>As part of my admin load here, I have to do a performance development review with one staff member. The university requires those who ‘supervise’ these exercises to attend sessions that are meant to train you for the role. I went to a masterclass this morning that was meant to replace the training sessions. It was given by someone who was a human resources academic, and had worked with the bigger-wigs to create a new system for us.
It was so Twilight Zone.
I’m not friends with management rhetoric (who is?) and I went to the session with very low expectations. In fact, I took with me a thesis I’m marking and an article to read. This was a good plan and I would’ve gotten a lot more out of the session if I’d just read the material I brought. As fate would have it, who sat next to me in the session but the manager of the university’s entire HR division. D’oh! I didn’t have the chutzpah to read my stuff through the presentation with her at my side. From her comments and questions, it was obvious that she really believed in these processes and their potential to transform our working relationships. I would like to think that my line managers are that interested in my career development and future. I really would.
Being a researcher with a use-by date (i.e. fixed term appointment), however, it’s hard to get into any of this institutional career development guff. One could beat one’s cynicism into silence and accept that the university’s very keen to protect its human ‘investments’/capital (i.e. staff). I know that this doesn’t necessarily include me. I’m only here for a while, and research fellows don’t get their contracts renewed, no matter how stellar they are (as far as I know). Our research-only careers are up to us – if a contract’s about to end, we need to scramble around to find another position. This usually means throwing our hats into various fellowship rounds (including the year-long ARC process), and riding the uncertainty of those ‘lottery ticket’ outcomes. There’s only so much intellectual and professional credit you can bring to a project; the rest is fate and bias and budgets. It’s taken me too long to realise that no-one is going to nurture my research-only career. Everyone wants you, your networks, and your productivity, but just about no-one wants to pay your wage longer-term. There are tenured research-only jobs, but they’re almost all for professorial level folk. Until there’s a general move to offering this kind of thing to lower level researchers, I suspect I’m out of the game soon.
As much as I find the hoop-jumping tedious, I understand the imperatives for research-only scholars to be put through them. Having a tenured job does breed security and – gasp! – comfort. These things don’t necessarily mesh with the hungry level of productivity that many expect of research-only staff. I think, though, that it’s fair enough to expect some investment in one’s future if you’ve proven that you’re valuable and will continue to be so. Dream on, eh?