Category Archives: practice

Sara Ahmed’s resignation from Goldsmith’s

I have been very moved by Sara Ahmed’s resignation from Goldsmith’s College, University of London, over its failure to deal adequately with sexual harassment: “I have resigned in protest against the failure to address the problem of sexual harassment. I have resigned because the costs of doing this work have been too high.” She has written about this here and here.

Sara Ahmed, Queer Phenomenology

Sara Ahmed, Queer Phenomenology

I don’t know Professor Ahmed personally, but I have found her work to be stimulating and tremendously helpful in my own thinking (I’ve been raving about her book Queer Phenomenology to anyone who will listen for quite a while now!). Having recently left a university, I know that it’s not easy to do, and I can’t imagine doing so would have been easy for her, even though the circumstances  of her leaving are very different to mine. She used her agency in the context she was in to chose to leave over the issue of sexual harassment at her institution, understanding this as a feminist act.

Goldsmith’s, like all modern institutions, prides itself on its equality and diversity policies (Goldsmith’s, like so many, devotes a page on their website to this topic), but as Ahmed points out, these policies mean little if the problem of sexual harassment is allowed to continue; I also know this from being a trade union case worker. The “performativity of saying diversity” is something my sister-in-law, Eike Marten, has written about in the German context (her book on this topic is being published by Routledge later this year), and the singular failure of institutions to adequately address these topics despite a string of Athena Swan and other awards is something that Ahmed’s actions have highlighted. Identifying mechanisms to address this problem is the next step, particularly in the light of the increasing number of cases beginning to appear in the mainstream (academic) press, and in my view this is what makes Ahmed’s resignation at this time so important.

Universities tend to protect famous (almost always) older male scholars from the consequences of their sexual harassment of (almost always) younger female scholars. I know this personally: right in the middle of my undergraduate finals, I was a witness in a university procedure against a senior professor who had sexually harassed me and many other undergraduates – men and women – over a protracted period of time (and yes, choosing a date for the hearing in the middle of the exam period was, I think, deliberate on the part of the university). The whole thing was largely covered up, and the professor in question continued his work in academia and the church; unfortunately, a recent FOI request I made to Aberdeen University resulted in no documents being found on this topic, and as he is still alive and active in his field, I probably shouldn’t name him publicly even now, for fear of litigation. That happened in 1990, but Ahmed’s resignation a quarter of a century later clearly indicates nothing much has changed in UK academia.

It’s high time it did.

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Securing research data through encryption and related issues

I am occasionally asked what all the encryption stuff on my Contact/PGP page is about.  For some time I have been meaning to write about the importance of data encryption for researchers, but it is quite a daunting task to write a thorough blog post on such a topic.

Thankfully, someone else has done this!  A colleague gave me a link to a blog posting by Jonatan Kurzwelly that covers questions of email and file encryption and much more, and I would strongly echo all of the points here:

Encrypting Ethnography: Digital Security for Researchers

I first encountered the issue of encryption in the mid-1990s, when working as a lobbyist for the UK churches on issues related to Israel/Palestine, Iraq and Sudan.  Email was just beginning to be used in academic circles, but was not yet something that the UK churches used much.  In fact, although I was based at the Church of Scotland offices, I was given an email address through the University of Edinburgh’s Centre for African Studies to help with the work on Sudan.  Several of the informants for my human rights work in Sudan had access to email because they were attached to the university in Khartoum, and very quickly it became necessary to find secure ways to communicate if my informants were to stay safe.  This soon also became an option used by Iraqi informants.

I was therefore one of the early users of Phil Zimmermann’s Pretty Good Privacy software, also known as PGP – in those days it was all command-line stuff in DOS and pretty complicated for a non-cryptographic specialist like me.  However, none of my informants were endangered, and we were able to do some important work, lobbying in the Westminster parliament for the rights of disadvantaged people in these countries.  I have continued to use PGP over the years as it has become simpler to use, and now it is available in easily accessible form through GPGTools etc.

GPG Keychain Access App

I strongly encourage the use of GPGTools and all the other myriad security methods outlined in Kurzwelly’s blog posting.  As the recent leaks by Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden and others have shown, data is not secure unless you make it secure.  You need to begin with the premise that ALL email and communications are being read (because they are, even if just by a machine) – and then the need for secure communications becomes immediately apparent.  Data stored on servers etc. is also insecure, as Kurzwelly’s blog posting makes clear. Researchers are not exempt from this – particularly if their sources may be putting themselves in danger through what they reveal.  No research outcome is worth putting other people at risk.

