Guest post series by Ed Kaneen on his experiences at the Workshop for Aspiring Academics:

The second area of getting a job was covered by Jason Turner of the Department of Philosophy at Leeds, and Chris Renwick, a lecturer in the History and Philosophy of Science at the University of York. Jason focused on the application process, particularly CV’s. Given that universities are only interested in research and teaching, there is little point adding anything else. Key strengths should be emphasised at the start, and highlighted in the covering letter, even though this may never be read. There may be as many as 400 applicants for each job, so keeping it clear and concise is in the applicant’s favour (it was noted that this is different in the UK to the US, where a great deal of supporting material may be requested. This should be actively avoided in theUK, unless specifically asked for). The writing sample, as well as being excellent research, concise, clear, etc. should be of interest to a ‘broad audience’ within the discipline, as it will almost certainly be read by non-specialists.

The importance of publications came up time and again during the day, and Chris Renwick presented a whole session on this, as a new lecturer who had already published a number of articles before the end of his PhD. Having at least one publication in a highly regarded, peer-reviewed journal, was considered essential for the CV, and quality matters more than quantity. Chris recommended publishing one or two chapters from the thesis as you go along [although this should be checked with University regulations, as not all institutions permit this]. Indeed, he took the perspective that students should only focus on their thesis, and not waste time on publications outside their research topic. Although no ranking of journals is currently considered in assessing research within TRS, it is clearly worth getting published in as good a place as possible. However, Chris also made the point that, with the REF coming up, it may be harder to get published as a student, since many established academics are trying to get articles into print before the deadline for submission. Moreover, students should bear in mind that there will typically be an 18-month period in-between initial submission and final publication, so there is a need to start as early as possible.

It was an indication of how seriously the REF was being taken by some leading universities that Chris recommended not publishing in edited volumes, but only in journals. The reason for this is that it is more difficult to judge the quality of a piece which has not already been peer-reviewed. However, he did accept that, as an unknown academic, there are benefits in getting your paper published alongside more established names, as a ‘status indicator’. Keith Crome, one of the contributors from Manchester Metropolitan University made the point that not all institutions are reliant on the REF outcome, and those like MMU which focus more on teaching than research will be much more interested in teaching quality and experience on a CV than research publications.