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WCC ECR Research Dissemination Workshop: Notes

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On Friday, the 10th of July 2020, the WCC UK hosted its annual early career research event, focusing on the dissemination of research. As the event was held entirely online, the organisers have provided notes for the various sessions as well as links for further resources on the topics discussed.

Live tweets from the event can be found at #WCCECR.

There are two playlists of videos for the event that can be found on the WCC UK’s YouTube channel: presentations and spotlight talks.

Publishing journal articles Q&A (Carol Atack)

Useful links:
List of Classics journals with submission instructions
Not-for-profit open-access repository site for sharing publications
ORCID sign up for a digital ID to identify you as an author across different platforms
Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society: distributes payments to members when UK-published articles are copied or books are borrowed from public libraries
WCC short-term mentoring scheme may be a useful resource to consult a mentor about specific issues relating to publishing an article

Key discussion points:

  • things to consider in turning a (section of a) PhD chapter or a conference presentation in a journal article
    • length!
    • tone (e.g. if a very conversational oral presentation)
    • specificity – e.g. a very broad lit review may be needed for a thesis chapter, should be more closely tied to precise topic of article. (If the lit review is outside of your specialist area, consult colleagues from that area for help!)
    • number of footnotes – long discursive notes that are necessary in a thesis can often be cut from articles
  • it’s fine to publish articles from your PhD before submission, though do consider how these may overlap with an eventual book (cf. monograph publishing below)
  • articles sent back for ‘revise and resubmit’ can still get published! NB these can take two routes – can be sent back to the same reviewers or to a different set; the latter case is going to be more like an initial submission than the former
  • if you receive a really unfair review, engage with the editor on it; taking it to an advisor or mentor to see how to proceed/respond is also a good idea
  • for multilingual authors, it’s a good idea to publish in a mixture of English and other language(s)

Publishing trade monographs talk (Issy Wilkinson)

Useful links:
Society of Authors: support and advice for authors

Key discussion points:

  • trade publishing aims at a general audience, with books marketed widely
  • two main kinds of relevant trade publication: narrative non-fiction (60-90,000 words) and illustrated non-fiction (25-50,000 words; more pictures!)
  • ways to find a publisher: go bookshopping! talk to independent booksellers, talk to colleagues
  • should you have an agent? they advocate/negotiate for you, but getting one without a completed MS is tricky; you’ll need to self-represent to get a book deal before MS completion. Small publishers are more likely to accept MSS without agents.
  • things editors will consider when commissioning a trade book: why publish this now? who is the audience? what are the competitor publications?
  • you can approach editors directly; they may also commission books based on previous publications, journalism, public events, social media…keep profiles up-to-date!
  • book proposal should be succinct and direct, specifying audience (age, what shops they visit, what else they read…). check out what books are bestsellers in your area. tone should be similar to that of a cover blurb. and personalise your emails to the editor you’re writing to!
  • remember in trade publishing deadlines are REAL 

Publishing trade and academic monographs Q&A (Issy Wilkinson and Michael Sharp)

Trade-specific points

  • IW tries to find new/less-published authors – maybe half of her authors are ECRs; specialism is more important than experience
  • market for ebooks is increasing for narrative non-fiction, but not for illustrated, and in general hard-copy sales are not being pushed out by ebooks
  • point at which contracts are issued varies – may be based on just an initial proposal, or on a complete MS
  • deadlines are firmer and turnarounds quicker in trade publishing than academic: a couple of years is really the maximum time between agreement and publication. other commitments can be factored in when making agreement, but timing is just less flexible
  • the key difference is that trade books are not new research, which is what takes most of the time for academic publications
  • co-authorship can lighten the workload or lead to its own issues; it’s more common to have multiple contributors to a volume with a single main editor

Academic-specific points

  • for the ‘thesis book’ – it’s worth embargoing your thesis if it’s deposited in an online repository as some presses will not publish it if it’s freely available (not CUP – MS regards the book as sufficiently different from the thesis that it doesn’t matter – you will need to revise it for publication anyway!)
  • for the ‘second book’, most people approach a publisher with an idea, perhaps with some related articles published. a good first book plus strong proposal including sample chapters can lead to a provisional contract before the MS is completed
  • NB contracts for first-time authors often specify that publisher is to be given first refusal on the author’s second book
  • publishers may issue a ‘letter of interest’ if needed for e.g. applications – this will come after some input from readers, enough for editor to know they are interested, but is not a commitment to publish as a contract is
  • generally a contract is only issued after a full MS is submitted (though no need to have fully sorted out e.g. conforming to house style at this stage)
  • authors who are not in academic jobs are just as welcome to publish as those who are; time-frames can be flexible (deadline specified in agreement can be up to 4-5 years away; to allow for longer timeframe it’s possible to wait until later in writing process before making agreement)
  • co-authorship is the exception, not the norm, for monographs (as opposed to edited volumes)

General

  • you can include work previously published e.g. as articles or book chapters – rule of thumb is something like up to 1/3 (academic) or half (trade) of the complete work.
  • Agreements with article/chapter publishers should mean you are able to re-use your own content in the book, though you may need to notify them
  • pros/cons of trade vs academic publishing: trade books have larger reach, potential greater impact; but may be less of a contribution to ECR academic CV

Research plans for job and funding applications Q&A (Naoise Mac Sweeney and James Clackson)

Key discussion points

  • Start looking for postdoc jobs/funding early – you never know when e.g. the perfect postdoc will come up – but final year of PhD is when to start seriously applying
  • If you know of people who are applying for/have got project funding in your area, by all means get in touch to ask about opportunities even if formal job ads not yet published
  • post-PhD projects should be connected to your PhD but new — e.g. expand outwards to a bigger topic; transfer the question to a different dataset/context; comparative analysis
  • When writing research plans, show drafts to as many people as possible — including non-specialists (especially for funding applications and JRFs); ask to see previous successful (or unsuccessful!) applications
  • You can use current trends/debates to make your research topical for an interdisciplinary committee – but remember research doesn’t always need to be topical, just to matter to your particular discipline
  • Ditto, if you can show an impact on adjacent fields of research, do – but a single project doesn’t need to do everything: sell it on its own strengths
  • When writing for people outside your own discipline, tell them what the current debate is, what your contribution to this is, why it matters
  • Job applications imply an applicant needs to do everything – you can’t tell from them what criteria are actually key for a particular department’s. Look at department members/activities, esp those on interview panel – e.g. for impact, look at previous REF submissions (environment statement, impact case-studies) – different departments will have different focuses on e.g. media work vs local community engagement
  • When choosing an institution for a funding application, the most important thing is the benefit to your own research, rather than strategy about e.g. how many previous grants they’ve won
  • As well as individual research, research plans can certainly include things like organising a conference/journal special issue/edited volume. Make sure these include a proper research output from you – ie a paper and/or intro/conclusion with substantial research content, not just a summary of contents
  • Value of (published or proposed) trade publications in applications varies – for a job it can be a plus, showing wider impact/knowledge transmission/communication with wider audience; less so for a research grant. More traditional institutions can still see trade books as less ‘serious’ than academic.
  • Ditto other forms of wider communication like blogging, running workshops, etc – the system has not yet figured out how to properly value things like this. Academic publications should still be the priority. NB that people interviewing you will look at your social media if you have it.
  • Differences between applications for jobs and funding:
    • for a job, it’s about the whole person, not just the research project; but can be harder to sell interdisciplinary work in a job app than a funding proposal
    • Proposing to spend time on turning PhD thesis into a book is fine in a job application, not for a funding application – these expect to fund new research

BBC/AHRC New Generation Thinkers Q&A (John Gallagher)

  • Application: pitch for a radio show plus review of recent cultural item
  • Pitch for show should be based on your research but potentially broadened in scope (e.g. JG’s was about phrasebooks – his area of research – but expanded beyond early modern period)
  • Review: good idea to review something unrelated to your research – showing breadth/range (e.g. JG reviewed a recent novel). Subject doesn’t have to be “highbrow”!
  • Anyone at an AHRC-funded institution (including e.g. cultural heritage orgs as well as unis) is eligible to apply; no previous media experience required but having some definitely isn’t a disqualifier
  • 60-person shortlist -> workshops in groups of 20 with BBC producers and AHRC people; talks, workshopping and delivering pitches and answering questions on them (e.g. unpicking jargon, backing up big claims, giving examples – reacting on your feet is what’s important), simulated radio show discussion
  • Just because there’s already a high-profile person who’s often in the media talking about your area doesn’t mean you can’t apply/won’t be successful – aim in first instance is to create interesting programmes rather than finding new ‘go-to’ people in particular topics
  • Benefits of programme – as well as the obvious media exposure, there are benefits in expanding presentation skills (helpful for teaching!), answering the ‘so what’ questions about research, and definite CV benefits
  • Question about support provided for dealing with potential harassment arising from media exposure, especially as e.g. a woman or person of colour. JG has experienced a lot of discussion around potentially sensitive subjects, but not so much about protection of individuals; senses that producers are increasingly aware of this as an issue but the support mechanisms are not necessarily very strong. But NB a social media presence is not required either for application or if successful.

Knowledge exchange projects (Emma Cole)

Useful Links:
South West Creative Technology Network mailing list
Pervasive Media Studios newsletter
Bristol and Bath creative R&D
Creative Clusters Programme

Key discussion points:

  • Possible starting-points: local meet-ups, mailing lists/networking events for organisations you might want to collaborate with
  • When setting up a collaboration, be clear on IP ownership, and who has control over which elements of the project — best to have elements where the timeline is under your own control in case of external delays affecting your research/publications from project.
    • Consult uni legal teams for advice on contracts, NDAs, etc. Note that universities will often want to control IP.
  • Start small and build up – e.g. having an existing collaboration (with seed money, or even unfunded) can help gain larger-scale funding to scale up the project
  • Ditto in job applications – existing projects with room for growth and potential to attract further funding are attractive
  • Institutional backing can help – e.g. some funding opportunities are only available to those with (permanent) uni jobs – but there’s also a freedom to explore possibilities when not on a permanent/research contract
  • consider that you may wish to borrow research methods from other disciplines when involved in KE but that you’ll have to explain clearly how you’ve adapted them
  • there could be all kinds of ways you could participate in KE – let your imagination run wild!

Other useful resources:
Classicists’ PDF Society (Discord)

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