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[ academics_anon ]
Rehab for (recovering) academics.
2nd-Aug-2015 05:33 pm - Freelance writing?
There's quite a market for freelance academic writers. Some of the companies are blatantly crooked, selling essays to students so that they'll get good results without learning the material! But other companies might be bona fide. I have a brain. Make my own judgements.

I'm now in the process of signing up to write for money through Writezillas and Writers United.

Have you done this kind of writing, or been a customer of this kind of company? I'm an academic with a publications record but so far, my freelance writing and editing have involved no payment. Any suggestions?

[Update the next day] I've become suspicious of Writezillas. Googling that company's name led me to accusations that it's a scam. For example this. I'm not even sure whether to trust that source, EssayScam! Overall, I'm feeling cautious.
22nd-Dec-2014 05:24 pm - UK libel law and scientific debate
What's the best way to criticise bad scientists if you're in the UK without ending up being taken to court? Feeling very frustrated about certain fraudulent US researchers suing their UK based critics. Not sure I want to wade in on the debate though of pointing out how shoddy this certain person's work is without knowing what I can actually say, since apparently everything is basis for a lawsuit.

Anyone know how science is meant to be criticised by UK based people?

*very frustrated*
11th-Nov-2014 03:09 pm - Spice up your classroom!
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28th-Oct-2014 03:39 pm - Socialising with grad students
Hi all,
I've just taken up a junior teaching post (Teaching Fellow, so below Lecturer/junior professor, but it's post-doctoral), and as part of my job I'm convening one module, which involves practical classes. The practical classes and assisted (and in some cases led) by PhD students. As course convener I was thinking of inviting them to my home at the end of term for pizza and beer/wine as a thank you for their work on the module. Is that creepy and weird, or a nice way to show appreciation? It's a reasonably informal department but there doesn't seem to be much socialising generally, so I'm not sure whether it would be seen as inappropriate or uncomfortable here.
Iggy The Eskimo
In a 2012 Phd by publication, based on a book from 2010, I found a chapter where the author claims to have found some literary references (or sampling) in the literary work of someone else. However, an internet essay, published in 2005 on a forum and updated in 2006 and 2009, has exactly the same findings. But this was published by a mere 'fan' of the work, not by an academic or a scholar.

In 2010 the author claimed there was no problem because he was unaware when he wrote the book that somebody else had researched the same topic 5 years before him. In 2012, for the Phd, he simply ignored it (as the existence of the 2005 essay was several times mentioned to him after the publication of the book).

While there is perhaps no 'plagiarism' as such, shouldn't the doctor have mentioned, out of shere politeness and honesty, that somebody else had already come to the same conclusion?
pic#111812164 bunsen burner

The GNU Free Documentation Licence states that "derivative works" must also be distributed under the terms of the FDL. This is the "cancer" by association that Mr Ballmer (Microsoft) famously criticised the related GNU General Public Licence for software (i.e. preventing the usual monopolistic behaviour of the monster from Redmond). It has become noticeable that academic research published via various permutations of the Creative Commons licences are then cited in subsequent subscription access journal articles. Doesn't this maintain unfairly the subscription journal system? If citation of previous research (published open access) makes a new article a "derivative work", shouldn't that article be distributed also via open access? How would researchers respond to this "licence consequence"? Would researchers prefer to reject citation of open access articles, in order to continue submission of work to subscription access articles? Or, would researchers be more willing to publish their work open access if they know any cited works would also be compelled to be published also open access? It is annoying that researchers cite my open access work in new research articles, that are then published in subscription access journals (the motivation for this post!).

pic#111812164 bunsen burner

A recent article in Chemistry World reminded me of an earlier blog post about the death of the student Sheri Shangji in a chemistry laboratory. The blog post describes that basically, if a student is killed in a university laboratory, neither the professor concerned nor the university are liable to any significance. Ignoring an example such as the Union Carbide Bhopal disaster, it seems incredulous that universities are not liable (as other entities throughout the private sector )for the safety of students (also echoed by other departments elsewhere, at least according to another blog post. Is anyone aware of a similar case elsewhere, e.g. within EU and if so, how does European state and EU laws compare?

29th-Jul-2014 08:58 am - Negotiating job offers
AA, I'd like some advice. I'm in the process of interviewing for jobs at the moment, and had an interview for a two year post at a very good university yesterday, and for a permanent lectureship at a less stellar (but up and coming) place this morning. I've just been offered the first one, and the second one say they'll let me know early next week.
So now I need a tactful way of saying to the second place "I need an answer sooner than early next week so I can decide whether or not to take the shorter-term post" and/or a tactful way of saying to the first place "I need a few days before I can confirm so I can hear back from the place with the permanent post on offer".
Suggestions please?
25th-Jul-2014 10:42 am - Some thoughts on research
grad students and PhD degrees.
Perhaps someone is interested: http://i-strannik.livejournal.com/318257.html
pic#111812164 bunsen burner
Originally posted by energyresearch at Why did I bother with this PhD journey?

Whilst there were no illusions of a research career equating to limitless wealth, it is profoundly depressing to read further confirmation that the market value of research skills is less than £ 30k, with the added luxury of a fixed term duration of barely a year:

BioenNW Interreg IVB Research Associate for Pyrolysis Systems – Pyrofabs
Project Manager (2 Posts) Engineering & Applied ScienceSalary: £27,057
to £28,972 Contract Type: Fixed Term (until 30 September 2015) Basis:
Full Time Closing Date: Sunday 17 August 2014 Interview Date: To be
confirmed Reference: R140233

The European Bioenergy Research Institute (EBRI) is seeking to appoint
two Research Associates with a strong experimental background and track
of independent research to work on the thermal processes for biomass
conversion. You will join a world-renowned European Bioenergy Research
Institute and will be working at the cutting edge of interdisciplinary
research problems and industrial applications. The EBRI has developed an
innovative new bioenergy technology that increases the efficiency of
anaerobic digestion by up to 25%. You will be involved in performing the
start-up and preliminary tests of the pyrolysis mobile testing units –
Pyrofabs, in EBRI, and then move to reside in the countries where the
Pyrofabs are to be allocated; liaising with the different project
partners to provide them with the specifications of resources needed for
the demonstration tests; producing a procedure on how to obtain results
from the mass balance calculations and sample analysis; providing
technical advice and facilitate training of BioenNW partner staff on how
to operate the Pyrofabs; producing a Risk Assessment and Safe Operating
Procedure of the Pyrofabs; facilitating the procurement of feedstocks;
organising samples analysis, liaising with external laboratories. The
role will require travelling extensively across Europe between January
and June 2015

You will be a highly a motivated researcher with a proven track record
in delivering solutions for the continued research into pyrolysis
systems. In addition you should have proven expertise in independent
development and designing of specialised equipment and new laboratory
techniques and methodologies whilst having the ability to conduct
independent research and to supervise research staff. Experience of
managing research projects is essential.

You should have a PhD or a similar degree with a strong focus on thermal
processes for biomass conversion.

(source: Jobs at Aston).

7th-Jul-2014 12:53 pm - UK university staff tenure rates
pic#111812164 bunsen burner

A UK higher education agency has published the rates of both open and fixed term staff (the ten most extreme values shown)

The UK average rate of open contracts at UK universities is about 35 %; how does this compare internationally?

4th-Jun-2014 04:20 pm - why and how to collaborate? HELP
Hi All. I have a new, permanent post at a university, and I'm confused about the process of academia, particularly collaborations. What are collaborations FOR and how do I initiate them and get the most out of them? I'm often at a loss when meeting and talking to people who could be potential collaborators. What to say and what to do as a result? I may well sound clueless. I've got this far through hard work and good luck, but I don't think I can sustain this without playing the game better. I love you all, thankyou.
20th-May-2014 11:17 am - Summer Academic Working Groups 2014
Summer Academic Working Groups are now forming for the 2014 season. Working groups are clusters of scholars working in related fields or on related topics who agree to exchange work in progress and feedback on a regular basis during the unstructured summer months. Participants often find that the deadlines provided by such a group are at least as valuable to their summer productivity as the feedback itself.

Participation is open to academics of all levels and disciplines, and there is no charge to participate. More information and the registration form are available at http://lpowner.jayandleanne.com/sawg. The deadline for first-round clusters is Friday, 30 June, with initial postings due Wednesday, 4 June.

Please feel free to circulate this announcement widely. 2013 participants will also receive an email with this information.
12th-May-2014 11:28 am - Transcribing research interviews
Hi Everyone,

I checked the tags and poked around the site (which I've been watching for a long time), but didn't find anything on this topic, so here goes; hope it's not repetitive.

