I’m thrilled to have been asked to be the keynote speaker at this year’s Doctoral Academy conference at the University of Sheffield, and to be able to speak on a subject that is close to my heart.
Academia can provide an amazing career in which we are allowed to research subjects we love, topics about which we are passionate, and issues which – no matter how great or small – shape lives and tell us more about the world we all inhabit. But academia, like most professions, is no safe haven. It is fraught with destructive hierarchies, false notions of prestige, precarious working conditions, inconsistent approaches to postgraduates’ career development, and a harmful yet worryingly persistent perpetuation of problematic attitudes toward professional performance and personal wellbeing.
Over recent years, much has been done to call attention to some of these issues and to share stories which demystify academia as well as dismantling how a successful academic should look and act. What I want to do in this keynote is not simply discuss the most prominent issues early-career researchers currently face in academia, but to think through the collective and individual responsibilities we, as a new academics, have in using our knowledge and experiences to effect change; change that can ensure the future of quality, open research by fostering healthy and skilled researchers.
A grand task for a generation of academics defined by precarious employment and vexed by the fact that knowledge, in itself, is not a currency accepted by landlords or supermarkets. A grand task which, I’ll argue, is key to our own future as well as to that of our profession and the pursuit of knowledge that lies at its very heart.