I have confession to make. In 2017 I did not publish a single paper. In fact in 2018 so far I’ve only had one paper accepted. That’s worrying for someone whose job is ‘researcher’. Someone whose worth is often judged by the length of the publication section of their CV.
It’s fair to say I’m quietly shitting myself about this and it’s been the source of great existential angst.
First of all – there are lots of ways to explain and justify why my publications section is light at the moment, but I should not. I am trying, very hard, to internalise the message that I am more than my publication count, and I don’t want to spend time justifying why I haven’t met an arbitrary target. Suffice to say there’s little I would have done differently.
Instead I want to talk about some of the steps I’ve taken to change this.
Over the last six weeks I’ve adopted a practice I’ve called ‘Writing Fridays’. This is where I’ve blocked off the whole of a Friday simply to write. In this period, I wrote and submitted a short paper, did major revisions on another paper, and published my first preprint. Writing Fridays has been successful enough for me to decide to maintain the practice.
I remember once taking a workplace personality test, most likely an MBTI rip off (see the book for my feelings on this), and whatever my type was called (Eldritch Abomination?), the test made this prediction. “Whenever someone knocks on your door for help you’ll drop everything to do it, even if there’s somebody already talking to you mid-crisis. You just want to be needed.” It’s one of the few times personality tests have really ‘got’ me. I am very guilty of this behaviour.
For me, writing is not about finding ‘time’ but about finding and protecting the mental space to write. I need a whole day set aside, with no meetings, with no expectation that I’ll also be supporting students and colleagues. That support is a hugely valuable part of my role, and I love doing it, but for me writing papers is an expensive mental activity. By blocking off one day in the week I’ve been much more productive at what is actually a core part of my role. I think when I return to work next term, I will be very explicit about my office hours being Monday-Thursday.
The next step has been about more positive about feedback. I’ve spoken about feedback a lot on this blog, and my challenges with it. So part of that, and part of making my work more accessible, has been publishing my first pre-print.
Pre-prints are inarguably a good thing, but somehow in my head only hard science is ‘deserving’ of pre-prints. The kind of fluffy science I do is somehow trying to hide behind pre-printing. This is yet another example of my own internalised prejudices about the kind of work I do. For example, I am more than happy to share a git repository for example about the NSS analysis even though it’s an unfinished flow of consciousness, but my carefully collected thoughts about Discipline Based Educational Research in two fields I know well feels . . . it feels presumptuous.
I hope the pre-print gets feedback, and I hope I listen to it.
And finally, I have been keen to keep a record of my other activities. All academics should be recording their publications and activities for ref. At Edinburgh we use a tool called Pure for this (pure dead brilliant so it is). In pure there’s a category for publications > other> multi media forms. This blog lives there, so do other types of entry.
Let’s be clear. This blog doesn’t, and probably shouldn’t count towards my ref eligible publications. But the other types of publication do matter, and we have the facility to record it. We should be tracking all of our activity, especially as publications become more contentious.
But for now it’s time for me to take some annual leave. I’ve uninstalled outlook from my phone, I’m going to work very hard at forgetting about work, and I’m going to come back to it more productive.
We all have dreams 😉