Read on to find out why I have decided to call my podcast, and frankly my whole career, research-adjacent.
I’m not quite sure where I first heard the term ‘adjacent’ used to describe something that was similar to, connected to, aligned with, or supportive of something. Probably in relation to the arts – I’ve certainly heard the term ‘adjacent’ used as a way of helping people find music or films they might like. I might have heard it from my tween – she does watch a lot of YouTube. I might have heard it on social media – my absolute favourite use of the term research-adjacent on Twitter goes to Eleanor Baker and these sheep.
When and why I chose to embrace being research-adjacent
I guess it doesn’t really matter where I heard it, perhaps what matters more is when and why I chose to embrace it. Recently I was organising a panel on alternative careers for PhD students and Early Career Researchers. The panel needed a name and ‘Research-Adjacent Careers’ popped into my head. It was only after the event that I started to realise that ‘research-adjacent’ basically describes my whole career.
Although I haven’t really been a researcher since 2000 (unless you count a handful of reports) I have been research-adjacent for over 20 years now. I have worked directly on research projects doing project management and public engagement. I have trained and supported researchers to work as ambassadors in schools. I have taken complex journal articles and rewritten them for a lay audience. I have created workshops so that young people can learn research techniques. I have supervised student research projects. I have done so many different things that I struggle to explain to people exactly what I do.
For those who fit in and those who don’t
I know that there are other people like me out there – are you one of them? We exist in a kind of limbo space – not researchers, but not administrators either. Integral to the research ecosystem, but not acknowledged as such. There are communities out there for public engagement professionals, science communicators, researcher development folks, research managers etc. But what about those of us who shift quite fluidly between different these different roles – where do we fit in?
So I am claiming the term research-adjacent for myself, for us, and everyone is welcome to claim it for themselves too. I like ‘adjacent’ much more than some of the alternatives. Professional services makes me feel like an accountant, professional support suggests that we are somehow less-than. I knew I’d struck gold when I looked up the definition of adjacent. I found this at dictionary.com:
- Related or very close to a specified topic, activity, etc.
- Supporting or being an ally of a group or subculture
- Having the traits or interests of a group or subculture without being a part of it
With that definition I can totally get on board with being research-adjacent. What about you? Do you want to come and join me on the research-adjacent bus? Everyone is welcome! The party’s at the back…or on Twitter…come and chat using #ResearchAdjacent.
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