Feeling like I need some encouragement

sad faceI’ll apologise now, as this post may well be somewhat downbeat.  As one of life’s optimists, I often face accusations of being an idealist.  If being an idealist means straining to see exciting things on the horizon and then trying to find a way of getting to that horizon, then I’ll take that accusation.  But I think I’m also quite pragmatic when I need to be – maybe that comes with parenting?  Or perhaps it’s a significant part of being a researcher?  Whatever, I definitely have a logical, analytical side to my brain – hence my self-definition as optimist: I prefer to see the good things, but I’m totally aware that shit sometimes happens!

This past week, shit appears to have happened.  Despite some very supportive lobbying on my behalf by a senior colleague, my home School decreed that I should have no money, as they continue to apply the blanket rule that posters don’t really count in the great academic game of ‘putting your research out there’.  This places me in a difficult position: I can still apply to the Graduate School Travel Prize, but they like to see matched funding from your home School – my favourite kind of catch-22 now comes into play.  I could write angry emails about the discrepancy between the Graduate School and my home School, as the Grad School thinks it’s absolutely fine to present a poster in Australia, on principle.  I probably will write that email, but I’m not naive enough (or should that be idealist enough?) to think it will make the slightest difference.  Maybe it will make me feel better, though…

My lovely colleague then came up with another idea: she suggested that I write to the conference organisers explaining my difficulty, and ask whether I might be able to change to an oral presentation.  It took me a few days to work up the courage, as it felt a bit cheeky to do this (I know, but I’m English, what can I do?), but eventually I put my case in a very jolly email.  More bad news: they can’t accommodate an oral presentation until they have all the registrations in – and here’s my second beautiful catch-22 of the week: I would have to register to attend, which involves a mighty £461.95 (for those of my friends who don’t know this bit of academic life – yes, it costs a lot to send your research out into the world :/), but then I might not get the presentation changed from poster to oral, so I’d be in exactly the same situation of having no funding to get there!!

Does my mood seem slightly cynical?  I hope this comes across loud and clear in what I’m writing today, because that’s how I feel.  Yes, I can have a budget to attend conferences.  But only in the capacity decreed acceptable my my School.  Making an individual case does nothing – the School applies a broad brush approach.  I’m not a fan of feeling disempowered – I doubt anyone is, really – but that’s how I’m feeling just now.  I’m a tiny step away from abandoning the whole project – even if the Graduate School give me the maximum amount available, it wouldn’t even cover my air fare, and finding the rest makes my brain actually ache.

And yes, I will definitely be sending carefully worded emails – but maybe when I’ve counted to a thousand and taken some very deep breaths.

Making a Case to the Grown Ups

picture of begging handsNext week, I’m told there’s a meeting of the committee within my university School in which they decide whether people like me can be trusted to spend the grown ups’ money wisely.  Let’s not forget, I do (allegedly) receive an annual budget towards conferences and study leave.  Generally speaking, however, and as I’ve mentioned before, the grown ups don’t extend that budget to being allowed to take a poster presentation to a conference.  Papers yes, posters no.  However… I happen to know someone lovely who sits on that committee, and she has suggested that if I put a strong application together, there’s a chance they may look favourably on my begging and take pity on me.

With that in mind, I’ve been considering what else I might get up to in Australia.  I’ve been looking at midwifery leadership and identity over there, and happily I’ve discovered three significant things that might strengthen my case:

  • Like the English NHS, Australian policy makers currently have a mild obsession with the need to develop clinical leadership capacity in their healthcare organisations.  This is good, because it demonstrates a great deal of similarity in policy imperative – and that’s always a great driver for research;
  • From a midwifery perspective, the Australians seem to be continually scratching their heads about how to establish a strong professional identity – much like us, really.  This is also good, because much of what I’ve got to say relates as much to identity construction in the profession as it does to leadership;
  • Finally, there is an utter dearth of midwifery leadership-specific literature coming from Oz – again, much like here.  And this is the best thing, because in my tiny brain, I hold an awful lot of relevant information: about leadership generally, about midwifery leadership specifically, and about how the professional identity impacts on leaders’ ability to lead, in the context of clinical leadership.

So I’ll be putting the relevant paperwork together over the next couple of days, and then it’s fingers crossed.  If I get a favourable response from my School, I’ll be a happy bunny.  If I don’t, it’s all going to get much more difficult.  And it will involve a lot more baking.

A related post from my other identity as social science correspondent at Piirus

Piirus logoHere’s a post that’s just gone live over at Piirus, where I write on the subject of making research links and exploring the world!


I think Piirus is going to be central to my exploration of Australia, as it’s a great place to begin making connections: you become a member (for free, hurrah!) and add your research interests and areas in order to connect with other researchers who share things in common with you.  As it’s a global network, I’ve already found some researchers in Oz who might be perfect for me to become friends with..!