Performing the Processes and Challenges of Early Career Researchers
Towards the end of 2016, the Heritage Futures researchers attended the 'Past Matters, Research Futures' AHRC Care for the Future Early Career Researcher Conference. Here we offer a recording of our contribution, made by Kirsty Pitkin of eventamplifier for the AHRC Care for the Future team.
We were invited to share our particular experiences at the conference working as Early Career Researchers (or ECRs). We submitted a proposal on ‘profusion’ – both as the subject of our research and the results of our working practices – for the session Processes and Challenges of Early Career Researchers.
To prepare for our submission, we sat together – a rare enough occurrence given our diverse institutions and dispersed locations – in the Heritage Futures lab in UCL’s Institute of Archaeology to discuss what we might present, and how. After the usual jokes about interpretive dance, some blaspheming about various admin tasks, steam-releasing about fieldwork woes, and disagreements about definitions, we realised that the flow of our discussion would work beautifully to illustrate our thoughts on the subject; and given the performativity at the heart of academic life, perhaps a soupçon of theatricality would better deliver our message. In the following weeks, we rehearsed (on Skype!) and timed our presentation, and produced an accompanying background film that illustrated our talks, and also some of the video fieldnotes we’ve made along the way – thus putting into action our new skills in video editing.
Our performance reflected the (at times, potential) feeling of being overwhelmed by our research, the intense and immense materials that we deal with, the extreme time management and task management that such a project entails, the apprehension of upskilling and recovering long-forgotten practices: all the thrills, spills and sometimes lonelinesses that life as an ECR inevitably delivers; and all of that while trying to assuage anxiety at the precarity of a time-limited job by bolstering our CVs with the various demands of the next step on the vitae wheel (which took a looming presence in our performance!). It also reflected our discomfort with the term ‘early career researcher’, with all of us well into our careers with extensive experience in a variety of both academic and practitioner fields.
After our performance-presentation at the conference, a lively discussion followed. We invited our fellow ECRs to comment – on all of the above – and to acknowledge the difficulties that are the flip-side of the privilege of research. We never really solved all of these challenges but it was a pleasure to meet our fellow ‘early career researchers’ from across academia and a range of funded projects to share findings and experiences.
Here we offer a recording of our performance, made by Kirsty Pitkin of eventamplifier for the AHRC Care for the Future team, to add to the profusion.