The Poetic Sequel: Get Working on Networking

The Poetic Sequel: Get Working on Networking

Is it enough to just lower my head into the wind?

Stand, alone, as the breeze streams through hair desperately pinned

Must I lean, strain, block out the din

Of expectations and writing and perfection so as to win

 

Actually…

There are many attempting to break through the din like me

Who also want that sweet, sweet position as a clinical researcher who is free

To explore the questions that come to me

It’s time to get to know my fellow wind-breakers and them, me

 

Let truth be told,

One, I must know who is fighting the fight

I must listen to their stories, their needs, do for them what is right

I cannot push through a wind that is not their plight

Do I seek a truth that need not be told?

 

In fact,

Two, a researcher cannot act alone or she’s trapped

Into a solitary quest when so many are willing to interact

On similar thoughts and ideas, towards a common pact

At a time when teamwork is what earns the contract

 

It is true,

Three, others must know about me, like you

As you read of the journey I am mingling through

On the chance that you know of a post with a better view

Where all of our questions are the very ones I may pursue

After the dissertation is due

 

Those who have trod the ground before me

And broken the wind ahead of me

And look back to see me

Pushing through

 

Students and fellows,

Knowledge-seekers and gurus,

You with experiences lived, you who manage the crew

Share this journey with me, get to know me as I meet you

We must get working, on networking

For the real world to know, be known and break through.

 

 

 

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Get Working on Networking

Get Working on Networking

This article was originally published on Speech-Language & Audiology Canada’s blog, Communiqué, on September 19th, 2016. It has been republished here with permission.

Part 3 of the blog series Finding the PhD in Me. Read part 2 here.

By Bonita Squires, M.Sc., S-LP(C)


Before I decided to start my PhD, I envisioned that doctoral studies would look something like what is often portrayed in the very funny PhD Comics: staring at a computer screen for hours at a time and an occasional meeting with a supervisor. It turns out that I was incredibly wrong, or at least I have been so far. I also need to get out and make connections with new people, a.k.a. ‘networking’.According to Isaiah Hankel, “In today’s economy and academic environment, networking with more people is not an option. It’s a must.“ Why is this?

1. To make research more relevant

There is a growing need to actively ensure that our research is relevant outside of academia as well as within academia (for more on this topic, see my last blog post, Lost in (Knowledge) Translation). In order to conduct relevant research, we need to collaborate across fields and professions to discover what administrators, educators, policymakers and clients are interested in. By attending a variety of conferences, talks, workshops and wine-and-cheese type events at the university and in the community, I have chanced upon several people whose ideas have helped me to redefine my study and even my future research program. Knowing what is currently relevant and needed also helps me make a stronger case for my research in funding applications.

2. So that I know about other researchers

Networking with others is allowing me to seek out interprofessional collaborations and find new perspectives on my work. When I chat with other researchers, working professionals, policymakers and community members, I become familiar with the people whom I can contact when I have questions, need support or would like to collaborate on a project. As a graduate student, I read a lot of literature and am becoming increasingly familiar with the names of researchers in my area of study. Seeing these experts speak about their research is not only helpful to better understand their findings, but is also motivating; it is inspiring to meet others who are passionately pursuing similar research questions.

3. So that other researchers know about me

On the flip side, if those other researchers are familiar with me, they will think of me if they have a project planned where they think I could be a good fit. They may even think of me for one of their colleagues’ projects. Several times in the last year, a new contact has met me and immediately referred me to a colleague or a friend as a potential contact.

If other researchers know about me, I may even find my dream job one day. This is an important motivation for meeting other like-minded people. In 2011, only 18.6% of Canadians with doctoral degrees were working as full-time university professors, the typical career goal of most doctoral students. If I decide that I want to work for a company or organization after I obtain my PhD, I must accept that my resume may be stacked in a pile with hundreds of other applicants with PhDs. All qualifications being equal, an applicant who is known to the hiring committee will get the job over one who is unknown.

Why so early in my PhD?

Some people may wonder why I am so focused on networking when I am only just beginning my second year of doctoral studies. The thing is, creating a solid network takes time. It takes years. I don’t know where I will end up working when I graduate. I could be conducting research within academia, industry, government, at a non-profit, in the health sector… I need time to develop connections in all of those areas. I can’t wait until the last year of my PhD to think about where I want to go next and who I need to know.

To use myself as an example, I am in the unique position of nurturing a hazy vision of a dream job that may or may not exist when I complete my PhD. I would like to work as a clinical researcher, also known as a clinician scientist. Furthermore, I would like to work with the small and spread out population of individuals who are d/Deaf or hard-of-hearing. If I don’t start putting out the feelers now, I may never find a position where I can work clinically AND develop my research program, and potential employers may never find me. However, if I am known in my field, a position may even open up with me in mind. That can only happen if people know me and have faith in what I can offer to their organization or institution.

As a working clinician, you may be thinking about incorporating research into your practice or further developing the research that you have already begun. If that is the case, keep your eyes open for my next post; I will explore what it could look like to work as a clinical researcher where research and practice productively coexist.

Further Resources

For the most up-to-date tips on how to network as a graduate student, take a look at posts by Wajihah Mughal in RE-SPECT Science and Dr. Nana Lee in University Affairs. 

Open Access Conundrums

Open Access Conundrums

I have been thinking a lot about open access lately (note the brief discussion in a recent post of mine). Who hasn’t? It is a hot topic, with all sorts of organizations popping up that advocate for it (e.g., Open Access Button, OOO Canada Research Network) and entire conferences devoted to it (e.g., OpenCon).

There are overwhelmingly fantastic arguments for it, as are convincingly laid out by high-profile proponents such as the passionate and fearless Erin McKiernan. For the full run-down by an expert, check out an excellent talk of McKiernan’s on the issue here; I remained enthralled throughout its entire 45 minutes.

In response, I have been taking note of open access journals for my own future submissions. In fact, I even went so far as to tweet my relief upon realizing that the journal of our own national organization, Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology Canada (the journal is CJSLPA) is entirely open access.

But the issue does not seem so straightforward as to say that all journals should become open access.

I am and have always been a law-abiding, authority-respecting person, to a fault. I was raised to assume that the police and government were doing everything in the best interest of the public and have only in recent years begun to question this logic. This has also lead me to assume that the journal authorities who set prices for their product may have good reason for doing so. I continue to have this niggling concern: people need to be paid for their time and companies need to be paid for the resources that they provide. Everything can’t be free in this world.

This was highlighted for me recently when I contacted a small journal asking about open access. I wanted a potential submission to be accessible to teachers, clients, and people in several different fields but a paywall would have likely prevented that. The journal editor replied that, no, it is not open access because there are costs to running a journal and they cannot afford to do it for free. So who pays?

A part of the issue may be that journals have not traditionally expected individuals to pay. Institutions pay and if you’re not affiliated with an institution then too bad.

However, this model may need to change with the increasing uproar for accessible research output and knowledge translation directly to those who may apply the knowledge, the “end user”. If open access is not a financially feasible option then at the very least prices need to be reduced for individuals. Do we not bemoan the fact that policymakers and professionals don’t refer enough to evidence during decision-making and practice?  Currently, if one of these individuals actually chose to seek out interesting, current and relevant articles to support decision-making and practice, this is what they may be faced with:

Screen Shot 2016-09-02 at 12.41.54 AM

One article for US$40, which translates to a hefty CAD$52.34! Or how about this for the right to download the PDF of one article in a small Canadian journal:

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Let’s be honest. We really don’t think too hard about spending a few dollars online. Look at the recent Pokémon Go craze. The game is making $1.6 million a day through in-app purchases that start at $0.99. The low prices are made up for by the large numbers of people all around the world doing the purchasing. This is how these free games make money (not to mention the advertising revenue). I will admit that I have spent a few dollars here, a few dollars there, on mindless games. It gets me nowhere in my life but it provides a bit of entertainment. The same applies to music. I occasionally spend a whopping $1.49 to download a song that I enjoy and I don’t think too much of it.

This does not only apply to entertainment. There are countless free websites and apps out there that we can use to be more productive, organize our documents, and collaborate more efficiently. The way many developers earn money is by offering limited functionality for free and charging small monthly or yearly fees for more features. If I really like an app, I will certainly cough up the $5/month to upgrade to better features. However, when the cost of something goes above $10 the purchase becomes harder to justify. Why aren’t academic journals getting on board with this high volume, low cost payment model? 

