Reimagining a Better Academia: Finding Meaning in a Precarious Environment
6th and 7th of November 2023
University of Malaga Faculty of Communication Sciences,
In recent years, academic culture and universities as places of work have changed profoundly, increasing job insecurity, hyper-competitiveness, loneliness, isolation, and a perception of ‘publish or perish’ (De Rond & Miller, 2005). Academics have increasingly lower salaries, work longer hours, and are under more pressure to produce (Allmer, 2018), compounding the structural problems with sexism, racism, and prejudice (Heffernan, 2021). This affects especially those in the lowest positions in the academic chain, early career researchers (ECRs), who are starting out in academia and have to face an increasingly hostile environment. In addition, this development has led to an increase in severe mental health problems among scholars broadly, including young researchers (Woolston, 2020; Hanitzsch et al., 2023).
With this workshop, YECREA wants to provide a space to critically discuss and reimagine a better academia for ECRs in communication studies, broadly. The aim is to create an inclusive space for like-minded and critical-thinking ECRs who are prepared to interrogate and intervene in current academic cultures. We do not envision this to be merely a space for critiquing “how bad academia is”, but to identify key problems and transform academia by offering long-term, tangible, and implementable solutions. We recognize the value of growing research highlighting the problems in academia, but what we want this workshop to be is a call for action to improve the conditions for ECRs in academia. We invite doctoral and post-doctoral researchers, as well as early-career lecturers and independent scientists, who are outspoken, engaged, and committed to coming up with creative and disruptive solutions and ideas to challenge academia in its current state. These goals also align with ECREA’s broader activities, reflecting on neoliberal conditions in academia.
The 2-day workshop will focus on broad themes, including inequality and access to the academic field, precarious working conditions, and mental well-being. On day one, renowned experts on these themes will provide keynotes to open the workshop and facilitate debate and discussion. On day two, the central focus of the workshop is to synthesize and concretize discussions to come up with feasible and actionable solutions. Throughout the workshop, participants will present on these themes, reflecting on both existing research on academic cultures as well as their experiences and observations of and within academia.
Ultimately, the workshop is envisioned as a starting point for establishing an ongoing collective of early-career scholars mobilized around reimagining and repairing academic culture through various forms of engagement.
This space is organized by the YECREA Network, an entity of ECREA, with the collaboration of the University of Malaga and the Department of Journalism.
Submit a brief CV and an 800-word abstract addressing one of the following or any other issues and questions you believe characterize current academic culture:
- How can we define precarity in academia, and how have you experienced it as an early-career communication researcher?
- What sort of mental health issues have been observed in academia, and what solutions do you envision?
- What are some of the rules and guidelines that define the ‘grant-application’ system, and what could be done to make it more equitable?
- How did academia arrive at the ‘publish-or-perish’ point, and what impact is it having on academic output and you as an early-career scholar?
- What types of power dynamics characterize academia and especially early-career scholars’ experiences, and what needs to change?
- What are the key obstacles and forms of discrimination preventing access to academic spaces and opportunities, and how have they impacted you?
- What do we know about the academic publishing sector, and what do you believe might need to change (e.g., open access costs, reviewing culture)?
In your abstract, please also:
- Indicate which workshop theme your abstract broadly falls under and why you chose to engage with it.
- Reflect on both academic research and personal experiences and/or observations to situate your arguments.
- Let us know why you are motivated to be a part of this workshop and ongoing collective in the long run.
Send these to YECREA (firstname.lastname@example.org) by 15th September 2023. Participation in the workshop is free (no fee).
If selected, you will be invited to expand on your abstract to develop a critical and reflective essay of 2000 words (excl. references) which you will present during the workshop in any creative form you want.
Allmer, T. (2019). Academic Labour, Digital Media and Capitalism. Critical Sociology, 45(4-5), 599-615.
De Rond, M., & Miller, A. N. (2005). Publish or perish: Bane or boon of academic life?. Journal of Management inquiry, 14(4), 321-329.
Heffernan, T. (2022). Sexism, racism, prejudice, and bias: A literature review and synthesis of research surrounding student evaluations of courses and teaching. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 47(1), 144-154.
Hanitzsch, T., Markiewitz, A., & Bødker, H. (2023). Burning (Out) for Academia: Mental Health among Media and Communication Scholars. LMU Munich. https://doi.org/10.5282/ubm/epub.103583
Woolston C. (2020). Uncertain prospects for postdoctoral researchers. Nature, 588(7836), 181-184. https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-020-03381-3.