‘No Man is an Island’: Reflections on our Research Collaboration

I am working here under the guidance of my Principal Investigator, Dr Louise Hardwick, so today she will introduce herself:

My name is Louise Hardwick and I’ve been a Lecturer in French at Birmingham for almost three years. I became interested in Francophone Caribbean literature during my Undergraduate study at the University of Oxford, and pursued this interest through postgraduate degrees at Oxford. This led to a postdoctoral Research Fellowship at the University of Cambridge from 2008-2009, so I have recent first-hand experience of postdoctoral research myself… this Marie Curie Fellowship is an exciting opportunity to offer guidance to another young researcher and to develop our research projects collaboratively.

This Marie Curie award is my first experience of being Principal Investigator on a major collaborative project. Basically, it is my role to ensure Alessandro receives the skills and training he requires so that he can obtain his first permanent academic Lectureship. Over these first months of the project, we have had weekly meetings and frequent email contact (often daily!) so that I can advise him in the three main areas of academic activity: (1) research (2) teaching and (3) administration.

1) As far as research is concerned, I discuss Alessandro’s research ideas for conference papers and publications with him, helping him to develop them successfully through written and oral feedback: for example, I give advice on how to structure his arguments, or advice on important books by critics relating to his research. I also send Alessandro information about important conferences, and have invited him to participate on a number of international conference panels with me in the coming year. Moreover, we regularly discuss knowledge transfer strategies, thinking about how we can communicate our research to stakeholders outside academia, in the UK and internationally.

2) This semester, Alessandro has observed me lecturing and providing seminars at Undergraduate and Postgraduate level, to gain a better understanding of the UK University system and to draw comparisons with other systems he has experienced in Italy and France. It has been excellent to hear that he finds that Birmingham students prepare for seminars and lectures with great care and enthusiasm.

3) Regarding administrative roles, I advise Alessandro on the kinds of roles which academics undertake in the UK, which include

–          Module Design and Assessment

–          Preparation of teaching materials using Powerpoint and Audiovisual resources

–          Creating WebCT resources for our online virtual campus

–          Collating and taking account of Module Feedback

–          Setting and Marking formative work (which does not count towards a degree mark, but is essential practice and preparation for assessed work)

–          Examining: written exams, coursework, oral exams, aural exams in French and English, corresponding with our External Examiners

–          Admissions Activities and Open Days

–          Website design

–          Personal Tutoring and liaising with Student Support and Welfare contacts

–          Maintaining institutional digital research databases

–          Preparing administrative documents for the REF 2014 – the Research Excellence Framework, which is a national audit of UK research activity and is taking place at the moment

–          How to apply for funding – this usually requires academics to be trained in how to use complex online electronic application systems

–          Post-Award Funding administration e.g. timesheets

–          How to apply for academic jobs and keeping his Record of Progress/Career Development plan up-to-date

Our collaboration has got off to a busy, but very productive, start! We tend to hold our meetings in “Franglais”, and I am finding it fascinating to work in collaboration with someone else who shares my interest in Francophone Caribbean culture.

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