Excuse me if I seem a little distracted this week; I have been buried in the library this last week so I am immersed in my research projects, questions and problems and am enjoying every minute of it! This is a pleasure that I haven’t had since the early stages of my PhD, so it is long overdue.
Why should it be so difficult for an historian to spend a good amount of time researching history? Unfortunately the way that the academic career ladder operates at the moment makes it incredibly difficult to undertake sustained research. You need days to get stuck in to research properly, an hour here and there simply won’t do. So what has been the problem previously? Well, a heavy teaching load makes research during term time nearly impossible. There is always course design, marking or admin to be done. Christmas is difficult because…it’s Christmas! Unless you live like a hermit friends and family will make demands on your time meaning that committed research is impossible, not to mention libraries and archives having limited opening hours. Easter has a good potential but there will still be lots of marking to do.
I am benefiting from the luxury of being able to do summer research. But many scholars starting out in their careers cannot do this because they have to take on second jobs simply to make ends meet. If you are hourly paid or on a 9 month contract chances are you will find yourself in a non-academic job over the holidays. The alternative is being exceedingly broke in which case a research trip would be impossible anyway.
This problem needs to be addressed because new academics are required to have vast publication portfolios almost as soon as they have a PhD, so time must be given for this work to be done. Perhaps part time and temporary members of staff who are research-active should receive the same research support as permanent staff? If anyone has any other suggestions on overcoming this problem, please do post on this blog. I am now disappearing into the library for another week, and yes, I do know how lucky I am!