My experience hiring transcriptionists for my master"s researchCollapse )

Since then, however, freelancer-finding sites seem to have proliferated exponentially, and I'm having a hard time figuring out if any are discernibly better or worse or more or less legit than others. I also really feel like I got lucky with my transcriptionist last time, and that things could very easily have gone poorly. So I'm wondering if anyone has had luck with a particular site or service, or has any words of warning based on his or her experience hiring a transcriptionist, or has any other ideas about ways to do this.

Thanks in advance!
5th-May-2014 12:02 pm - Further academic revolution
pic#111812164 bunsen burner

Further to an earlier post, temporary academic professors continue to revolt in order to improve relatively poor working conditions.

Since it has been stated before that the situation of temporary academic staff is not "new" news(!), why is the media becoming more aware now of this scenario?

26th-Apr-2014 09:30 am - Peer review etiquette
During the peer review process, how much revision can be done?

One of my papers is at the 2nd-review stage and the journal's stated that if we don't satisfy the reviewers this time around our paper will be rejected. I'm making the changes that were requested about 'my' sections of the paper and I trust my co-author to do the same for 'her' sections. But here's the awkward bit. For 'my' sections (the stats) I asked advice from a friend who's better at stats than I am. He's given good advice and my own thoughts have moved on, after mulling over the reviewers' comments. My friend also gave advice about other aspects of the paper. Aspects which don't seem to have bothered the reviewers at all.

My friend (who happens to be one of the people who turned me onto R, years ago) gave good advice. I'll use it next time I write a paper. But I'm not at all sure we should make changes at this stage, beyond the reviewers' comments. Would you?
20th-Apr-2014 11:22 am - Walmartisation of academia
pic#111812164 bunsen burner

This post published in 'Hightower lowdown' about the "Walmartisation" of the aspiring academic made for a rather depressing read. Has the state of American academia already spread to other parts of the world? Would unionisation help, or is it merely a minor delay to the inevitable?

Maybe I should abandon the increasingly unrealistic dream...

For those curious, this post was encountered in the 'Diaspora' network; see here

13th-Apr-2014 01:51 pm - Refusal to be a referee?
Hello again, anonymous academics.
Further to my previous post I've just had a rather confusing reply from one of my ex-supervisors. My email to them said "On a separate note, I'm now in the final few months of my post-doc here at Western so I'm starting to look for a new job, ideally one which includes some teaching/lecturing. Are you both happy to be named as referees in any applications I send out?"
Her reply says "Regarding your application, I am afraid I cannot be your referee on this one as I am already the referee for someone else. Good luck!"

Now, either she's misunderstood what I've said, thinks I'm referring to one specific job opening, and feels there's a conflict of interest (seems unlikely, where would she have got that?), or she's refusing to be a referee for me at all, without explaining why (rather out of character; she's usually fairly upfront if she thinks there's a problem, and she hasn't mentioned anything being amiss).

So I need to reply asking her to clarify whether she's unable to be a referee for one particular position, or whether she would prefer not to be named as a referee at all. What's the most tactful but clear way of wording that?
11th-Apr-2014 12:11 pm - Reference etiquette
AA-ers, some advice please. I finished my PhD 18 months ago, and am now in a post-doc research position, but since it ends in six months, I'm job-hunting. I've found a couple of positions to apply for, and hopefully there will be more, but the first two close next week. My current boss has said he's happy to be a referee for me, and I am assuming that my PhD supervisors will too, as they were referees for me last time round. However, I've emailed them to check that that's OK, and so far I have had no response. Apparently they are both quite busy at the moment. One of them tends to respond to email immediately or not at all; once it's off his front page it's forgotten. The other often doesn't read past the initial part of an email, and if it doesn't immediately interest her, she doesn't get any further, and as the email I sent had some other stuff at the beginning, I'm not entirely hopeful that I'll get a response from her either.
So, do I wait and hope, drop them another line getting straight to the point and hoping for a quick response, or send in the applications and let them know they are referees, on the assumption that they'll be fine with it?
25th-Mar-2014 01:41 am - Fun with reviews
Oh no!
I just got some scathing reviews.  Essentially, I had two primate parasitologists fling feces at me.  In a few days, I will be perky enough to start crafting my much more professional, yet even more scathing replies.  In the meantime, I could use some cheering up.  I'll take any stupid reviewer joke you'd care to offer.
24th-Mar-2014 05:42 pm - Using the Wrong Title
Box Dude
A group of us from grad school got together recently to catch up.  In the course of discussions it came to our attention that one of our former classmates was using the wrong title.  This person introduced themselves as professor at a big city community college.  We all were relatively familiar with the college so we knew this particular community college employed a lot of adjuncts but only awards full-time faculty the title of professor or instructor.  The adjuncts are all referred to as adjunct professor or adjunct instructor. Because we were familiar with the college we also knew that this department only has 2 full-time faculty and that the competition to get those slots, when they open up, is fierce. A casual conversation with a mutual friend in the department quickly determined that the person I know from grad school is not a professor, but is an adjunct.  Normally I'd chalk this up mishearing the conversation or something, however they printed their own business cards and have their own website that clearly says "Professor [FirstName LastName] at [Big City] Community College."

