Let’s face it. Academics have a long summer break. Once the exam boards are over and modules are planned for the year ahead there is a good wedge of time to finally catch up on all those things on your to do list (and hopefully take some annual leave as well).
Used effectively, this period can be an excellent opportunity to get your research house in order and do all the little fiddly things that will help to build networks, forge relationships and raise your academic profile.
Here are a few suggestions of summer research jobs:
1. Explore grant opportunities
Look at your field and spend time finding out where research grants are available. Don’t just look at the big bodies like the AHRC and ESRC but consider professional bodies (e.g international news agency Reuters offer grants for journalism research) and small grants from educational bodies like the Association of Journalism Educators. Ask your university research centre for a list of bodies and talk to colleagues internally and externally to find out what collaborative projects you can get involved in.
2. Apply for grants
Use the time to write considered research grants rather than doing a rush job in the midst of teaching. It may also be worth writing a holding grant application explaining the research and methodology to be used and then repurposing this when a grant call is put out later in the year.
3. Get in contact with external colleagues
Remember that person you spoke to at that conference who was doing interesting research? Email them or message them on Twitter / Linked In. Now is a good time to forge links and find out what everyone is working on. Chances are they will be interested in working with you or at the very least sharing reading material with you.
4. Sign up to journal alerts and mailing lists
The best way to find out about the most up to date journal articles and conferences in your field is to sign up to email alerts. Every journal will have a regular TOC alert (Table of Contents) which sends you a brief outline every month of the latest publications which you can then link through to. Academic mailing lists like JISC and MeCCSA are also a great source of regular information. Again research the field, talk to colleagues and find the best resources to sign up to.
5. Update your website
Firstly if you don’t have a website or at the very least a page on your university department website – get one. It is the best way of sharing your work and helping people to find you. Use this time to update your research publications, links, photos, CV and any other bits and pieces that are now out of date.
6. Organise your social media profiles
Got a Linked In profile but never use it? Now’s the time to find out what to do with it and start populating it with content. If your university has a Learning Teaching and Assessment (LTA) co-ordinator ask them for a training session on social media. Other jobs are updating(or culling) the people you follow on Twitter and organising them into lists.
7. Write book reviews
A good way to get yourself known in your academic field is to start with writing book reviews. Authors and publishers will always be keen to share reviews and this will help to put your name out there. Once your review is published remember to tweet/blog about it and let the author know. Writing a book review also kills two birds with one stone. It enables you to read something relevant to your own research and make notes on it whilst also raising your own profile.
8. Get peer reviewing
Haven’t done any peer reviewing before? Now is the time to approach journals and ask if they are looking for reviewers. Chances are they will bite your hand off. Again it is a good way of reading in your field of interest and getting yourself known amongst journal editors.
9. Respond to call outs
You may have a list of email alerts you have been meaning to respond to. Perhaps it is a call out for a book review editor or a transcript reviewer or a call for abstracts. Get responding.
10. Get reading
Time to catch up on all that reading and hope the sunshine lasts. Print out a load of journal articles at work or download them to a tablet and then grab a drink and get out the sun chair.
Once all these jobs are complete (or you have attempted at least some of them) start thinking about the year ahead and map out a research timetable, what you want to achieve in the next 12 months and set yourself achievable deadlines.