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Most useful textbook and academic posts of the week: May 1, 2020

“Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” ~E. L. DoctorowIt seems that over the past couple months, everything we thought we knew about research, writing, and academia in general has been turned on its head by COVID-19. This crisis has forced an examination of existing processes, exploration of alternative options, and adaptability to new ways of thinking. Well, putting it that way, it doesn’t sound much different from what academics do every day, does it?

This week’s collection of articles from around the web talks about some non-pandemic topics, like interdisciplinary research and recruitment and retention of women of color and indigenous women graduate students. We, of course, have a number of COVID-19 speculations, like the effect on scholarly publishing, added research complexities, and scientific and scholarly meeting practices – especially those taking place via Zoom or other video conferencing technology. We close with some advice on preparing for a PhD defense from the perspective of Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.

As much as things seem to change, we can take comfort in knowing that change is the only real constant in life. As for our writing efforts during this time, remember the words of E. L. Doctorow who said, “Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” Happy writing!

Interdisciplinary collage: Interview with Dr. Suzanne Culshaw

Collage as an art form is itself interdisciplinary. It can include drawing and painting as well as collecting and pasting photographs and images, fabric and ephemera of all kinds. How can collage work in research? To learn more, I interviewed Dr. Culshaw.

How to retain women of color and indigenous women grad students

Here we offer suggestions drawn from Degrees of Difference that can help with the recruitment and retention of women of color and indigenous women graduate students. The contributors to our book illustrate the ways they have claimed their own space in the academy, and their essays reveal three crucial components: 1) encouraging the creation of community and mentoring networks, 2) demonstrating an intentional commitment to departmental inclusivity in the curriculum and the overall graduate program, and 3) offering transparent economic assistance and support.

What will we learn about scholarly publishing as a result of COVID-19?

In most things these days, people are preparing for the fact that a return to “normal,” will not be “normal.” There may be remarkable changes and we would be foolish to think “normal” aspects of scholarship will return. In some cases, this may be for the better. In other cases, it surely will not. I suppose our task right now is to figure out how to guide us towards the good changes.

Interdisciplinary research: Understanding complexity in a time of crisis

The academic world and the world at large, are facing major disruption from the Covid-19 pandemic. I asked Dr. Szostak to discuss ways interdisciplinary thinking help us study and understand problems that cross disciplinary boundaries. He discusses some thoughts in previous posts, and answers some specific questions here. In this set of questions I wanted to gain some insights on implications for doctoral programs and research faculty.

Scientific and scholarly meetings in the time of pandemic

A question on the minds of many executives at scientific and scholarly societies is whether it will be possible to hold a large in-person meeting (or any gathering over a hundred people) before a vaccine or drug is widely available or the pandemic otherwise subsides. Conference organizers with meetings in the spring of 2020 (including the Society for Scholarly Publishing, the publisher of The Scholarly Kitchen) have been forced to either cancel events or scramble to move meetings to an online format in the wake of the rapidly moving public health situation. Those with events further out on the calendar, have the luxury of more time to prepare for alternative scenarios.

When is a Zoom not a Zoom?

Zoom sessions can feel very different depending on what the session actually is and what role I have in it. I say Zoom because it is the platform that my institution is subscribed to and the one I use the most. I’d imagine that constant use of any video conferencing platform would be similar.

We need to talk about Zoom

It’s hard to pin down why Zoom, which I’m using here to stand for video conferencing in general, is more tiring than meeting in person but I’m increasingly convinced it is. It combines all the familiar ailments which develop from meetings but with a unique piquancy that makes the ensuing suffering more than the sum of its parts.

PhD defenses around the world: a viva at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

One pitfall that perhaps many people like myself would commit is spending much time and effort on the nitty gritty of the presentation resulting in a neglect of the “defence”. My esteemed supervisor Prof. K. K. Luke reminded me this: just give a gist about your research with 1-2 good examples, focus more on the conclusion, and spend more time on preparing for the questions! Luckily he prompted me a key question “what is new?” during the preparation which helped me answer the first question posed by the chair: “What is the single most important finding?“.