Scoping and Framing

Monday

Properly back to work this week, although with Mrs Llama still signed off until next Monday, I’ve decided to try and work at least a couple of days on campus.  She’s very good (mostly) at leaving me in peace to get on, but it’s not quite the same as having the house to myself to just work at my own pace.  By an incredible coincidence her parents have decided to visit her today.  Hence I’m writing this on a campus PC for a change.  Purely coincidental as I’d always planned to be on campus today. Honest.

Exchanging a few emails with my supervisor on ideas for my first bit of practical work, but in the meantime the main work of the day is a bit more expansive reading.  It’s a recurrent theme that I don’t think will go away, as no matter how much I read I still currently feel like I’m barely scratching the surface of what I need to know about my field.  Let along brushing up on the theory and methods I need to apply in my analysis!

Tuesday

Back working from home after sadly missing the in-laws by minutes when I came home.  I spent the morning working on my scoping questions, before sharing them with my supervisor.  I can see he’s just mailed me back so I’ll be running along to see what he has to say shortly.  Also spent some time writing some new bits for the blog, a page giving an outline of my research along with a post about needing to speak to a few people.  The latter of these going live in the next day or so.

I’ve also been preparing to send an email to some old contacts of mine, which is a bit nerve wracking – partly because it means going a bit more public about what my research is all about and partly because I’m never quite sure how people are going to react!  Not that I’m doing anything particularly controversial or Earth shattering (maybe), but its very different to the relative low profile I’ve kept in the past six months.  But, since my research is going to involve people and organisational cultures it’s not something I can put off or I’ll just end up chasing my own tail.

In preparation for talking to people I’ve also been setting up my Skype a bit better.  Due to the way I’ve got my PC configured I’ve had a few issues with getting the mic and speakers to work with Skype, but I’ve got that sorted now.  I’ve also found a very useful little programme MP3 Skype Recorder which records the conversations for me, which will make the process of transcribing them a lot easier to work with.

[Later] Faffed around in the early afternoon while I waited for my supervisor to Skype me – but once he did it was all hands to the pumps.  Rewrote my interview protocols along his suggested lines (I was being, as usual, a bit too ambitious) and then mailed an old friend and colleague to ask a favour.  Then updated by biog on the blog and finished rewriting my post asking for input from the Open Access community.  All in all for the first time since I started this PhD it’s felt like I was actually working like a real researcher, rather than just a jumped up post-grad with a slim lecture profile.

That said of course tomorrow it’s back to the RPC A & B lectures, so it’s going to be a fleeting feeling!

Wednesday

Exciting morning as an email I sent via the Chair of UKCoRR asking for folks to interview yielded a rapid response from a half dozen repository and open access people across the country.  This was followed by a rapid exchange setting up some dates and times to talk to people, which felt like doing proper work as well.  Very satisfying feeling, though obviously at this stage I’m hoping to get a fair number of more people to talk to (my supervisor was talking of the order of around 50!).  Fingers crossed that kindly people will continue to emerge.

[Later] Not bad so far with a good half dozen or so people stepping forward already and a few more in the wings.  Long way to go to get to that 50 though!  The afternoon was split into a slightly briefer than expected session on entrepreneurship from the University’s Hive Centre.  Once again a key message was “Most graduates don’t get to work in academia with a PhD“, something we’ve heard before.  I confess I would be interested in continuing to pursue an academic career after I graduate (some fair time off) but at the same time I’d also be just as happy spinning off in other directions.  Maybe a role in industry would be right up my street; after all it’s the sector where Mrs Llama works!

The other session was on the philosophy of the (shockingly still living) philosopher Jacques Rancière.  It was a bit baffling I will confess, and I’ll have to write my notes up tomorrow to make sure I can make sense of the session.  There were some very interesting bits as normal, but I’m not really sure I grasped the meat of the discourse.  Probably not helped by following the live blog of the Commons and Lords debates on the late former PM Margaret Thatcher.

And have just logged onto my email to find out my Project Review Panel meeting is 29th April.  So a few weeks to prepare for a grilling!  To be honest not quite sure what to expect, but I’ll write some more thoughts about this tomorrow.

Thursday

A bit of  a disrupted morning as I had to run Mrs Llama to the hospital for a follow-up appointment, and while I did read a bit more of one of my books it wasn’t really intensive study.  By the time I got back late morning, I had enough time to sort out a few more mini-interview appointments but that was about it.  So far I’ve managed to have a dialogue with 10 or so people, which is a good start; although naturally I really want to talk to a whole lot more people.  I do have a list of my personal contacts in the sector who I’ll be following up with in the next week or so, just to give them a friendly nudge.  Given the cultural basis of my work the more voices I can hear, the better the results will be.  Although I suspect the amount of typing I’ll be doing as a consequence might make me regret that!

Had a bit of back and forth with my supervisor whom seems to think I’m pretty sound on my knowledge for the Project Review Panel.  All the same I think I’ll try and fit as much swotting up about theory and methods as I can over the next three weeks.  I’ll also be asking my RPC colleagues what their experiences are of the meetings, as while we all have different internal assessors I’m sure there will be a few tips and suggestions that will aid me.  Or at the very least make me a little less nervous about the whole thing!

Friday

The first two interviews were brilliant (thanks Rachel and Bev), with a real richness of information in them both.  It’s really perked me up no end to have this sort of exchange with smart and clued in professionals, and I’m now really looking forward to next week and my next batch.  I’ve currently got 18 people either lined up or pencilled in, which is really great.  Hopefully next week a few more people might have time to read the email and get in touch (please!).  Transcribing was fun/a challenge (is there a portmanteau to combine those? fuallenge?) – and took a surprising amount of time.  Got a bit faster though as I got used to a style that allowed me to write as much as possible in one go, before going back to make sure I was accurately capturing what my interviewees said.  It’s all about ensuring there’s an authentic voice in everything I do, don’t you know.

Other than that, and a couple of hours taking and fetching my car for its MOT, the day has been about following up with people’s offers to talk to me and finding time to slot them in, and hopefully get as much of the transcription done on the same day.  I’ve decided that three interviews in a day is probably my limit, but that still means I could ideally get through 15 a week; although there would be time for little else.  And next week I need to devote some time to doing a couple of pieces of coursework I’ve been putting off.  Can’t say I’ll be sorry to say goodbye to the RPC in the next few weeks; now I’m starting the real research, it is increasingly an unwanted time sap – both in terms of attendance and coursework requirements.  Still, I must remember this year was the most intensive – next year it’s only 1 session every three weeks.  Far more manageable!

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