Several of us have attempted to point out that it's not cool to misuse a title in this way and that it's a good way to start drama in their department.  This person insists that "it's no big deal" and "everyone does it".  

So, academics_anon, is this a big deal?  What would happen if someone did the same in your department?

[Something similar happened at my university and the department head required all of the incorrect business cards be destroyed. That person didn't have a website but they did get quite a bit of grief (they were staff, not faculty).]
17th-Jan-2014 10:46 am - TT applying for TT jobs
I'm a first year assistant professor in a social science field at X second-tier state research university. My job is okay, but the town I live in totally sucks and my colleagues aren't near enough to my subfield or research interests to be stimulating -- basically, I'm the token X studies person. So, I'm on the market again this year. The perfect job, pretty much tailored for me, has come up at the first tier  R1 in the same state. I'd have amazing colleagues there. One of my mentors is on the committee and the department is recruiting me pretty keenly. I got invited to campus.

Meanwhile, my current department specifically hired me to build institutional collaborations with the R1 and my mentor. Now that the R1 is hiring, there's a lot of speculation in my current department about whether I'm applying for it and some anxiety about me leaving. I'd really like advice on how to handle this. Right now the practical question is, do I tell my current Chair I was invited to campus? Is it fair to ask the hiring department to keep my name off Facebook/twitter/website when they're publicizing my talk? Or should I be above board and anticipate the inevitable gossip machine by being open about going on the market, and risk having to stay in a department where people don't trust me/disapprove of me because I'm not excited about staying?

I'd like some advice on the general etiquette of applying for TT positions once you're already on the tenure-track, too.

(By the way this is a burner account, for obvious reasons.)
7th-Jan-2014 01:07 pm(Weak! No subject.)
purple porcupine
Yay! I have a Skype interview on Thursday, with Big State U where my husband is currently tenure-track! The second-best possible outcome! (After both of us getting offers in a city we'd rather live in, which... is not happening.)

Obviously, the main reason I'm interested in Big State U is because it solves my two-body problem. Obviously, when they ask why I'm interested in Big State U I'm not going to say that.

But they will probably ask me why I'm living in this city while finishing my PhD for Private U 250 miles away. And they definitely know I'm living here, because I taught as an adjunct for them this fall (one of the classes that I know this position would be teaching, so that's good, and it's something I definitely want to talk about in the interview).

When they ask that, there's pretty much no getting around mentioning that my husband is a professor at Big State U. How bad or good is this?

As far as I can tell, BSU has no particular spousal hiring policy, and these departments are in different colleges so administratively there is little incentive for spousal hires. So on the one hand, I'm worried this will give away the fact that this is the main reason I'm interested in BSU and kill my chances. On the other hand, they'll know I'm extremely likely to take the job if offered.

Is there an optimal way to word/handle this to minimize potential damage?
27th-Dec-2013 01:55 pm - Rant
I am writing grant proposals.
Actually, I am delaying writing grant proposals because I am working on a book, that's far more interesting, career prospects be damned.
But the knowledge of the looming deadlines adds to the X-mas blues, so here goes...

We scientists slavishly write grant proposals begging for amounts of money some people spend in a few days.

The said grant money provided by the governments to the scientists is spent in two ways. One, salaries of students and postdocs, whom we train. Most of them will go into industry.

Two, equipment and consumables (chemicals etc.), that are purchased from profit-seeking industrial entities.

