The new book my Prof. Mark Reed (Founder of Fast Track Impact ) The Productive Researcher is out today. I have been part of Mark’s ‘launch team’ which excitingly meant I got an early preview of the book in exchange for my honest thoughts about it.
I like to think I am fairly productive so I was interested to see what I could learn from the book. I was also keen to understand how or it if could be useful to researchers like myself who are at the outset of my career. Academics, especially those at the early part of their careers are often under huge pressure, publishing, applying for grants, teaching, managing workload, building a profile, to name but a few tasks, and this is increasingly being done whilst on precarious contracts. Workloads in research are often private affairs too, whilst we may work collaboratively, we are often as researchers responsible for our day to day time and workload management and so knowing what others might be getting through or doing is sometimes mysterious. That Mark explores the ideas of other scholars, their advice for achieving more without sacrificing all of yourself is therefore really enlightening.
The book as a whole I found really interesting. There are a lot of deeply personal reflections from Mark at the start of the book, the honesty of that is appealing and really helps set the tone for the book. A lot of the words in the book feel like the good advice you perhaps wished you had received at the start of your career, and there is no preachy tone about time management. Whilst the book does tackle the issue of ‘saying no’ (a common piece of advice extolled across productivity and careers advice type articles) there is an awareness that saying no is contextual, is linked to power and opportunity and that it is really dificult. In that regard the tone of the book really reminded me of Leap Year .
The central message of the book for me was about connecting with why you are a researcher. Why do we do research? We will all have varied answers for that question, for me, I enjoy the new knowledge, solving a puzzle or answering a question, I also want and try to do work that is meaningful, giving a voice to those who may be marginalised or silenced, and to try and improve things in whatever small ways I can through doing so. In the daily rush of the tasks that we face, that bigger picture can sometimes be less clear or feel far away, but as The productive Researcher rightly points out- ” When you remember why you are doing what you are doing, you will do it for the right reasons, and you will do it better”.
Overall, a really interesting book. That a researcher has written the book helps, Mark ‘gets it’, and there are elements that will be potentially useful for all the career stages of the academic journey. Mostly I found reading it motivating, it gave me a renewed sense of wanting to get out there and do work that I believe to be ‘good’ which can never be a bad thing.
You can find the book here