This session focuses on navigating and negotiating an academic career in sociology and related disciplines. We take as our starting point Bourdieu’s concept of ‘playing the game’, particularly Bev Skeggs’s related question ‘what if you can’t get on the field?’. Under current conditions the academic field often feels precarious – permanent positions are scarce and audit culture is dominant. As a result certain key methodological, intellectual, and pedagogical positions are often obscured in favour of a more instrumental approach to social science. This panel confronts the reality of a career post-PhD and provides a forum to discuss how we can approach the current situation with both positivity and pragmatism. How can we pursue our intellectually and affectively held goals in teaching and research whilst also succeeding in gaining employment? How do we keep a sense of collegiality and integrity in contemporary competition-driven academia? Is it possible to play the game and subvert the game at the same time?
Dr Robert Gibb: Borrowing the terms used in the summary of this roundtable, I would bring to the discussion my experience of managing to get on ‘the field’ in the UK relatively easily, then voluntarily leaving it and struggling later to get back on it in the UK, but with attempts also in France, Denmark and Switzerland. I would also be happy to share what I think I’ve learned from trying to ‘juggle’ teaching, administration and research as a lecturer – from applying for research grants, and being involved in (or subject to) various kinds of ‘review’ at individual and departmental/subject-level.
Dr Carrie Friese: Carrie Friese is an Associate Professor in Sociology at the LSE. She currently holds a New Investigator Award from the Wellcome Trust. She is happy to discuss her thoughts and experiences with applying for postdoctoral fellowships, going on the job market and applying for research funding.
Dr Ipek Demir: Ipek is Senior Lecturer at the University of Leicester. She is happy to take questions on a) pros and cons of doing interdisciplinary work as an early career researcher; b) theoretical insight and sociological imagination – why they matter; c) methodological innovation- why it matters; d) applying for funding as an early career sociologist.
Dr Helen Kara: Helen’s first degree was a BSc in social psychology, and she got her PhD in 2006. For the last 17 years she has been an independent researcher specialising in research methods. She has never been ‘on the field’ of academia, and only began formally working with academics in the spring of 2012, yet in autumn 2015 her work was recognised by the Academy of Social Sciences for its ‘excellence and impact’. Is this because she learned to play the game fast and effectively, or because the game is changing, or both?
Bio: Dr Helen Kara has been an independent researcher since 1999, focusing on social care and health, partnership working, and the third sector. She teaches and writes on research methods. Her most recent full-length book is Creative Research Methods in the Social Sciences: A Practical Guide (Policy Press 2015), and she is also the author of the PhD Knowledge series of short e-books for doctoral students. Helen is a Visiting Fellow at the UK National Centre for Research Methods, and a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences.