Sharing research on social media: how do we engage public audiences online? A History Lab+ event

Sharing historical research on social media has become increasingly prevalent, particularly over the past two years with the shift of much scholarly life to online fora. Indeed, it is now something many historians are expected to undertake, either as individual researchers or as part of public engagement and impact. In this event, our two expert speakers will reflect on their own experiences, outlining the challenges, benefits, and issues raised by sharing content via social media.

Joe Vaughan is Digital Editor and social media manager at The Museum of English Rural Life (@TheMERL, Twitter). By producing highly engaging social media content about the museum’s collections, he has brought the history of rural England and its people to a global online audience. His work has received recognition and praise by international media, including The Guardian, NPR, and the BBC. He lives and works in Reading.

Dr Sarah Hall is Public Engagement and Events Officer for the AboutFace Project, based in the Department of History at the University of York. She has established a social media and website presence for the project, which researches the emotional and cultural history of face transplants. Sarah is also the curator of a new project connected to AboutFace, the Museum of Faces, a virtual museum tackling social issues pertaining to the face. While navigating the challenges of dealing with sensitive topics on social media, Sarah is a passionate advocate for knowledge exchange in public engagement, and prioritises the development of creative strategies for developing this on social platforms.

When: 3 – 4pm, Wednesday 22nd September
Where: The event will take place over Zoom

Please register for the event here.

For further information contact: elizabeth.spencer@york.ac.uk

2021 Academic Job Boot Camp

Academic Job Boot Camp – Monday 6th September 2021, online event.

History UK is pleased to be running the Academic Job Boot Camp again this year, following a forced hiatus in 2020. All early career historians are encouraged to apply, with preference being given to those who have already completed or submitted their PhDs.

  • Are you thinking about applying for your first lectureship in history?
  • Submitting applications and never hearing back?
  • Wishing you could have a ‘test run’ for job applications and interviews?

The Academic Job Boot Camp is a free half-day event for early career historians, sponsored by History UK and supported by History Lab Plus. It will help you to structure your academic CV, hone your cover letter, rehearse your job presentation, and undergo a mock interview, as well as demystifying some of the processes around academic recruitment. The experience, feedback, and advice that you receive at the event is intended to improve your chances the next time you apply for an academic job.

How will the boot camp work?

This event simulates all stages of the job application process, up to and including being interviewed as a shortlisted candidate. You will be interviewed by experienced academics drawn from universities nationwide. You will also deliver a job presentation to other early career historians.

You will receive feedback on your academic CV and cover letter, interview, and presentation. You will also have the opportunity to observe how others approach the job application process, providing peer feedback and support. The event will end with a roundtable discussion, offering the chance to ask questions of academics who have been involved in university recruitment – as well as chatting and networking with others in similar positions to you.

Due to the pandemic, in 2021 this event will take place entirely online. However, many universities were already moving towards introducing online elements to the job application process before the pandemic, so experience with this kind of format is likely to be useful in the future.

You can read posts about the job boot camps from previous years here, here, here and here.

 

Outline Itinerary (all events to take place online, exact timings TBC):

1-1.15: Welcome.

An introduction to the event and History UK from Simon Peplow, Early Career Researcher representative for History UK.

1.15-3.45: Presentation or Job Interviews. 

During the afternoon you will be asked to participate in four activities:

  1. a 30-minute interview; you will be informed of the exact time of your interview on the day.
  2. observe a 30-minute interview; the time of this will also be made clear to you on the day.
  3. give a 5-minute presentation, followed by 3-4 minutes of questions; led by an experienced academic in front of other early career historians who will provide written feedback.
  4. observe presentations from other attendees, ask questions and provide written feedback.

3.45-4.00: Break.

(As an online event, the obligatory tea/coffee break will unfortunately have to be self-catered!)

4.00-5.00: Roundtable discussion and advice for navigating the academic job market.

 

This online event is free and sponsored by History UK and History Lab Plus.

To participate, you will need to apply for an imaginary lectureship in a real history programme. Please read the job advert for the Imaginary Lectureship in History here https://bit.ly/3iqVhWn, then submit a letter of application and academic CV to Simon Peplow (Simon.Peplow@warwick.ac.uk). Please also contact Simon if you have any questions.

The deadline for your application is noon on Friday 20th August 2021.
The online event will take place on Monday 6th September 2021.

