Posts Tagged ‘Universities’

David Mitchell on the point of research

28 September 2009

By Juliana Adelman

David_mitchellI didn’t catch Mitchell’s column, ‘Pointless studies are the key to evolution’, in the printed Observer this weekend, but it has been doing the rounds in cyberspace.  Mitchell was reacting to the news that the British government will ask funding bodies to evaluate whether research has economic or social value before funding it.  This is to replace the Research Assessment Exercise, with a new ‘Research Excellence Framework’ (Ref, how cute).  I don’t think economic and social value were ever really off the radar in terms of funding research, but this article in the Guardian implies that the initiative is directly intended to discourage research which has no economic outcomes.  I haven’t read much about it so I’m not sure if Mitchell is making a mountain out of a mole hill, but his article is very funny indeed.  There is now a move to nominate Mitchell to a research council, put forward by academic Steve Fuller.  I will follow the story with interest…

History in the Bust to Boom and Boom to Bust

25 June 2009

By Kevin O’Sullivan

Scrooge McDuckA friend from the further left of the political spectrum once dismissed all academic conferences, seminars, symposia and any other gathering you might care to name, as ‘a bunch of people sitting around a room talking, but doing nothing’. And, playing devil’s advocate, maybe he had a point. Is it really worth paying fees for a bunch of academics to sit around researching and writing papers and books that only they will ever read, while (begrudgingly) doing a bit of teaching on the side?

The short answer is yes, yes it is; but let me rewind a bit first, to what got me started on this discussion. Towards the end of Olivia O’Leary’s recent BBC Radio 4 documentary ‘Ireland: From Boom to Bust’ – an interesting if slightly less than satisfactory piece put together with the help of an odd selection of talking heads (Frank McDonald, Claire Kilroy, Richard Corrigan, some suburban house-owners and a Drogheda taxi-driver) – we are introduced to James Mooney, a 23-year-old quantity surveyor who recently emigrated to London for work. In the midst of recounting his thoroughly modern tale of returning home every five weeks or so, Mooney offered a recollection of his college years: ‘We had lecturers telling us that if we stuck out the course … we’d be well on our way to being millionaires by the time we were 30, 35. You know? As a lecturer he’s probably on a hundred grand, you know what I mean? For doing fifteen hours of work, lecturing a week.  Read More

Pue’s PhD Diaries

15 June 2009

booksOne of the regular features that we will have at Pue’s Occurrences is the PhD diary. The majority of people involved in history in Ireland are students and postgrads and there are a growing number of people undertaking to do PhDs every year. The most arduous part of learning your trade is completing your PhD. There are many ups and downs and when you are locked away in a foreign archive the process can often feel like a lonely one. Equally, doing a PhD is hugely rewarding, you can travel, engage in debate and meet fantastic people. The process encourages most people to pursue a career linked with history and certainly ensures they have a life-long love of the discipline. Just in case any of our readers are considering a PhD, or maybe have a mental block about completing the PhD at all, you might find this section interesting. We have asked students at various different stages of their PhD to write a short piece about the process that we will publish on the third Monday of each month. This month Ciarán Wallace, fourth year PhD student, has taken time out from writing up to give us a short piece on how he is finding it. We will ask each of our contributors 2 questions to begin.

PhD Diary: Ciarán Wallace

15 June 2009

Contributed by Ciarán Wallace.


Do you consider your PhD to be a job or a vocation?

From a project it became a job, then an obsession and now it’s my life.

In 20 words or less, tell us why you decided to do a PhD: It’s worrying- I actually can’t remember why I started

Ciarán’s diary: The end is near.  I’m working towards a submission date for my PhD thesis and everything else seems distinctly less important.  I presume that is a natural reaction. The pressure of a final deadline certainly helps you focus – but it comes with its own drawbacks.  Rewriting that dodgy paragraph or checking a footnote takes priority over (even basic) housework or meeting friends.  Every day I fear that someone will call around for a coffee and then phone social services, or pest control, as they leave.  As I would almost certainly be in the library (some library – any library!) when anybody might call by that tricky social situation is unlikely to arise.  If it does – please ask the men in the white coats not to take me away until after my viva.   

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One more reason for studying history

31 May 2009

By Juliana Adelman

8515Online_sex_resizedI came across a very small paragraph on page 13 of the Observer today which should be carefully considered by leaving cert takers.  According to Cherwell, the University of Oxford’s student magazine, history students are the most sexually active of all.  And lest this concern parents whose children are currently studying history with how they might be frittering away their time it turns out that good grades are also correlated with high sexual activity.  This leads to all sorts of interesting questions, not least of which is the real possibility that history students (and high achievers) are more likely to exaggerate their sexual activity than other types of students.   To what use will future historians put this ‘scientific’ data?  The sex survey is now routine, particularly on college campuses.  Nevermind the Kinsey report, a future researcher will have a plethora of data on sexual activities and attitudes.  One typical aspect of sex surveys is an interest in finding new ways of categorising people.  That’s why Cherwell’s report even caught my eye, instead of comparing by the usual categories of age and gender, they used their subject of study.  This, of course, produced more interesting headlines.  The Observer: ‘Why it can pay to have a firm grasp of history.’  Will this have a positive impact on uptake in history courses?  I wouldn’t be too surprised.