The latest great idea offered by journals is that if authors would like their article to be available open access, they pay an exorbitant $1000+ fee. In other words, the onus is on the researcher to pay for the accessibility of their article to non-academics. Just because some people or departments can afford it doesn’t mean that it is the right model.

Software developers have figured out that the end users of their products will not pay the prices set for institutions. In fact, this high volume, low cost model has proven to be quite lucrative. If our goal is truly to have research be accessible to the end users, the public and professionals who may apply the research, then maybe we should be marketing directly to them at a reduced cost. I wonder what potential market is out there for journals if the price is right? And would reaching this market make our research even more accessible to the people who need it the most?

Would this low-fee, high-traffic payment model work for academic publishing houses? Perhaps there is a place where the financial needs of journals and greater access meet.

 

Reading Academic-y Jargon

Reading Academic-y Jargon

There are times when I stop and realize the absurdity of academic texts. The degree of awareness needed to understand what you are reading – of the field, context and terminology – can be so high… even for a topic that may appear so innocuous on the surface, like bilingualism. It seems like a discussion on bilingualism should comfortably include vocabulary such as “language”, “words” and “jobs”.

So, I innocently pick up the special issue in bilingualism in the journal  Applied Psycholinguistics (volume 35, number 5) and find myself sinking into a cognitive linguist’s dream-state of mambo jambo, such as in the following excerpt:

It is even more interesting that these global switch costs are asymmetric in that performance is significantly more impaired when bilinguals engage in an L1 speaking block that follows an L2 speaking block, compared to the reverse situation, when an L2 speaking block follows an L1 speaking  block (e.g., Meuter & Allport, 1999). Such asymmetries suggest that if bilinguals first speak in an L2-only block, they recruit executive control to globally downregulate activation of their L1 to maintain L2 fluency. Consequently, when they switch to an L1 speaking block, performance is lower than it would have been had the prior L2 block not been encountered. In contrast, when bilinguals first speak in an L1 block, there is less of a need to recruit executive control to globally inhibit the L2, as the L2 is less entrenched to begin with compared to the L1. Thus, when they switch to the L2, performance is the same as it would have been had the L1 block not come first.” (pages 860-861).

For the uninitiated, L1 refers to one’s native language and L2 refers to one’s second, or non-native, language.

I find that if I am not 100% focused while reading text like the one above, it loses me after I read too many L1s and L2s. Did you zone out partway through, too? At first, you think to yourself, “yeah, I got this, I am totally following this, if you first speak French, then speak English, it’s easier than if you first speak English, then speak French!”

But as you continue to read, you start questioning what you understand, “wait, but then if you switch back to English, no I mean, if first you’re speaking French, your brain needs to, wait…”

So I sit back, blink a few times and hope the brain reset button works. And try again. This time, it goes through and everything is clear. But I wonder, what kinds of hoops is my brain jumping through? Did I flip a cognitive switch?

Did I just downregulate activation of my L1* to regain L2** fluency?

Yes, yes I did. It is a magical academic-y jargon switch and I feel honoured and yet somehow slightly ridiculous to be able to switch it.

 

* everyday English

** academic-y English

 

Image credit: Alejandra Pinto

Is publishing a policy analysis article worth it?

Is publishing a policy analysis article worth it?

I am constantly hearing frustrated declarations that research evidence rarely impacts policy. Although researchers work hard to create and make sense of evidence in the hopes that it may shift the gears that run our society, that little seed of doubt constantly surfaces… will anything I do truly have an impact beyond the academic sphere? 

This past spring, I took a fantastic course called “Health Care Policy” with Christopher Simms at Dalhousie University. The course involved learning about the policy implementation process, how policy agenda is set, etc. We discussed current events and engaged in animated debates about how policy can possibly be influenced by non-policymakers such as ourselves. As a final project, we wrote a policy analysis paper and presented our findings to the class. I was interested in classroom acoustics policy in Canada as it is a topic that received much public attention in 2009, yet unfortunately resulted in zero movement onto the policy agenda. The issue has not been revisited in Canada since.