So that is what the PGP key data on my Contact/PGP page is about.

Secure your data!

The xenophobia at the heart of the UK affects everything, including our university system

Today I read a rather brilliant article about the American justice system by Albert Burneko: The American Justice System Is Not Broken.  Along the same lines, I would argue that neither, of course, is our immigration system in the UK broken, even though some claim it is: yes, it discriminates on the basis of race, but that is entirely deliberate. Xenophobia is an integral part of the system.  All the major Westminster parties are racist in this way: the Conservative and Liberal Democrat government, and the opposition Labour party (see, for example, this interesting comment from the Spectator, which I, of course, read differently to the way they do!). The parties’ pandering to UKIP probably makes this worse, but we should be clear that none of the parties can legitimately use that as an excuse: they all espoused, and when in government operated, racist policies long before UKIP was in any way a significant force.

Xenophobia and racism, of course, permeate our society, as does discrimination on the basis of class, gender, disability, age and so on. Our political parties reflect that, but they also create it: this is a dialectical relationship, as the parties escalate their racism in order to (as they see it) appeal to more voters, who are presumed to be racists too (incidentally, realising this is what the parties think of us, the voters, leads to interesting thoughts… but that’s for another time, maybe!).

I see this all the time in the context of our country’s university system, and thought it might be interesting to give some examples and consequences. After all, especially at postgraduate level, our universities attract students from around the world, and some of our most able students are those who have gone to great lengths and endured enormous financial and emotional pressures to study here: often they are away from their families and friends for years at a time, with relatively little money, in a strange environment (and therefore with few, if any, support networks, at least to begin with) – and yet often they still produce brilliant work.  I don’t wish to devalue the achievements of UK students, but to produce excellent research under such circumstances does require additional effort and personal resolve.  EU students have it hard compared to UK students (language, unfamiliar context etc.), but non-EU students face even more hurdles – at least EU students have the right to come here and study without visa complications.

That is where, for non-EU students, the xenophobia and racism that permeates our society becomes immediately apparent.  Most non-EU students come here under the Tier 4 visa system, and universities generally have the right to enable students to come here under that scheme.  But if not, the process is complex.  It is also costly: £310 plus £310 for each dependant (so if you are careless enough to have a partner and children before studying and are unreasonable enough to want them to come with you, that gets very expensive!).

Now, let’s presume you have stumped up the money for the visa. Next you have to pay the university fees. This is the first time we see the racism that our political parties espouse in their policies reflected beyond the government.  I don’t think most people realise this, but fees for students in the EU and outwith the EU are different.  For example, if you want to do a PhD with me (yes, please do enquire!), my university charges the following at the moment (and some universities charge more):

EU students (incl. UK)
Non-EU students Mode of study
£3,996 £12,000 Full time
£1,998 £6,000 Part time

Oh, and if you’re here on a Tier 4 visa, you can’t do your PhD part-time, so forget the £6,000 option.  Of course, being a full-time student means you might struggle, for example, to do a part-time job on a supermarket checkout to help pay for your fees and living costs, especially if English is not your first language and you need all the hours in the day to read and understand complex source material or theoretical texts for your research. That’s just tough: be rich, or struggle (see how neatly class is intertwined with the racism here?).

If you need to leave the UK, perhaps for research fieldwork, or to visit your family, getting back into the UK is not necessarily straightforward.  An American PhD student of mine was stopped at Heathrow and nearly not allowed back into the UK, despite having the appropriate student visa – this is just ‘simple’ xenophobia! The immigration official at first pretended not to believe she was returning to study, with the conversation at one stage moving to comments on how pretty she was, and that she was surely just trying to get back into the UK to marry a boyfriend and stay here (all this in the fevered imagination of the border agency person – there was no boyfriend, and she was coming back to meet her supervisors and carry on her study).  That conversation could have been very different had she not been white and not been from the USA, and I know of other students who have been harassed and delayed at airports despite having the right student visa.  If they already have the right visa, they should be allowed straight through the airport immigration checks, rather than face arbitrary harassment.

