catherine's timeline

Catherine

Catherine did volunteer work while raising her children and then started working in a local university research institute as she was unable to move due to family. Her initial role was as a data in-putter and research assistant before she decided to do a PhD. A publication during her degree was still often cited. On graduation at 48, she was offered a position as researcher in the same institute and joined the UK study in 2008 in her fifth year as a researcher still imagining a research-teaching position locally. While her family was older so she had less responsibility, she had ageing parents who required some visiting and caring for.

 

What struck us about Catherine’s story was:

Handling anxiety and family health crises.

Repeated research contracts and fellowship a time of relative freedom.

Embedding institutional funds into salary by taking on administration and institutional resistance to making her position permanent.

 

 

Post-PhD

 

Year 5

Post-PhD

 

Year 6

Post-PhD

 

Year 7

Post-PhD

 

Year 8

Post-PhD

Year 9

 

Post-PhD

Year 5

Elder care and partner’s job made it difficult to consider moving.

Worked in inter-disciplinary area.

Inter-disciplinary area made it difficult to find research-teaching positions.

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Considerable international recognition from PhD review paper; wanted to shape, coordinate research framework for area.

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Found relaxation in music, gardening and walking.

Travelled internationally for work; felt pressured by recognition; sometimes felt a fraud.

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 Post-PhD

 

Year 6 

Father seriously ill, so spent time with both parents until his death.

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Awarded fellowship freeing her from some duties; aimed to write papers and a book.

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Called as expert to interpret others’ findings to external stakeholders; not sure she provided kind of advice wanted, e.g. certainty and actions.

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Collapsed while at conference in North America and hospitalised.

Travelled internationally for different speaking events: confidence booster but challenging and punishing.

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Involved in bid writing with others.

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Programme leader sought out her opinions.

Successful bids central to her salary.

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Upgraded; more senior team management role which institutionally embedded part of salary.

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Considered moving outside academia, possibly in 5 years’ time.

Post-PhD

Year 7

All was well with family.

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Fellowship ended; back on contract.

By taking on management role, definitely joined the grown-ups.

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New director a good role model; it all seemed more possible.

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6 week visit to northern Europe for collaborative work (research leave).

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Time management improved but still not finding time to write.

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Post-PhD

Year 8

Stressful summer: daughter ill needed care; realised managing her own anxiety important for her family.

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More time needed to advance research bidding; bidding reduced time for ‘fun’ of research but unit needed funding.

Administrative role going well.

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Finished second review paper; higher stakes than 1st review paper during PhD since name now known.

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More experienced at writing non-academically for magazines and government reports.

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Post-PhD

Year 9

Mother in sheltered accommodation and daughter in hospital; daughter’s ongoing illness distressing; husband, now retired, could have provided more support.

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Team struggled to find funding; lost a major bid so team future uncertain.

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Had to keep ‘reminding myself that I still value and enjoy my work … life is mostly good’.

Not included in departmental assessment of research contribution.

Demoralised at undervaluing of contract researchers by university.

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Given another short-term contract.

Met with Department and Union given ‘persistent resistance to putting me on [permanently] after a decade of bringing in funding’  (+ exclusion from departmental assessment).

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Seriously thought ‘for the first time’ about looking elsewhere, in and out of academia.

 
 

What struck us

Handling anxiety.

Family health crises.

Repeated research contracts.

Fellowship a time of relative freedom.

Embedding institutional funds into salary by taking on administration.

Institutional resistance to making her position permanent.

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Researcher Identity Development (2017). This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License