Two weeks ago I wrote a very depressing blog post about the steps that I will go through in order to finish my PhD. It was realistic and very, very saddening.
But what it didn’t talk about was all the possibilities that my research presents. Gone are the days when ‘monastic scholars’ are tied to their pithy research publications and knocking their heads against other academics’, instead we now have the opportunity, nay privilege, of trying to communicate our research to a wider audience.
With this in mind, I am going to follow in the footsteps of my good friend Naomi and her very impressive blog and put forward some goals for steps that I would like to take in my work. In doing so, I’m not going to tie myself to these ideas and stress myself out if they don’t become a reality, instead, posting them here is evidence of my intention to commit to spreading the words of my research beyond some papers that will be lost forever more on Google Scholar. So here goes….
– The Conversation article
I’m going to attempt to have an article published on The Conversation. For those of you who are outside the academic community and might not have heard about The Conversation, it is a news website written by academics, with all conflicts of interest etc noted at the outset. Its tagline is ‘academic rigour, journalistic flair’ and it generally succeeds at both, with experts-in-their-field writing about changes to policy, technology and the environment, and all being helped to write something short and sweet by an editorial committee. I’ve tried writing for The Conversation twice before and never succeeded, but there’s still ample opportunities to ‘pitch’ them an idea!
– Media release
To be fair, this will depend on whether my final research areas come up with anything worthy of a media release. UWA has a media team on hand to talk through whether research undertaken is of interest to the media – with one clear overarching statement. Is it interesting? And when they ask that they mean to the general public, and not to the researcher themselves. I happen to have the absolute advantage in that solar energy is incredibly topical. The public knows what it is, they like it and they want to see politicians do something about it. The question is – do I have a solar story worth sharing?
– Engagement with think tank
After much consideration it seems to me that my future could lie in a policy think tank. Not quite research institutions, not quite public policy, not quite lobbyists, think tanks are a mixture of all three. People working for think tanks collect or generate research, reframe it in a policy setting and then try to get out there and influence politicians, the media and the general public. Some of my research outcomes could be of interest to some of Australia’s leading think tanks, and so it’s worth jotting them a letter and finding out if they’re keen to have a look.
– Presentation to policy body
During my interviews in regional areas I spoke to a number of people involved in local government, with one of these people noting that my research could be of interest to the WA Local Government Association. Much of my research talks about the communication of solar ideas and how important reliable information is to promote adoption. What better way to use my findings than to try to talk to local governments directly about what they could be doing to promote renewable energy?
Finally, why not tell people at UWA what my research is about? Another postgraduate in my School has started a seminar series aimed at disseminating research findings in a simple-English format, accessible for everyone from academics to first years. I think this is a great opportunity to try to communicate some of the ideas around my research, rather than my findings themselves, to members of the general public (who are likely to give me some feedback!). I could consider this a ‘dry run’ for discussing solar with the public. And all with free beer and pizza to follow!
And so I’m popping these commitments to communicate out in the webisphere, in the hope that it will help me stick to task, and maybe even prompt others to consider something similar. How are you going to communicate your research?