Thursday, 2 May 2013

Hothouse research day

Hello. My name is Kostas Economides and I am a lecturer in the Department of Economics at the University of the South of England (USE for short). Well, actually that is not true really as the names of individuals and institutions in this blog have been changed to protect the innocent - and the guilty!

I had an email yesterday from Tony Steel asking me what research topic I shall be working on at next Wednesday's "Hothouse Research Day". Apparently the Dean wants all research active Business School staff to spend the day together at the conference centre at Marwell Zoo where we can "make substantial progress towards a future round of top class publications". When I spoke to Gus about it this morning I said that surely it was too late for any new ideas to get translated into papers in time for publication that could be included in the REF. He said that the Dean was well aware of that, but the point of the exercise was to keep the pressure up for research beyond the current REF horizon. Russell Group universities would prefer all research money to go to them and there were some in the Department for Education and HEFCE who would like universities like ours to be just teaching institutions. It was imperative for us to keep up our research profile in the face of these threats.

Whilst I did not dispute that, I said that I didn't really see how we can do much in a single day, all together in the same space. I work better on my own or with just one joint author. How would it help to be stuck in a room with people from Marketing, Accounting and Hospitality Management? Gus said that the Hothouse idea was the latest one to spread around Business Schools and occasionally it did put people in touch with colleagues in other fields who might be able to do productive work together. For example, I might be able to work on my labour market discrimination topic within the area of hospitality management with a view to getting a joint publication in a journal in that area. Whilst it might not be much help to me it would be a welcome boost to a colleague in that subject group who might currently have a bit of a thin research record. I conceded that this could be so, but I still felt I could make better use of my time working on the topics that I had already agreed were my priority in my staff appraisal meeting. Gus said that there was no point in arguing about it. The Dean was determined to push ahead with the Hothouse plan, and if we economists looked as if we were dragging our feet on it then she would probably hold it against us at some point in the future when we needed her support. He advised me to take a look on Google Scholar to see if anyone had looked specifically at discrimination in the hospitality industry. To my surprise I found that there have been quite a few studies about the existence of a glass ceiling for women in the hospitality sector, although not much published in the last few years. Maybe there was something in this after all. So next I must see which colleagues in the hospitality management subject group might be best to team up with. Gus said they were always good to know because you could get in with them for some nice meals at the training restaurant. Perhaps the Dean is right after all and we do tend to stick too much to our narrow subject areas. And I do think it is funny that the Hothouse Day will be held at the zoo. There are meerkats there I believe. Simples!

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