I decided to become freelance nearly a year ago now. As I wrote in my last blog Why ‘research-adjacent’? I’ve decided to claim the job title ‘research-adjacent’ and wear this label with pride. But until recently I didn’t know what to call myself besides ‘consultant’. This isn’t just my personal career-angst. When I started to think about it, there must be thousands of amazing people doing amazing things which help to support, translate and generally make research happen. But we have virtually no collective identity, and the research and the researchers get all the glory. In fact the idea for my podcast Research Adjacent was born out of rage, and (as some of you will know) it takes quite a lot to make me angry – I mean, I’m a yoga teacher 😉.
Here are the top 4 things that got me worked up.
1. Research-adjacent careers are not just for ‘failed’ researchers
Research-adjacent careers are often presented as something you do if you ‘fail’ at being a researcher. Whereas in my experience they are equally worthwhile and challenging, frequently more fun or varied, and often come with a much better work-life balance.
2. Research-adjacent professionals (RAPs) deserve more credit
People who work in research-adjacent roles don’t get enough credit, particularly publicly, for what they contribute to making research happen. They rarely get named on publications, they don’t have access to the same opportunities, they are not held in anything like the same esteem. I have both witnessed, and been on the receiving end of some truly toxic behaviour doled out by senior academics to research-adjacent minions.
3. RAPs deserve professional development too
And while I’m on the subject of opportunities where is the career development for research-adjacent staff? Researchers have entire departments (of research-adjacent staff) dedicated to their training and professional development. Research-adjacent professionals usually have to cobble together a patchwork of courses. And don’t even get me started on the stuff that looks really useful and relevant but is for ‘researchers only’.
4. RAPs need to be part of the ‘research culture’ conversation
And speaking of patchwork, our career paths are often anything but linear. Many research-adjacent professionals move from one job to another as the funding dries up, or their department is restructured, or they hit a promotion ceiling. This is as much of a loss as the endlessly-discussed leaky pipeline of academia. And for all the recent talk about improving research culture, I haven’t seen much evidence of research-adjacent professionals being considered in the proposed changes.
We have been sidelined for too long! Research Adjacent is about reclaiming our stories. The research-adjacent professionals I know are smart, resourceful, and resilient. They are often the ones who truly want research to make a difference out in the world and who are driving a lot of the change, so why don’t we hear about them? Well, now we will! In the podcast I will be interviewing interesting research-adjacent professionals to hear about the work they do and their often-squiggly career paths. Listen in via your favourite podcast app from January 2023 and join the conversation on Twitter.