Twitter is often painted as a frivolous tool for procrastination; a distraction from academic life rather than an integral part of it.
It can, however, be a valuable avenue for academics to expose their work to a wider audience, and there are also examples of lecturers embracing the social networking site to make their lessons more engaging. A third use, particularly pertinent for those just starting out on their academic careers, is advice.
When popular words or phrases achieve a critical mass of mentions on Twitter, they begin to “trend”, meaning they appear in a mini-table of popular discussions to which users may wish to contribute. Earlier this month, the hashtag #AdviceForYoungJournalists began trending. After a bit of encouragement from Times Higher Education (@timeshighered), the conversation turned to #AdviceForYoungAcademics.
The hashtag was used more than 1,600 times between 10 and 13 February, with university staff, PhD students, former academics and other interested parties offering advice to scholars both young in age and young in terms of career. Some was serious, some cynical.
“Track the hours you spend working in a week,” recommended Roopika Risam (@roopikarisam), assistant professor of world literature and English education at Salem State University in Massachusetts. “You will be shocked and start creating boundaries for your work.”
Guarding against becoming overworked was a popular theme. “Seek out mentoring; take lots of advice,” tweeted Lee Jones (@DrLeeJones), senior lecturer in international politics at Queen Mary University of London. “Learn when to follow it. Be collegial. Learn when to say no.”
“Take it from a former academic (15 yrs): don’t just add unpaid tasks to be a team player, ‘impress the chair’, etc”, said freelance writer, editor and consultant Joseph Fruscione (@ProfessorEx74).
“Build a support network,” counselled Raul Pacheco-Vega (@raulpacheco), assistant professor in the Public Administration Division of the Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas Aguascalientes in Mexico. “Have a life outside of academia. Remember, you’re much more than your academic work.”
The advice did not go unheeded. Clare Stainthorp (@ClareGS87), a PhD candidate at the University of Birmingham, was certainly paying attention. “Was going to work through this cold today, but some supportive #AdviceForYoungAcademics has convinced me to rest & not ‘power through’,” she said.
Debby Cotton (@ProfDcotton), professor of higher education at Plymouth University, said the best advice for young academics she had ever heard was: “Be nice to people on the way up; you’ll meet them again on the way down!” Laura Olabisi (@Lkshumaine), assistant professor in the department of community sustainability at Michigan State University, also had some sage words. “Everyone feels like an impostor some of the time – it’s not just you,” she tweeted.
Much of the advice about working in academia was upbeat. “You are damn lucky to have the opportunity to be doing what you are doing – be grateful and make the most of it,” said James Grant Resphire (@JGRepshire), a PhD student at the University of Exeter.
“Don’t be discouraged by colleagues who won’t help u & r always competing – their loss not yrs”, said Arlene Sánchez-Walsh (@AmichelSW), associate professor of Church history and Latino/a Church studies at Azusa Pacific University in California.
But the odd tweet was somewhat less encouraging: “If you do insist on Academia, don’t disappear up your own ass,” was the contribution from the appropriately named @Cranky_Academic.
Jenny Miller has been appointed chief executive officer of the University of Dundee-based charity Pamis, which works with people with profound and multiple learning difficulties. Ms Miller has served as a governor on the charity’s board for several years.
Warren Turner has been appointed pro vice-chancellor and dean of the School of Health and Social Care at London South Bank University.
The Centre for Charity Effectiveness at Cass Business School, City University London, has made Mark Salway its new director of social finance and social impact investing. Mr Salway is the former finance director of the disaster relief organisation CARE International UK.
Susan Lea has been appointed deputy vice-chancellor (academic) at the University of Greenwich. Professor Lea joins Greenwich in April from King’s College London, where she served as interim vice-principal (education).
Imperial College London has announced Sarah Porter Waterbury as its first vice-president of advancement. Ms Waterbury is currently vice-president of development and campaigns at New York University and will take up her role at Imperial in April.