Research only, hopefully

Last week, I gave my last lecture for the near future. As of December 1, I will be an Australian Research Council Future Fellow, which means I am on essentially a research only position for four years, and I can only use 0.05 of my time to teach; which more-or-less rules me out of teaching our undergraduate courses.

I was expecting to feel relief and joy upon finishing last week, but instead I felt a little sad. I taught a seond year introduction to pure mathematics which does all the cool stuff: from cardinality to the definition of the real numbers. The initial enrolment of the course was around the 50 mark, but it slowly settled to about 35. This year, the cohort was particularly strong, and it was quite a challenge sometimes to have an answer to every question they threw at me. Next year, the course will contain more linear algebra and so some of the cool stuff will have to go; ah well!

Now that I am officially “research only” for another four years, will it mean that I’m really “research only”? The amount of admin that comes up on a daily basis is the main difference I see now than when I started my first research position in 2004. These days, we only have a couple of admin staff to help us, and usually when asking for help, a form is returned which increases the amount of work. For example, to organise a visit of a researcher to UWA, I would like to ask our admin staff for help over searching and booking accommodation. However, I have to fill out a “visitor form” before anything can be done. Then when the visitor arrives, there are more forms to fill out: one for a campus card, another to arrange reimbursement of expenses. But this is nothing compared to the forms that follow a postgraduate student around.

In one of my PhD students’ first year, she needed to:

  1. write a 16 page research proposal (that bounced back and had to be expanded)
    • this included filling out a coversheet
    • a list of tasks that must be completed by the end of first year
  2. fill out an overseas travel request form for the Graduate Research School
  3. write an application for a Graduate Research School Travel Award
  4. … then later fill out a Graduate Research School Travel Report
  5. fill out a travel approval form for the School of Mathematics and Statistics
  6. write an Annual Report including the following
  7. fill out a sickness leave form, including
    • an application for leave form (Graduate Research School)
    • submitting doctor’s certificate to the School of Mathematics and Statistics

All of these items needed to be signed by me and either the Postgraduate Coordinator in our school or the Head of School, and often both! If there were any ethics/intellectual property concerns then there would be more paperwork.

Perhaps we should have used the following form (thanks Gordon!) on each occasion:


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