA) who organise various events and an annual conference, in general we’re a rather isolated, atomised profession – marooned in small groups on institutional islands.
I’m very fortunate to be part of a very effective network of colleagues with similar roles across the University of Nottingham, and I’m still in touch with many former colleagues from Keele University. But I’d like to be part of broader conversations – with other research support professionals in the UK and worldwide, with academics, with research students, with higher education professionals, with industry, with research users, with funders, with… well, with anyone who’s interested, really. I’ve got some insights and some opinions to share, and I’d like to influence and be influenced in turn. Although the main focus of the blog will be research funding, policy, and development for the social sciences, I also want to touch on other areas that I’m interested in – research ethics; higher education in general; and university administration, management, and culture.
I’ve been passively following Registrarism (http://registrarism.wordpress.com) for quite some time before starting my own blog. The author, Paul Greatrix, is the Registrar at the University of Nottingham. Clearly Paul regards blogging as a worthwhile activity, and that sends a message and sets an example. Although my managers and colleagues have been very supportive of my blogging experiment, it’s likely that that positive reaction has been influenced by Paul’s example.
Another important influence has been Phil Ward’s Research Fundermentals blog (http://fundermental.blogspot.com/) which has been running continuously for nearly two years. Although I wasn’t aware of his blog until after I had set up my own, a browse through its archives has helped sharpen up my ideas of what blogs in our field can be and can do. Phil has been very generous with advice, links, and retweets, and through him I’ve become aware of other blogs to read and people to follow on twitter and attracted interest I wouldn’t otherwise have had.
I’m still very new to blogging, and while I’ve got a reasonable idea what I want to talk about, I’m not sure whether that maps onto what readers and potential readers want to hear from someone in my kind of role. Thoughts, comments, and suggestions would be very welcome indeed.