Let’s presume that you complete your studies on time and graduate – congratulations, that’s a great achievement, and you, your family, and your supervisors should all be incredibly proud! Now, let’s presume that you didn’t just spend your time in a library, but maybe met a local and fell in love! That’s wonderful, and then, maybe with a year or two still to go on your student visa, you get married – congratulations again, that’s lovely, and everyone will be very happy for the two of you and wish you well for your married life together.  That is how it should be.  Unless, of course, you happen to be in the situation of one of our students a couple of years ago: as I recall it, her new husband had a daughter from a previous relationship and lived near to her and the child’s mother so he could see his daughter regularly.  He had sustained some kind of injury at work, and could now only work part-time, thereby automatically lowering his annual salary.  Despite this, the newly-married couple had more than enough money for their needs, and lived quite happily together – until she graduated and her visa ran out.  The UK government pretends to value families (the odious Iain Duncan Smith has recently even introduced a ‘family test’ for new laws), but the reality is that they don’t care about families unless they are wealthy (again, this is where class and xenophobia are linked). Our former student could only stay with her husband if between them they had a certain level of household income, otherwise she had to leave.  No amount of protestation about his situation and the lack of job opportunities for her in a difficult economic climate made any difference: she eventually had to return to America.  Her husband then had a choice to make: did he move to America with his wife (which he could do automatically, being married to an American citizen: their laws appear to be less inhuman in this regard), or did he stay in Scotland so that he could see his young daughter regularly? It’s an impossible decision to make. So much for our government pretending to support families.

But let’s forget about that crazy little thing called love, and presume you just want to stay in the country and work here, having made friends, felt welcomed by the people around you, and are happy in the town you are in.  You might struggle to get an appropriate academic job (it is extremely difficult: “only 19 per cent of UK PhD holders were in higher education research roles three and a half years after getting their doctorate”), but you might be in perfectly decent work, even if it doesn’t pay you that much. High pay, such as academics get, is not necessarily what all want – it’s very nice, certainly, but security, purpose and so on are rewarding for many, and a lot of jobs offer that.  But doing something like this is basically impossible.  Oh yes, the government will pretend it isn’t, but I have seen post-PhD students from non-EU countries try to secure employment with an income level that will satisfy the requirements of the UK government, and in most circumstances it simply can’t be done (unless you’re on a very narrow list of desired professions), especially not for people with humanities backgrounds.

There are exceptions, of course, where certain kinds of visas exist that allow work to be done by specialists without regard to income levels, but it requires a level of commitment from institutions like universities that, understaffed as most administrative departments are, is an incredible stretch.  Too often, there is too much expected of such people, and as they seek to ensure they do things properly, urgency and deadlines slip, and what seems like a perfectly simple thing to do is made more complex to the point where the human objective – helping someone stay in the country who can offer something helpful and useful to our society and where they might be happy – is lost.  Overstretched people often end up having to do things that effectively dehumanise situations, and this is neither their fault nor their moral failing.  Rather, it is that the whole immigration system is so deliberately complex and the penalties for institutions that fail to observe them so severe, that folk are terrified of failing to comply (the London Metropolitan University crisis from 2012 is etched into the mind of every university recruitment and personnel director in the country, I’m sure).

Our government’s policies are constructed in such a way that we don’t see the xenophobia and racism in our institutions unless we actually look for it, but all of our public life is infected by this it. The examples I have given point in part to the process whereby xenophobia and racism is embedded in our institutions – it’s not that people who work in our institutions are xenophobic or racist (well, some might be, but I’m arguing they are not necessarily so and I would never presume they are unless I had evidence to the contrary). People in our institutions have to come to decisions that reflect the principles laid down by the government – and these principles are the problem, reflecting values and positions the parties think we, the voters, want them to embody. We urgently need to disabuse our politicians of these views and find a way to exercise real control over our parties and government in order to address these problems.  Every election offers that opportunity, and I encourage support for parties that explicitly don’t pursue racism and xenophobia but seek to undo the damage the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and Labour parties have done to our public life (I think this basically means the Scottish or English and Welsh Greens, the Scottish Socialists, the Scottish Nationalists, and Plaid Cymru… any more?).

Why I am on strike today

If Stirling staff or students email me today, this is the out-of-office message they will receive, explaining why I am striking today.
—–
Thank you for your email.

I am on strike today as called for by UCU and two other unions, and am therefore not responding to emails.

I do not take this action lightly, and offer an explanation of why I am striking below.

I will endeavour to respond to all enquiries as soon as possible.

Note that I will not be paid today, but our union executive has urged senior management to use any deductions of pay from strike day for student hardship funds (specifically suggesting the Discretionary & Childcare Fund).

Stirling Student Union, in a vote on 29.10., voted overwhelmingly in support of the academics’ strike.

