Academic life

What we know about the academic journal landscape reflects global inequalities

12 October 2020

In the early 16th century, an unnamed artist created what has since become known as the Lenox globe. One of the earliest known terrestrial globes (Magellan had not yet circumnavigated the earth when it was created), it presents a fascinating glimpse into the early-modern European imagination, with Europe at the heart of a world full of vast seas, uncharted lands and bestial terrors. Lest the reader be in any doubt of the dangers these uncharted territories held, HIC SVNT DRACONES (‘Here be dragons’) is inscribed on the continent of Asia, just beneath the equator.

Is it still paranoia if they're really out to vet you? On Clarivate Analytics

15 August 2018

magine that you’re out in public when a call of nature of the excretory variety strikes. At this point, you are presented with two options. The first is a toilet that you have to pay to enter – although it doesn’t cost the usual 20p but the wildly inflated amount of £20. The good news is that there’s another toilet nearby that you can access for free. But there’s a catch, see, because once you enter the loo, your every movement is tracked: not just your identity, but how you use the toilet, the amount of toilet paper you use, the quantity and consistency of the ‘outputs’ you produce, whether you flush, wash your hands and for how long.

Does not compute: Why I'm proposing a moratorium on the term 'outputs'

11 April 2018

As a recent Australian transplant to the UK from Canada, there is one relatively unfamiliar word I have heard repeatedly over the past three months: “outputs”. Like most academics, I have been exposed to the term before. Canadian grant agencies love to talk about “outputs” (and its more desirable sibling, “impacts”), generally in the context of their own “inputs”, and based on the following ideal formula: $ → Op → Oc → I (the input of funds leads to outputs which lead to outcomes which lead to impacts). 

An academic diary in the strictest sense of the term

30 June 2015

March 5th, 2015.  Went to workshop about writing successful grant applications and facilitator emphasized need to demonstrate ‘impact’ in order to score well on ‘researcher excellence’ category. Asked question about whether citations are valid proxy for ‘impact’, giving example of my paper on e-cigarettes getting lots of citations purely because of topicality. Facilitator looked at me blankly and repeated that they require evidence of impact; she also stressed merits of Twitter. Afterwards, joined Google Scholar and (drew line at Twitter!). Spent 3 hours creating profiles and uploading documents on each site—complete waste of time! Don’t understand whole ‘follow’ thing—seems juvenile, so avoided it entirely.

How to review a journal article

28 September 2014

Peer review is one of academia’s unifying principles. In a complicated, unregulated and extraordinarily diverse environment, it’s the core value we share (Biagioli 2002). For this reason, the first time they are asked to review a manuscript is a momentous occasion for budding academics. Suddenly, the shoe is on the other foot – or perhaps more accurately, you are now the boot instead of the ball. In common with the majority of tasks academics are required to undertake, how to review papers should ideally be absorbed through osmosis, as opposed to anything as passé as formal guidance or training. But sometimes it’s helpful to have insights from colleagues more experienced in the process. . 

How to deliver a paper at an anthropology conference

12 October 2012

Academic conferences, as several observers have noted, are a singularly understudied phenomenon.  One of the more profound insights on this topic is to be found in an article by Jacobs and McFarlane published in, of all places, the Journal of Computer Assisted Learning.  They note that conferences are sites where inexperienced neophytes learn how to become professionals – how to (quite literally) walk the walk and talk the talk. 

Kirsten Bell