Guest blog from Tom Fryer, who is the Ambitious Futures Graduate Trainee at SOAS for 2016/17.
Please note that the views expressed in this blog are those of the author and unless specifically stated are not those of SOAS Careers Service. If you consider this content to be in breach of the SOAS values, please alert firstname.lastname@example.org
The major takeaway from my first few weeks of my placement at SOAS: universities are much more complicated than you think. I figured that after studying at SOAS last year I was roughly up to speed with how universities function in the UK. I was wrong. There are so many roles that aren’t student-facing, i.e. the type of role where you never see a student apart from in the hallways between meetings, but that are absolutely central to the functioning of SOAS.
The Research and Enterprise Department is a good example of this ‘invisible’ work – though it probably also helps that we’re hidden away at the top of the Faber Building (an absolute maze with the same logical structure as Coleridge’s Kubla Khan). I’m on the Research-side of the Research and Enterprise Department, which basically helps researchers apply for grants, sometimes pulling in millions of pounds. My primary task is to undertake a survey and faculty interviews on research data management practices and needs at SOAS in order to better support researchers making grant applications and also throughout their projects. Imagine that you’re a researcher; you meet another researcher at a conference who has just spent a year implementing a survey on maternal health in Tanzania. You were just about to collect very similar data, so you ask to use their dataset for your research question. Problem is, the other researcher’s data makes no sense to you as it’s full of unfamiliar acronyms. The solution to this is a half-decent research data management plan.
I had no prior experience in data management before starting the placement, but one of the great things about the Ambitious Futures programme is that there’s plenty of support to learn new skills over the course of your placement. I’m already in the middle of two MOOCs (which I just had to Google and means Massive Open Online Course) and a bunch of internal training at SOAS, including a session on content management to prepare me to work on the data management sections of the SOAS website. Also, I’m super excited at the prospect of nipping to a few relevant conferences in and around the UK – there’s currently one in Edinburgh that I have my eye on.
There’s also scope to get involved with other projects that are related to the main placement project. Obviously this won’t be possible in every placement, but so far I’ve found that universities are filled with people with more ideas than time. I’m hoping to lend a hand on the work that the Research Office does on ‘impact’, or the effects of academic research on wider society.
For more information and to apply, visit the Ambitious Futures website. But be quick as applications close on Wednesday 21 December.
Tom Fryer, SOAS Ambitious Futures Graduate Trainee (2016/17)