Doublethink – 100 Papers Update

Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.”

“1984” – George Orwell

It’s time to provide an update to explain why the target of 1000 points is now no longer viable.

I have recently started a new academic position at The University of Adelaide as a Research Associate. In this position, I am pushing the envelope in the emerging field of Space Security Digitial Security. This research project is one such project that is unable to be widely shared without additional vetting and approvals from project sponsors.

Ethically, I am contractually bound to seek project approval before publishing any of my work generated as part of this project. While consent will not be unreasonably withheld, it is an arduous process that I feel is not to be used for blog posts but, save for the genuine articulation of the academic craft in traditional publications. Those who know me will understand that I am a proponent of what I call Academic 2.0, a movement whereby such aspects of academic life disrupt traditional output, but, here is a limitation of that movement. Concerning my 100 Papers Project, I now create research summaries as part of the innovation I am under contract to deliver; I am unable to share them online.

We could enter a discussion concerning Academic Freedoms here but, that discussion is tired and distracted in the Australian Context of late. My personal view is, and has always been, that Academic Freedoms are to be protected, but, like any job, you sacrifice some of your freedoms for the right price.

To the point, regular visitors will have noticed that the counter has stopped increasing and is not on target for 1000 points by the end of my year. Using principles of engineering and project management it is now time to reassess, rebase and revalute the project outcomes.

What was the purpose of the project?

If the purpose of the project was to take up time while I was not gainfully employed in academia the project has served its purpose and we may end it now.

If the purpose was to increase my writing then I can still write I will just need to find another way to be accountable to myself on what I am writing. In fact, I have several projects to be announced in this space for which I have been writing. Watch this space!

In fact, by starting an MBA in May I am indeed increasing my writing (I have no choice in the matter) and in a different style at that!

If the purpose was to showcase my academic abilities in order to obtain employment then, perhaps it is no longer necessary since that has already been achieved.

Turning up the heat

But, these interpretations of purpose are benign and lack the conflict I’m seeking when evaluating things from what Heifetz and Linskey refer to as a balcony perspective.

I drafted an email to my Lecturer currently coaching me through the principles of adaptive leadership only to realise, that would be an appeal to authority and remove my ability to resolve and action on this issue. My gut instinct was to remove my own authority on the subject and appeal to a higher authority.

How can I genuinely title this article doublethink but, fail to even conflictual refer to myself?

It’s time to turn up the heat on myself a little.

  • Perhaps the real reason for starting the 100 Papers exercise was an appeal to my emotional insecurities and need to inflate my ego?
  • Perhaps by starting the 100 Papers project, I felt the need to validate myself as an expert and ward off part of this imposter syndrome mentality?
  • Perhaps I am so insecure about my job security prospects I feel the need to overachieve. “Publish or perish” as they say. Maybe this is just my way of chasing quantity over quality? The path of less resistance so to speak.
  • Perhaps I am just an arrogant academic and feel the need to show everyone how smart I am on this and every other topic I consider within my circle of knowledge.

How’s that for some conflict? Lets look at these:

As an early career researcher, I am constantly told how I will fail. The issues of imposter syndrome, we are told, are rampant throughout the academy. We are told that the best and brightest are pitched together in a gladiatorial battle for funding and validation. 16.3% DECRA grants in 2018 are successful after all!

Increasingly, I have observed that departments, schools, faculties and institutions as a whole are diverting more funds into critical services to address these issues as a priority linked to the mental health of students. We have even begun to see a rise in the issue happening to now address the mental health of researchers as a whole within the Academy.

The items addressing insecurities surrounding ego, arrogance and self-importance are just as critical. They are insightful due to my own wish to develop my emotional intelligence further. That can only happen by showcasing the skills. In a way, however, by doing this I am making myself arrogant and playing to my ego.

Options: Safe to Fail

I have several options available to me. These all link back to the purpose of the exercise but, fundamentally, should take into account an opportunity to continue to grow. Otherwise, what is the point of this post?

  1. Cease the exercise; this option seems silly since it is my reviews that are generating the most reads and thus, are the most engaging.
  2. Revise the rules and increase the counter but, not provide the material (this would be similar to a peer review).
  3. Rebase the target reducing the fraction to remove the time I spend on the main research project.
  4. Only publish on additional topics such as my new research into Business Administration as part of my MBA; this carries its own set of challenges, mainly to do with academic honesty and plagiarism.

Regarding some of the finer points that has been fleshed out:

  • To address the concerns I have raised regarding ego I should try and practice gratitude.
  • I need to acknowledge “my part of the mess”. Yes being an ECR is competitive and hard but, that’s business. It’s the challenge that I have always found enjoyable, to begin with. If my work is relevant it will be funded. Don’t sweat the small stuff.

Fundamentally, there will be some changes coming to my blog as the practice employed is unsustainable; although enjoyable.

Resolution

The adaptive parts of this exercise I am continuing to work on. Those who have me on Facebook will notice I am doing an exercise where I post every day one item “I am like” every day. This came from the work I am currently doing with TEDx UniSA.

For the technical side of this activity, at this point in time I will be exploring items 3 and 4.

My new target will be based on the FTE I expect to be working on my MBA and other research projects in Digital Evidence not tied to my space security project. This equates to an FTE of approximately 0.3.

The new target is thus, 300 points or 30 academic papers in the language of the original styling. That doesn’t mean to say I won’t still be doing the full 100. Quite the contrary. I have already performed a significant literature review encompassing some 15 years in a new relevant field which is more than this stated target. What it does mean is that my accountable target to you, my audience, will be reduced.

The topics you’ll see published will now include:

  • Sustainability
  • Leadership
  • Digital Security
  • 3D imaging and forensics
  • Space (when not related to my current project)

Ethics is an important part of any engineers life. In dealing with issues like this transparently it shows our commitment to the profession, our professional competencies in resolving ethical dilemmas and our focus in finding the win-win in any scenario.

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