WHY I AM ON STRIKE
Unite, UNISON and UCU are calling for industrial action in support of a pay claim. Note that this explanation deals solely with the academics’ position, but a similar situation exists for staff represented by the other unions. The strike is seeking to rebalance normal academics’ pay in light of the strikingly healthy financial position that universities are in. The union explains this for the UK as a whole here: http://www.ucu.org.uk/index.cfm?articleid=6759.

In summary: since 2009 normal academics’ pay has fallen by around 13% in real terms. This is not because the employers cannot afford to pay more, it is because they choose not to. The sector as a whole (www.hesa.ac.uk) has over £1 billion in operating surpluses. According to HESA, in 2011/12, universities committed only 55.5% of their expenditure to staff, compared with 58% in 2001/2. Income from students continues to be robust: admissions are up by 7% on last year and level with the record year of 2011/12. What is happening? Many institutions have been building up cash reserves over recent years and paying their senior staff exorbitant amounts, and they are doing so at the expense of normal academics. Attacking staff in this way seriously undermines the investment in student teaching and academic research.

Specifically in the Stirling context, normal academics’ pay is being continually squeezed, whilst the university records large surpluses and senior management pay rockets:
– in 2011 the university recorded a £5,292,000 surplus (5.2% of income), staff costs of £57,650,000
– in 2012 the university recorded a £3,519,000 surplus (3.6% of income), staff costs of £57,660,000
Staff receiving high salaries have increased dramatically:
– £70,000 – £79,999 2011: 16 2012: 17
– £80,000 – £89,999 2011: 13 2012: 16
– £90,000 – £99,999 2011: 5 2012: 12
– £100,000 – £109,999 2011: 2 2012: 2
– £140,000 – £149,999 2011: 1 2012: 0
– £190,000 – £199,999 2011: 1 2012: 1
Total number of high earners 2011: 38 2012: 48
In 2011 and 2012, the Principal, Gerry McCormac, received a total of £224,000 (salary/benefits: £193,000, pension: £31,000).
(All this information is from the University’s Financial Statement: http://www.stir.ac.uk/about/publications/)

In contrast, academic pay for Lecturers, Senior Lecturers and Readers (pay for Professors is not public) has decreased in real terms by 13% since 2009. Details of rates of Stirling’s pay are available here: http://www.personnel.stir.ac.uk/salary-payroll/salary-scale.php – Lecturers start on Grade 7, and gradually move up the scale, usually year by year (I am on Grade 8, for example). Increases have been paltry: in August 2009, someone on point 37 (bottom of Grade 8) received £36,715 and four years later received £37,382, an increase of just under 1.82%, when average inflation month by month was about 3.45% (http://www.rateinflation.com/inflation-rate/uk-historical-inflation-rate?start-year=2009&end-year=2012) – so that is a clear pay cut in real terms. As I have shown above, the university can easily afford to pay more (and senior management are clearly doing that for themselves), but in common with other UK universities, Stirling is choosing not to do so for normal academics. National negotiations between the union and the universities have ground to a halt over the universities’ intransigence.

In order to further this pay claim we therefore, regrettably, need to engage in industrial action. I hope that you will understand why I am doing this, and whether you are a colleague or a student, I and my union colleagues would appreciate your support. I love working with my colleagues and my students, and I regret that the universities are forcing the issue to this extent.

If you are a member of academic staff who wishes to join the union and support the industrial action, click here: http://www.ucu.org.uk/index.cfm?articleid=2283.

Make your email work for you…

… rather than have you work for your email.

Many of us will have encountered the problem of email taking over: I can receive several hundred emails a day at times.  These come from a variety of sources:

  • students
  • immediate colleagues
  • useful administration (related directly to my work, usually in teaching)
  • other academics from beyond my institution
  • useless administration (the endless nonsense from central university services that all academics have to endure)
  • mailing lists
  • other

It is a struggle to deal with this volume of email, especially since much of it is not urgent.  Even if someone marks it as ‘urgent’ (as some university admin people like to do to everything they send), it is only urgent to them – and only rarely to me!  I used to wade through them all, file some away, respond to others immediately, but somehow still ended up with hundreds waiting to be dealt with in some way in my inbox.  J.P.E. Harper-Scott, a musicologist at Royal Holloway, has described a system to manage this volume of academic email, and at this juncture, you need to go and read his posting (click that link now: it’ll open in a new window/tab so you can easily come back to this page; don’t worry, I’ll wait for you…).