I met with my professor to discuss the idea that my paper could be revised into a manuscript for submission to a Canadian journal. This was a logical next step since the topic seemed to be of interest to the Speech-Language & Audiology Canada association, as determined through some email exchanges.

At this point, I am looking around for other articles on policy analysis to see how others have organized their ideas. As I search, I wonder…

Were any of these articles ever read?

Were they ever read specifically by policymakers?

Did any of these articles have an actual impact on the policies that they discussed?

Who might potentially read my article?

Should I even try to publish an article such as this one?

This made me stop and consider what the purpose of writing such an article might be. It would appear at first glance that the purpose of a policy analysis article is to make a recommendation as to the most viable and feasible policy option that should be implemented by policymakers. Technically, this is true. However, given what we know about policy implementation, I hardly think that my little article would ever achieve this purpose if that were the sole obective.

Then I thought, well, how does an issue get onto the policy agenda in the first place if not through the publication of research evidence? As we discussed in our course and as I hear all around me in discussions on the decisions made by our public servants, it is ultimately public awareness and pressure that seem to drive policymaking. Therefore, my little article should be geared to the public, that is, stakeholders not policymakers.

Stakeholders would be those who would be affected by a new policy designed to improve classroom acoustics. This includes parents of children who may benefit from improved classroom acoustics, classroom teachers, speech-language pathologists, audiologists, and school administration. Ultimately, if those individuals are better informed then they can advocate for a change in policy better than I ever could through the methods that suit them best, such as social media posts, media attention and direct interaction with policymakers.

How does this affect my decision to publish? Here is what I think:

  1. Yes, I should go ahead and publish my little policy analysis article in a small Canadian journal
  2. The journal that I choose MUST be open access (i.e., anyone can read the article without need for a subscription to the journal)
  3. I should write in an accessible and interesting style
  4. The title must be clear and enticing
  5. Once the article is published, I should share the link on social media

In other words, I cannot write this article for academics. I cannot write this article for policymakers. I must write this article to empower and educate those who can advocate for change in policy. And if it happens to reach a policymaker who can make a difference, then that would be wonderful, but I won’t be banking on it.

Image: found through Google images search at http://www.districtdispatch.org/2015/06/ala-releases-national-policy-agenda-for-libraries/

The Poetic Sequel: Lost in (Knowledge) Translation

The Poetic Sequel: Lost in (Knowledge) Translation

The Real KT

 

To translate what is believed to be known

Into another version of the same or similar

Knowledge

 

To swap perspectives

Adopt different viewpoints that may view the information from different points

With a different focus for a different person

Is not the same for one as for another

 

But translating requires

Knowing

What is important to one

Is not the same for one as for another

 

Ask

what do you need?

Listen

this is what may not work

Educate

this is how research works

Collaborate

let’s do this together

Share

here is what we’ve discovered so far

Update

we’re finishing things up now

Review

what could we do better?

 

To translate does not mean

To start at the end

Disseminate what we think we learned

It means to start at the beginning

To translate our understanding of what needs to be known for new knowledge to be useful

 

For knowledge to be used

 

We must translate our knowledge of how to do research

Effectively

 

Image credit: C2E2 – http://c2e2.ca/resources/knowledge-translation

Project Management for a PhD

Project Management for a PhD

I am taking an online course on Time Management (offered by Mitacs Step here in Canada), which included a section on Project Management. The exercises are really useful and I would encourage anyone who has to coordinate any sort of large project to look into project management tools and techniques.

My first attempt at drafting out the Phases and subsequent Work Packages for my PhD study goal:

Work Packages - PhD

 

What do you think? Am I missing anything crucial?

The next exercise required that I list out the different activities involved in one of the work packages. I chose the work package that is next on my agenda (Measures within my Study Design phase) and added notes on which groups of activities should be completed when over the next year.

Activities for Measures Work Package

Activities for Measures Work Package - B

This is just a first, quick draft of using these techniques. I plan to do this for the data collection phase once I get closer to its implementation. It really seems to set my mind at ease to know that I have a plan and that it is broken down into manageable steps.

It is suggested that you plan out the phases, work packages and activities into a timeline showing concurrent activities and duration. I may end up doing that on brown paper up on my wall in my room. If I do, I’ll share it here!

 

Photo header credit: http://www.mpi-magdeburg.mpg.de/2857307/project-management