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Recap: #ECRchat 6th March 2014 on Punk Academia

The topic of this discussion was Punk Academia and led by Dr Kieran Fenby-Hulse, Researcher Development Officer at Bath Spa University.

At this time of instability in Higher Education – in terms of both teaching and research –  it seemed appropriate to discuss the relevance of the current academic system and what the challenging this system might mean for early-career researchers. The questions we discussed were:

Q1 – Rip it up and start again! Are there academic practices and disciplinary traditions that you feel limit you as a researcher?

Q2 – How do work within or outside these traditions? How confident do you feel about challenging these norms as an ECR?

Q3 – How do you think punk academia sits in relation to peer/institutional/funder expectations?

Q4 – What support do you think is needed to ensure new approaches to academia are discussed, considered, and embraced?

Q5 – To conclude, do you know of any good examples of punk academia, or have ideas about what you might like to do?

Perhaps prompted by nature of the topic, the discussion was lively with a range of topics being covered. Participants talked about the constraints of disciplinary silos, emerging research fields, and of multi-modal methods of dissemination. But discussion also covered the fears early-career researchers have of stepping too far outside of one’s disciplinary expertise and of presenting their research in non-conventional and challenging formats, particularly at a point in their career when gaining recognition and acceptance is crucial. Interestingly, it was felt that it wasn’t the institutions or national policies that were constraining researchers’ interests, but the far more intangible “culture of academia”. This moved the discussion on to considering risk and resilience in research and the importance of valuing failure, a subject that seemed to capture the imagination of all participants and resulted in the informal establishment of the International Journal of Insignificant Research.

The discussion got people to reflect on the creative risks they take in their research and to acknowledge the courage required to go against the grain in academia and to put forward new ideas and/or approaches. This begs the question of what training and support is available on failure, resilience, risk and creativity and whether Punk Academia should form a core component of any researcher development programmes.

For full details of the discussion view this Storify.

The next chat is on Thursday 1st May, UK/US timezones. Host and topic suggestions needed! Coming soon, the recap of yesterday’s #ECRchat on ‘moving towards independence as an ECR’.



Postdoc in psychology and cognitive neuroscience, researching visual word recognition. Likes MEG, TMS, fMRI, reading, waffles, and motorbiking.

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