I wanted to add something to his system, because I do use it, but slightly differently.  I am an ‘early adopter’ of email, and I have most important emails I have ever sent or received going back almost two decades (yes, I have good backup routines – that’s a topic for another day).  I do use IMAP, but not to keep my email on a server.  There are various reasons for this that I won’t go into here, but if you do the same, or – like me – don’t want to use GoogleMail, the instructions below may help you.  My version of Harper-Scott’s system is slightly more cumbersome and has one notable disadvantage: because to-be-sent emails are connected to your email program, they will only be sent at pre-arranged times if your computer is on and your email program is running; if it is off, they will send when you next start your email program.  This is not a problem for me – if it is not for you, keep reading.

My instructions are oriented around using a Mac – if you still use a Windows computer, it is probably much the same.

Your email client program

Firstly: you need a better email program than Apple’s Mail.  A key function of Harper-Scott’s system is timing the sending of emails in advance, whether in the morning, or in the afternoon.  Apple’s Mail is functional but basic – and can’t do that (at least, not without resorting to Automator, which loses some Mail functionality and is clunky beyond anything you want to put up with; I’ve tried it, believe me on this).  There are two mainstream options for you that I am aware of: one is Microsoft’s email client, and the other is Thunderbird.  I try to have as little Microsoft software on my computer as possible, so the former is out of the question for me, but Thunderbird is a great piece of software.  Either will work.

Harper-Scott does not sort emails, relying instead on search facilities.  I can’t quite let go of filing my emails, but I have minimised doing so, recognising that email client searches have improved enormously from my early days when filing was essential or nothing would ever be found again.  My main filing system of ‘dealt with and just need to keep’ emails (and that obviously includes almost all emails I’ve sent) is organised by year, so this year’s folder looks like this:

2013
– Stirling (ALL my university emails)
– Einzelpersonen (ALL emails to or from non-Stirling individuals)
– Organisationen (ALL emails to or from non-Stirling organisations)

Yeah, I know, German – quirky, huh?  When you have nearly 20 years of emails and the main folders have always had German names, you just stick with it…

Then I have a few other temporary subfolders in the Inbox (yes, these have English names…!) that I’ll describe below.  Some of these are automatically filled, and others are manually dealt with:

Inbox
– internal
– Programme Director
– students
– print then file
– responses coming
– memos to read sometime

And this is how I use them: Thunderbird has simple to use filters that I have set to automatically move student email into the ‘students’ folder, and all other Stirling emails into the ‘internal’ folder (easy to do: undergraduate student addresses are in a uniform format so a filter for @students.stir.ac.uk catches them all; another similar filter deals with @stir.ac.uk which covers everyone else at the university).  My actual inbox now contains only emails from outside the university – so as soon as I download my emails, they are automatically sorted into three main categories, making it easier to deal with them.  Thunderbird helpfully marks folders with unread emails in two ways, in bold, and with the number of unread emails, for example:

Inbox (3)
– internal (12)
– Programme Director
– students (6)

I can now deal with these emails following Harper-Scott’s scheme.

But what is the Programme Director folder?  This concerns emails that come to me in my administrative role as Religion Programme Director.  I move ‘to-do’ emails in there and mark them as unread so that the folder name is bold and has a number.  These are things that I know I need to come back to very shortly.  If I think I will forget, I set myself an iCal reminder.

The other folders:

  • print then file: I can’t print long documents at home, but if a PhD student sends me her latest chapters for comments, or I receive papers for a meeting, I need to print these.  I put the email in here, and when I’m next in the office, I save and print the attachment, remove it from the email, and then file the email away.
  • responses coming: often these will be emails I have sent to someone and for which I need their response.  This is my reminder folder – if need be, I forward the email again.  Once the query has been dealt with – or the question is no longer relevant! 🙂 – the email is filed away in the relevant 2013 folder.
  • memos to read sometime: this is as inspiring as it sounds – these are mostly the tedious memos that go round the entire university dealing with subjects that I know are totally irrelevant to me, but that I feel I should read.  Sometime.  When I have a moment.  Just now I have a couple in there from September 2012: maybe I can get away with not reading them at all – after all, the world hasn’t stopped just because I haven’t read yet another amendment to regulation 18.24.3.7, has it?  Before you even start tutting: I am very aware that this folder’s sole purpose is to assuage guilt.  I know I should read these terribly important emails because many of them come from people who see themselves as terribly important (coincidentally, they’re often people at the top of the university hierarchy), but eventually any residual guilt is gone and I can file them away unread.  And the world tends to keep turning despite my dilatory approach to these emails…

Sending email at specified times

One of Harper-Scott’s key points concerns sending emails at specific times in the future.  I am convinced that this is absolutely essential if you want to keep control of your email and not let it control you.  Since adopting his system at the beginning of January I think I have sent two work emails (that concerned urgent pastoral matters for a student) outside the hours of 9-17h Monday-Friday, though I do, of course, write quite a number in the evenings and at the weekends.  As he points out, keeping to a standard working day is not just important for you, it is a moral issue in relation to your colleagues and students.  Read his post again if you need convincing of this (it’s ok, I’ll still be here when you’re finished…).

