Sunday, 31 May 2015

Elephants, a portfolio of papers, and no Damsons for me last week

It is said that elephants have the longest gestation period of all mammals. An elephants pregnancy lasts for more than 18 months. The average gestation period of an elephant is about 640- 660 days (about 95 weeks) Women, on the other hand usually have a pregnancy lasting an average of 280 days (about 40 weeks). I mention these facts only because last week featured paper problems. I don’t mean newspaper problems or even meeting paper problems, although last week’s Trust Board meeting had a huge number of papers to get through.

I am referring to those papers that as academics we write and try to get published. For academics, publishing our work is the life blood of intellectual credibility, and it can enhance our reputation, and increase the reach and extent of our influence. But writing papers is not something that can always be achieved quickly. Last week I spent some time revising a paper first submitted for consideration in September last year. It was based on data collected in late 2013. This was the third, and hopefully the last revision before publication.

More often than not I write with others. On this occasion it was a paper written with colleagues I hadn't written with before, and that can add to the time taken to get a paper published. Understandably it can also be difficult to see your work being criticised by unknown reviewers, particularly when it has taken some time to do the research and then write the paper. However, I also had a different paper that I've co-authored come back from the publishers last week. It is now almost ready to be published, just the copy right forms to sign, and last week another couple of colleagues and I got to the first draft stage of a new papers development. This is always a good place to be.

Rather belatedly, I also opened up a Google Scholar account last week. This is a brilliant service that I should have used a long time before. It lists all my publications and interestingly, shows how many times each paper has been cited by other authors as they have referenced my work in their own papers. The paper that has been cited the most was written in 2002, and my best year for citations since 1999 was 2014.  I appear to have an i10-index rating of 29, which means 29 of my papers have been cited at least 10 times by other authors.

I am increasingly fascinated by the way in which our words can travel. I have had 111,168 views of my blogs, and by far the largest readership is to be found in the US, then the UK, with the 3rd largest readership being Germany. Given the idiosyncratic nature of my musings, I find this quite remarkable. Last week I gained 28 new followers on Twitter, had 248 mentions and a 28,000 mention reach.  What the possible impact of all of this information flow might be is unknown to me.

Trying to capture the impact of our work as academics was the subject of our School professoriate meeting last Thursday. The professoriate form the basis of our School Academic Leadership Group, bringing together all our Professors and Readers, and its task is to support, drive and monitor the School’s research activities. The group meets monthly and I relish the chance to attend as I can take my Head of School hat off for an afternoon and enjoy being a professor once more. Once every 3 months the group ends the meeting with a meal and drinks, usually at Damsons, a Media City UK restaurant close by. And so it was last Thursday. However, whilst the menu had at long last changed, there was nothing there that took my fancy. So it was an early night, a glass of a rather super Shriaz and a great frittata with fresh salad leaves prepared in my own kitchen. Unlike writing a really good paper, a good frittata is a spur-of–the-moment creation, but just as satisfying!