Tuesday, 30 June 2015

The out-of-office reply in today’s academia

Summer and holiday! But of course we do check our emails every day (hour?; minute?). It would be careless not to do so: what if you are invited to a great conference in a wonderful location or get the proofs of your article with some embarrassing typos, both with short deadlines.
   But, still, out-of-office replies may be useful to tell the world that now we don’t really want to respond to emails, at least not very quickly. But then how should one phrase it? I looked at a couple of examples that I received recently. Analysing them, there is first the question whether to indicate an alternative point of contact – and second how far to say (claim?) that you really won’t respond to emails:

With alternative contact
Without alternative contact

‘no response’
‘slight delay’
I am currently away from the Law School and will have no access to emails until ... If your query is urgent and relates to …, please contact….

Hi folks. I’m away from the office until …; the Law School Reception is probably the best place to direct questions in my absence.

Thank you for your message. I am currently out of office (… to … ) and may not be able to answer emails immediately. If the matter is urgent please contact …

I am away from the University until … without much access to my email. For urgent matters please contact ..

I am out of office until …. During that time, I shall have access to emails, but may take a bit longer than usual to respond. If you have urgent enquiries about … please contact ...
Thank you for your email. I am away until … and I will get back to you as soon as possible thereafter.

During … I am not able to read your email immediately. Your email message will be saved and I will get back to you after my return. In urgent matters please text me at ... 

I am currently out of office and might not be able to respond your emails till …. I will contact you as soon as I can.

Thank you for your email. From .. to .. I will be away from my office with intermittent access to e-mails. I will try to respond to your correspondence as soon as possible.

Thank you for your message. I am currently away on a trip to ... I have less frequent access to email than normal, so there is likely to be a delay in my response to you.

Does this tell us anything interesting? Well, circumstances may be different but also personalities – so do you want to delegate or not? And do you want to create the impression that you’re always ready to work if something urgent comes up, or do you want to tell the world that it should manage for a few weeks without you...?

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Crowdfunding legal scholarship?

ICLA simple google search shows a lively discussion about crowdfunding academic research. Some universities have also developed platforms that aim for crowdfunding research, presumably first Deakin University in Australia and recently SOAS in London.
   Could such crowdfunding also work for legal scholarship? A sceptic may say that crowdfunding is more likely to be relevant for other research: for example, medical breakthroughs, technological interventions and innovative artistic works – all with the potential of attracting funding from the general public.
   But perhaps there can be circumstances where legal scholarship could attract crowdfunding – here some Sunday morning ideas:
  • Donation-based crowdfunding could work for ‘sexy’ legal research, for example, if it can be linked to politically relevant topics (religious extremism, gun control, the EU etc) or if it has a cultural, philosophical or even artistic dimension that make it of interest to the public (eg, crime fiction and law; artworks displaying injustice).
  • Loan-based crowdfunding would need to appeal to investors expecting a return. This could work for legal research where the researcher knows that he/she can expect future income streams but needs resources to conduct this project. For example, someone – a public body, a law firm, a company etc – asks the researcher to produce a report on a particular legal issue but payment will only be with the delivery of the report: so here the crowdfunding would enable the researcher to go on unpaid leave for some time, to appoint assistants etc.
  • Equity-based crowdfunding (and related forms of crowdinvestment) would appeal to investors who aim for a return but are aware of the risks of the investment. This may work for some conventional legal research, for example, the aim to write a popular textbook (where external funding is often not available and universities may be unwilling to grant research leave). So, crowdfunding may again provide the time by way of unpaid leave, buyouts etc to get the book written; then, the funders would participate in the future income streams of the book (while the author should also retain some of the income in order to keep an incentive to produce good work).

Friday, 5 June 2015

What’s a Good Talk in Academia?

It is one of the joys (or burdens) of academia that we attend many talks at conferences, workshops, research seminars etc. Sometimes the topic turns out to be not very exciting, but then it remains possible to reflect a bit on the quality of the presentation – wondering: what’s a good talk in academia?
  Perhaps, a talk is good under the following circumstances: (i) delivered without notes; (ii) nothing left unexplained on the slides; (iii) clear and simple language; (iv) focus on the topic of the talk; (v) perfect timing; (vi) formal outfit.
  However, there are also reasons why each of these points can be counter-productive: (i) notes show that you’re well prepared (ie that you haven’t just made things up on the train etc); (ii) some further information on slides can illustrate the depth of the topic and your research; (iii) appropriate academic terminology is often not simple; (iv) changing between topics can show interesting connections; (v) a dynamic talk is more appealing than a formulaic one; (vi) the audience should focus on substance of talk (thus at best smart academic perhaps).
  So, to sum up, things are complicated … presumably the ‘perhaps arguments’ are, generally speaking, indicators of a good talk but sometimes also a bit ambiguous.