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Diary of a social work academic: Monday

I am frequently asked how I find time to engage with people via social media amidst all the other things I do. With the use of a smartphone, I have simply woven it into the fabric of my daily routine (family permitting, of course!).

It’s in the down-time that I check what’s occurring online and I find it useful to start the day before anyone else wakes up with finding out what people are talking about. So, shortly after my alarm went off at 6.15am this morning I checked my Facebook timeline (saw pictures of a collaborator’s wedding in India) and my Twitter feed (early-riser @Ermintrude2 is excellent at tweeting and debating the social care news first thing in the morning – the following, and the discussion it provoked, is a good example of the invisibility of social care in many Department of Health announcements):

To get to work I drive from my home in Ripon to York and then park in a village on the edge of the city, get my bike out and cycle the last 6 miles. Well, I do normally, but I’m currently between bikes. My last one has served me for almost 20 years and, several groupsets later, has finally given up the ghost. It has seen me through the winter, but the North Yorkshire snow, grit and muck has now got to it and I’ve had to write it off. Replacing the groupset will cost almost as much as a new bike, so I’ve ordered a new one through the Cycle to Work scheme. I’m hoping the voucher will come this week so I can pick it up and get back to my normal routine.

While I’m waiting for my new bike to be sorted out, I’m driving the full 26 miles to and from the University of York with the Today programme and PM (yes, I’m a bit of a Radio 4 geek) for company. As well as keeping me in touch with what’s going on, there are occasional gems. On the PM programme today, for example, there was a piece on a new play Inside Out of Mind. The play is set on a dementia ward and dramatises real life incidents which were documented in an ethnography. Researchers worked on the ward and noted their observations about its daily life. The PM presenter said that instead of writing it up for a peer-reviewed journal, they went to a playwright to dramatise it. This will certainly ensure it has impact!

In the office I picked up dissertations and end of placement reports for marking. Note to self: must get this done by the end of the week. I also picked up an inspection copy of Daisy Bogg’s new book Evidencing CPD: A Guide to Building your Social Work Portfolio. (Another one for my task list). Daisy is one of the most prolific social work authors I’ve come across. I’m fortunate to be supervising her part-time PhD as I’m hoping that some of her writing speed will rub off on me!

I try to keep up with emails on an on-going basis so they don’t stack up. My system is to deal with quick things straight away and put aside those which need a proper response. Then, in down time between other tasks, I come back to them later. However, I’m always trying to deal with a backlog and just don’t have enough ‘down time’ to give to clearing my inbox. I’ve heard that the best way of dealing with it is just to delete them all and if it’s important then someone will get back to you. I’m rather hesitant about doing that as I know I’ll just delete something important and will regret it later.

Anyway, in my first tranche of emails this morning came two rejections. One was for a systematic review paper which received quite different reviews from its four reviewers. They ranged from ‘publish it now, this paper is just perfect’ to ‘I don’t know why this journal is considering this paper for publication’. Unfortunately the editor was more persuaded by the latter argument than the former. The second was an abstract for a paper for a special issue of a journal. Both will be edited and sent elsewhere.

These kind of rejections are completely ‘par for the course’ in an academic’s work. I’ve made several unsuccessful grant applications over the years and papers are quite frequently rejected from the first journal I send them to. I’m still learning not to take it personally, but due to my personality type I view myself as a constant improvement project so I think carefully about how I can improve future submissions to improve my ‘hit rate’.

The substantive piece of work I undertook today was preparation for the presentation I’m giving at the BASW England Conference ‘Giving Mental Health Prominence in Social Work’ on Thursday this week. I’ll write more about it then, including providing a link to the presentation. I’m really looking forward to it as I enjoy discussing my research with practitioners and sharing some of my thinking behind it.

Fortunately, today was a meeting-lite day. Large organisations like universities can suck you in to their overwhelming bureaucracy and you find that you don’t get any work done as you’re always in meetings. I try to keep them to a minimum. On Mondays we have a brief half-hour social work team meeting. Although the first thing we discussed was the length of the meeting (keeping to half an hour is sometimes a struggle!), the agenda covered a range of items including covering colleagues’ work during sickness, whether or not we should apply for the Frontline tender, research ideas and projects to improve the quality of social work education we provide. Decisions were made, actions were noted and the meeting finished on time. Just how I like it!

Amidst sorting out the formatting of the follow-up questionnaire for the Connecting People study, confirming travel and accommodation arrangements for forthcoming conferences and making arrangements for the start of a new co-ordinator for Making Research Count next week, I made a bit more progress with one of the papers I’m working on.

I aim to get pieces of work written up as soon as possible so they remain timely and useful. This is not always achievable, but having tight deadlines helps. A recent call for papers has prompted me to quickly pull together a paper from a symposium I chaired at the European Conference on Social Work Research in March. The paper is exploring one of the themes of this blog – the role of ‘the academy’ in the development of the social work profession. I’m writing this with six collaborators, taking the role of editor. Two contributions are in and I’m in the process of shaping it up so I can show the remaining contributors where their pieces will fit in.

I had hoped to get it drafted today, but that’s another job for finishing off in the morning. I’ll let you know how it goes!

4 thoughts on “Diary of a social work academic: Monday

  1. Nick Hervey says:

    Have been cycling through the winter but just wasn’t expecting it to last into May!!!

  2. Mark Hardy says:

    id get more work done if i didnt keep getting distracted by the likes of this!

  3. Sorry,Mark. They’re going to be coming your way all week. You can always unfollow the blog – I won’t take it personally!

  4. Amanda Taylor says:

    Thank you for sharing, the similarities are oddly reassuring and interesting to read how full up our days actually are.

    I’ll be back for more peer support


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