 

Research Resilience – Call for Contributions

History UK and The National Archives’ Higher Education Archive Programme (HEAP) are teaming up to explore how archivists and historians have adapted their research projects and ways of working as a result of closures and restrictions on access. We are currently inviting expressions of interest in contributing case studies and more general reflections:

Research Resilience

Panel discussion and networking: Wednesday 21 April 2021, 2-4pm (online)

CALL FOR CONTRIBUTIONS

Photo of researcher at The National Archives, following social distancing measures
© The National Archives

The circumstances of 2020-1 have exacerbated pre-existing challenges across our sectors, particularly in terms of access to archive and library materials. Yet it’s also shown us innovation, resilience, and the importance of mutual learning by archivists and historians alike.

History UK and The National Archives’ Higher Education Archive Programme (HEAP) are inviting reflections on the ways archivists and historians have adapted research projects and practices as a result of closures and social distancing. The aim is to explore how changes made for COVID-19 can and should be used to address longstanding issues of accessibility and equity, and to provide practical guidance for those needing to reframe or rethink their research. We want to hear about your personal experiences, as well as creative solutions and thoughts on how to make them sustainable.

We plan to compile a series of blog posts and videos of experiences to help us and our communities explore and build on what we have learned about a blended approach to research and collections access. These will be shared online in advance of a Research Resilience event, in which we will come together to discuss, network, and learn from each other.

We are inviting expressions of interest in writing a short blog post or video on your experiences of having to rethink research and/or access to collections. This may include, but is not limited to:

  • approaches to reframing research projects, whether as a result of COVID-19, or because of caring responsibilities, disability, or structural barriers
  • practical and sustainable ways of making archive and/or library materials more accessible
  • ideas for breaking down barriers between researchers and archivists

No need to be an expert, just able to capture your experience and try to join us at the event itself for questions and discussion.

Send a brief (c.100 words) overview of the experience you’d like to share to historyuk2020@gmail.com by 5pm on Friday 29 January. If this deadline is too soon, let us know – we can be flexible.

Please note that we may have to review the timing of the event if pandemic measures seem likely to compromise attendance levels or our ability to run it effectively.

History UK Pandemic Pedagogy fellowship

At the beginning of June, History UK launched a ‘Pandemic Pedagogy’ initiative to help support historians move out of the ‘emergency’ phase of online teaching and start planning for a remote and socially-distanced campus in the Autumn. The aim is to produce short, user-friendly, and practical guides than can inform planning, including:

  • An overview of tools for online teaching – an annotated list introducing various digital tools people may have heard of but not used
  • An introduction to various ways of staging digital small-group interactions
  • A page on tools and strategies for collaborative close ‘reading’ and annotation of ‘texts’

History UK is seeking a postgraduate student for a fixed-term fellowship to support the initiative. The History UK fellow will conduct desk-based searches of websites, blog posts, and social media for relevant case studies, reports, and other practical guides. They will write clear and concise summaries of their findings to help inform the resources that History UK will produce and curate, and attend virtual team meetings. They will be encouraged to write a blog post for the History UK website on a topic of their choosing (relevant to the initiative), and may also be required to assist in the organisation of an online ‘Pandemic Pedagogy’ roundtable.

The fellow will be expected to work flexibly for 50 hours in total over four weeks, starting on Wednesday 17 June, or soon after. All work needs to be completed by Wednesday 15 July. The renumeration for the fellowship is fixed at £750.

Person specification:

  • A postgraduate student (MA or PhD) in History, or a related subject, based at a higher education institution in the UK
  • Strong research skills
  • Excellent written and oral communication skills
  • Ability to work independently and with minimal supervision
  • Excellent organisation, project management skills, and attention to detail
  • Expertise and interest in pedagogy (preferable)
  • Experience of writing for the web (preferable)

To apply:

Send a CV of up to two pages and a one-page cover letter to pandemicpedagogy2020@gmail.com. In the cover letter you should explain why you are interested in the role, how you meet the person specification, and what you will bring to the initiative.

The deadline for applications is Thursday 11 June at 2pm.

Applications will be reviewed by the team working on the Pandemic Pedagogy initiative: www.history-uk.ac.uk/2020/06/03/history-uks-pandemic-pedagogy-initiative-starts-today and the successful candidate notified by the end of Monday 15 June.

Mental health and wellbeing in the history and heritage PhD community – three of three

In my previous post, the second in this series, I showcased some research into how social media is used by emerging and established academics, and used my own experiences to highlight how it does, or could, enhance the accessibility, for PhD students with a mental health issue, of some typical research activities. In this final post I’ll explore the other side of this coin by asking: What are some of the obstacles to using social media for this purpose? I’ll also share my parting thoughts about what we might do, as active participants in the HE community, to move towards a more inclusive environment for PhD students experiencing mental illness. 

