Image: my laptop – I've been spending a lot of time here lately...
Like many who are not schoolteachers, NHS staff or other key workers, in these recent weeks I have been getting used to spending most of my time at home, getting very acquainted with Zoom and the various tools we are using for online teaching at the university where I work. It’s been quite enlightening (and at times quite shocking!) to see how this period of enforced restriction has affected my sense of time: little jobs can stretch out to fill a whole day, and often I will look at the clock (or the calendar!) and be startled to see how much time has passed.
A major challenge for younger academics is the increasing prevalence of both fixed-term contracts and institutional mobility. A year ago I wrote about moving from a university to a business environment, and now I'm back in a university again, with another shift in my research area. So I thought it might be helpful to share the story of these transitions and what I've learned through them.
In this post I’d like to reflect on a tension that I consider to be quite widespread within academia. ‘Critical thinking’ is often extolled as one of the core virtues necessary for the intellectual life: much university-level teaching is geared towards developing this skill, and it is viewed as foundational for effective research.
Is gentleness something academics should aspire to? If a colleague or a peer described you as gentle, would you be pleased, or a little worried?
It won't be news to anyone reading this blog that life as a researcher – perhaps particularly life as a doctoral student – can be, and often is, very isolating. You're working on a niche topic, which few other people may understand or seriously care about; your day-to-day research is self-driven and self-directed. Particularly in the humanities, there is often little to no organised time with peers.
'Where do you see yourself in five years' time?' It's a classic interview question – and one which I'm very glad I've not (yet) been asked. Have you ever been tempted to answer it with 'If it is the Lord's will, I will live and do this or that' (James 4:15)?