The project is underway and we’re all developing ideas for the first event. We’re also trying to sort out our collective timetable for the event too, so we’ll have details of the date and the content up on the blog next week.
Before then its worth having a think about four themes that we’re hoping the project will explore. These themes have come from a combination of academic research on how HE is structured for ECRs, our own experiences as ECRs, and the wider context of the Connected Communities programme.
So (in no particular order) we’ll be developing work on 1) The social (& specifically HE) structures surrounding ECRs 2) ECR identities 3) The methods ECRs use and 4) the Connected Communities programme.
Its worth saying a little bit about each of these. The structural themes will range from the broader organisational changes within which ECRs work, for example the development of ESRC Doctoral Training Centres, the lack of a funding regime for Masters courses, and the intensity of competition for employment within academia. However, the structures surrounding ECRs are not only those in HE. Academic life takes place within an unequal society and directly reflects that inequality. So, for example, the low numbers of BAME professors, as compared with their white counterparts, or the gender inequalities of academic conference panels. We’re interested in how ECRs perceive and respond to these structures, as well as how they play out in ECR lives.
The structural themes are important for ECRs’ sense of identity. We all have multiple social identities. For academics the sense of identity that comes from work can be vitally important. What happens, therefore, in the initial period where that identity is being shaped and formed? And, moreover, what happens if that sense of identity conflicts with the demands of Research Excellence Frameworks, Journal Impact Factors and disciplinary norms? A project running alongside ours has raised the question of whether Connected Communities, with its focus on new methods and new forms of research is creating new academic identities? These identities are an important area of research when looking at ECR experiences.
The final two areas (because this blog post is getting far too long already!) tie in directly to the question of new identities and structures. What sort of methods are ECRs using? If methods are important for constructing the social world, then what sort of social world is constructed by the use of, for example, co-production or participatory research methods? And how do these methods impact on ERCs identities and their place (and prospects!) within the contemporary academy?
These questions are all under the umbrella of the Connected Communities programme, so our project will be looking specifically at how being part of a Connected Communities programme has made ECRs experience different or has added value to them. Or, indeed, if the ECRs we work with even know they are part of Connected Communities at all!