Ergo, scientific enterprise is yet another channel via which money flows from the taxpayer to deep pockets of  the executives businesses.
30th-Nov-2013 12:43 pm - Useful smartphone apps?
Hi everyone,
  Out of curiosity, what (scientifically/professionally/academically useful) apps do you learned people have installed on your smartphones? :)
I am in hard sciences, but I am curious to hear from other branches of human endeavor, as well.

19th-Nov-2013 12:04 am - undergraduate journals
apollo and daphne
So -- what does everyone think about undergraduate "journals," and the like? The whole concept strikes me as awful. Is it actually bad for a student to "publish" in such a journal, though, or is it neutral, or even a positive mark of enthusiasm, in your judgment?

EDIT: I'm really interested in what those of you who have served on admissions committees in the humanities think about students who have "published" their writing sample vs. one who has not. It seems that you all view it as a good thing?

Question two, then: what would you think about a candidate for a job, say, whose crappy undergrad student work you discover on googling for them? Do people pass it over as cute juvenilia? But I'm sure there are people who would hold it against the candidate, subconsciously or otherwise. (This is what kept me from even thinking seriously about trying to "publish" my undergraduate thesis, say, back in the day.)

Background: The faculty in my department strongly believe that graduate students are well served by having one publication (in a real journal, obviously), but that even that isn't obligatory, when going on the market. The main thing is to have a good dissertation (minor thing, that). Some of them have been known to say things like "graduate student conferences are a complete waste of time." So they are very "old school" in that regard. Yet my university (including this department) seems to have a strong culture of undergraduate journals. Some of my former students are involved in one of them, and another was considering submission. The concept seemed awful to me because I feel like those students should be developing their academic skills or broadening their horizons instead of playing at "professionalization," but clearly this is a minority view in this community. So thanks for your input -- I can give less snarky advice in the future.

EDIT 2: Thanks to everyone who commented!
purple porcupine
It's job app season! Woohoo! So much fun! Yay!

And I've come to an app that I'm unsure what direction to take on: I am applying to department where I got my undergrad degree. Since then, my training has taken me in quite different directions, theoretically and methodologically, from the department's standard operating procedures. I've learned a lot about sides of our field that I wasn't exposed to as an undergrad. But I see some really interesting connections between what I do and what some their recent (ish, since I graduated over a decade ago at least) hires do, even if we approach it in different ways, so I think I have a decent argument for my work fitting into the dept even if I would also be bringing in some very different views and approaches.

The question is, do I mention my history with the dept in my cover letter? Obviously, it's going to be on my CV. My husband (a TT prof) thinks no, due to many depts' (including this one) rules, spoken or not, about not hiring their own grad students. He thinks that that attitude might also spill over into undergrads and it would only be to my disadvantage to mention that I went there in my cover letter. Yet I'm having a bit of a hard time formulating how to discuss how my work fits in without at all mentioning my knowledge of the department that comes from, y'know, five years of taking their classes and working in their labs and such. It seems like the fact that I know this dept better than someone who just browsed the web page is a good thing, right?

So. I'm applying. It's on my CV. Do I mention it in the cover letter as well, or hope they don't even notice it on the CV?
14th-Nov-2013 02:26 pm - Mistaken identity
cloud chamber
As a young-ish new assistant prof, I keep getting asked if I'm a new grad student. I don't think I should care. But maybe I should spend more time on my hair and wear power suits instead of the usual professor-casual like everyone else? Maybe wear badges on my brownie sash that indicate "I have a PhD" and "I am an Assistant Professor?"

Does this happen to you? Do you care? 
26th-Oct-2013 04:46 pm - open access week World Bank video
pic#111812164 bunsen burner
Originally posted by energyresearch at open access week World Bank video

Have realised that the World Bank seminar event mentioned in my previous post is now accessible (but wasn't available live). Very interesting and thought-provoking. As the finalists of the ASAP commented, getting tenure assessment committees to recognise the extra work required to evaluate open access publishing remains a key barrier to growth in OA.

Off-topic, was impressed that the videos made use of the open source software; this is probably the first time that a non-geek institution has made extensive use of the WebM format (via 'Kaltura', it seems according to the web page source code) to deliver multi-media content. Well done, World Bank!

pic#111812164 bunsen burner

By definition, this post-doc survey may not be directly of interest to tenured academics, but each department is bound to have at one post-doc wondering "what next?".

Having just returned from a post-doc position in South Africa, this survey could equally have been global, not only Canada. Don't see the situation changing which is primarily beneficial to incumbents.

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