As I understand it, Microsoft email clients have a ‘send later’ function that you can use for this.  The default Thunderbird ‘Send Later’ function is not as fully featured – it’s a leftover from days when we had dial-up modems and lets you write emails that are then sent as soon as you go back online.  That’s obviously no use for delaying emails when most of us have broadband that is on all the time.  But… one of the glories of Thunderbird is that you can easily install plug-ins to do all kinds of things, and there is a clever one with the imaginative name ‘Send Later‘.  This allows you to specify exactly when an email should be sent, and it then stores it in your ‘drafts’ folder, ready to go.  You can customise the ‘Write:’ new message toolbar with the relevant buttons (right click the toolbar if you haven’t done this before, and a menu will open – only American format dates, but time is 24h!).  Mine now looks like this:

Thunderbird Send Later menu

Thunderbird Send Later menu

And that email will now go at 9:00 tomorrow morning – simple…  At the moment I have 24 emails in my drafts folder ready to go tomorrow morning, and one ready to go on 28. February concerning a document I was asked to complete and return – by 28. February.

Mobile telephones

One of my pre-reform email practices was to check and respond to emails in bed before getting up.  I also did this at night when about to go to sleep.  In bed!  My day bookended by email.  This is MADNESS.  But I know many others who do this, so it is a collective madness.  I would do this on my mobile telephone, and write replies to students and colleagues.  Who did I think would benefit from getting my thoughts on any subject at 6:30 in the morning, or at 23:50 at night?!  So I’ve stopped being so stupid, and now my telephone only has my work email turned on if I am away and need to use it to respond to email during the day.  If you have an iphone or ipad etc., it is very easy to turn your email on and off, and no settings or emails are lost.  This is how you do it: in the Settings menu, select Mail, Contacts, Calendars, and then select your work email.  Then turn it off (go on, you can do it!):

Work email off!

Work email off!

Doesn’t that feel good?  And if you have more than one work email (for example, I also co-manage an email account for a project we run in our department), do it for all of them, so that your main email settings screen looks like this:

ALL work email off!

ALL work email off!

Did you notice the time at the top of the screen?  It’s Sunday evening, so I don’t want to see my work email!  You’ll see that I’ve still left my personal email on – if my friends want to invite me to the cinema, I want to know about that.

I also have a basic folder system in operation on the IMAP server just for my mobile.  There are four folders:

– Stirling
– Einzelpersonen
– Organisationen
– to-do

Anything that can be filed away into one of my three archive folders is filed away, and every now and then I will copy these to my main computer.  The ‘to-do’ folder contains emails that I want out of my inbox because I’ve read them, but responding to them can wait until I get back to my main computer.

I hope this helps liberate you from your email, and allows you to use your email, rather than be beholden to it.  Comments on how you find this system, or alternative implementations, are welcome.

Finally, if you want a stimulating read, I’m about half-way through Harper-Scott’s newest book, and I can highly recommend it!

End the hypocrisy! A new academic blog

I have been a terrible hypocrite, and I want that to change.

I am actively involved in two main blogs: one, my personal blog that is mostly about photography and is based on my main website, and the other a joint blog for the Critical Religion Association (I am one of the writers and currently edit the blog).  And yet: despite encouraging (and to some extent demanding) that my research students write a self-reflective blog about their research, I have not done so myself!  So that is what this is going to be – and I will no longer feel such a hypocrite.

At the moment, I expect there to be two kinds of posting:

  1. ongoing reflections about my research, including occasional notes about books and articles I have read;
  2. practical notes about surviving in Higher Education in Scotland/the UK.

My first posting will almost certainly be something about reclaiming email, which sounds tedious, but is very important.  I’ll also write something before too long about the book I’m currently (trying) to write, which might be more stimulating.

I am aware that my schedule will almost certainly mean very irregular posting, but self-reflective writing is important, and it may be that others will be interested in some of my reflections.