Barriers to Inclusivity 

Although my own experiences of using social media during my PhD have had largely positive impacts on my mental wellness, I have also encountered some barriers to inclusivity. The first involved a Twitter exchange, where I had asked if it would be possible to speak at a subject-specific PGR forum by video-link. On that occasion the group didn’t feel confident to accommodate the request, which highlights a barrier also referred to by several of the scholars I have drawn on in my previous posts.  

“We don’t know how to do that…” 

Nandez and Borrego, Rowlands, and Boté all point to skills being a barrier to social media use among academics. Rowlands et al in particular provide evidence that social media use is greatest among those who identify as being an ‘innovator’, or ‘early adopter’ of new technologies. As a self-professed geek I would certainly put myself into one of these two categories, which is why I felt confident to set up the live stream of my original conference paper on this topic. But I recognise that not everyone shares this confidence, and that, in the face of the range of social media available, the desire to develop skills may well be tempered by feelings of being overwhelmed.  

Rowlands’ study also shows, though, that academics tend to be selective in the platforms they use (with almost two-thirds using only one or two tools) – suggesting perhaps that we don’t need proficiency in all platforms, but rather an awareness of the ones which are (to borrow a phrase) ‘trending’. 

“We don’t feel comfortable doing that…” 

I’ve already touched on this in my earlier comments about Bennett and Folley’s work on managing a hybridised digital identity, and my own insecurities about sharing too much about works in progress online – even to would-be collaborators. But, again, Rowlands’ work is pertinent here in highlighting that a lack of clarity about the benefits of social media constitutes a barrier to employing it for research purposes, in some cases.  

Like me, Bennett and Folley self-censored their digital selves to ‘fit’ their ideas of how others perceived them. They too were anxious about revealing their weaknesses or gaps in their knowledge, and fearful of receiving a critical reception. This aligns with Pantic’s findings on social networking and mental health, which suggest that inaccurate perceptions of others online (part of what we might call ‘Imposter Syndrome’) can contribute to reduced self-esteem in those who are predisposed to psychiatric illness. 

“We don’t have time for that…” 

Time to acquire skills and build familiarity with tools, and time to integrate social media into the research workflow are both highlighted as issues in studies of social media use among academics. Nandez and Borrego’s work on Academia.edu in particular demonstrates that academics’ intended use of the platform was greater than their actual use; suggesting perhaps that it seemed like a good idea at the time but was demanding to put into practice. The comments on their survey confirmed that this was in part due to respondents being ‘time poor’.  

As I mentioned in my earlier post, juggling ‘work’ and ‘social’ uses of social media can also be seen as a challenge. This has also been linked with time management by Leon and Pigg, who observe that “[digital multitasking can] evoke strong affective responses”, including guilt and shame, among graduate students. Such feelings can, of course, be indicators of mental unwellness.  

What can we do? 

So, what can we do to move towards a more inclusive environment for emerging academics, in which digital technologies play a part? 

I think that what my experiences, and the research that I have presented in this blog series shows is that social media are not simply tools for socialising among digital natives’ or sharing photographs of one’s dinner. They impact upon a broader range of research practices than I had appreciated before I began reflecting on my experiences, and in more nuanced ways. Likewise, I hope that I’ve been able to show mental health in a more nuanced light – not only a “crisis” affecting PhD students and HE institutions, but also a way of life, day-to-day for a significant section of the research community, whose needs might (in some cases) be addressed simply, by subtle extensions to existing practice, and by seeing social media and ‘traditional’ research practices as complementary bedfellows, rather than options to choose between. If I could offer any advice on what might be done to effect change then, it would, humbly, be this: 

  • Seek to understand the nuances of social media in heritage and other humanities PhD research; their potential, and their potential pitfalls 
  • Resist seeing social media and ‘traditional’ research practices as an either/or situation requiring a polarised choice; take an holistic view which values each for its own contribution to the academy 
  • Prioritise development of social media competencies and understanding around social media/mental health relationships (both positive and negative) within organisational strategy, in order to ensure that the mental health challenges of the present lead to a healthier, more inclusive research environment in the future. 

Above all though, I think that a lot can be achieved – in digital literacy and in mental health – by advocating for three things: 

Understanding the needs and potential for growth. 

Daring to talk. 

And challenging existing practices, to bring about change.