Friday, 5 August 2011

What professors do in summer

One of the numerous myths about academic life that Philip Nel and myself have addressed in our respective blogs is those long lazy summers that university teachers enjoy every year. Let me tell you that here in Cambridge we don't have vacations, we have research periods. Although our job specifications say that we have 50% research time, the conspicuous existence of research periods implies that no one can do any research in term time, given the amount of teaching and admin we do. However, we are expected to produce research results as if we had 50% research time all year round, and vacation is something we don't need. We have those long lazy summers, remember?

I am technically halfway through my research period, and I haven't yet started on what I had planned to do. Of course, I have been to Brazil for ten days, of which only four were actually holiday. But until July 22 I was still fully engaged in various meetings, some of them quite stormy. Until July 18 I was officially supervising my masters students (and they made the most of it until the very last day!), and because one got extension I was effectively available for supervision until August 1. PhD supervisions are not affected by research periods or study leaves, and one of my students is upgrading in October, and another is contemplating her next step, and yet another writing up (to be fair, she has troubled me least). There are students asking for advice for their future careers, and students asking for advice on how to turn a thesis into a publication, and students who need recommendations, and students who just want to stay in touch. I could have turned on the out-of-office message on my email, but I can't. I am just not that kind of person.

There have been visiting scholars arriving and leaving; there have been student interviews; there was a summer school where I judged final projects. There has been a day-long professorial appointment interview. There have been various inquiries from media and a request to participate as an informant for a masters project.

On July 18, I picked up six masters theses that I have to grade by August 22. Don't know about colleagues, but it takes me at least a day, often more, to grade a thesis, especially since we have to write a 400-word formative feedback.

I have reviewed a paper submitted for a journal. It takes at least a day, especially if you write some feedback, which I do, because in a similar situation I'd like to have feedback rather than simply a rejection.

I have said no to writing a promotion blurb for a book, which was a matter of professional integrity, but also because it takes a couple of days to read a book in order to write a blurb.

I have written an abstract for an article I had earlier agreed to contribute and now wish I hadn't; and I have discussed an article project with a colleague, which I really want to write, but doubt whether I'll have time to do. Not this summer anyway.

Another colleague and I have received comments from a reader for our submitted edited volume. We needed to go through the comments and decide what to do with them and contact our contributors. We shared the work. It takes a day or two to go through a book chapter and write suggestions for contributors.

There are warnings for page proofs for two articles in the next few days.

I have revised one of the papers I did in Brazil for publication in Portuguese. You think it will take two hours, and it takes too days.

I am just finishing an article that I definitely shouldn't have promised to write, but that I enjoy writing. It has taken considerably longer than expected, not least because there were so many things coming in between. With luck, I will finish it this weekend.

Then I can start on the project that I was supposed to be working on all this long, lazy summer.


Hannah said...

We hugely appreciated the time you spent replying to thesis queries!

Mary Gagliardi said...

I agree with you that one hard thing about going to grad school is having a job at the same time. The times you can spent writing graduate thesis paper are divided with the work. But, I think managing time well can have a huge effect on it. It would certainly help balance time and work.