Image created by Carolina Iplinsky as part of United Nations Global Call Out to Creatives |
Image created by Carolina Iplinsky as part of United Nations Global Call Out to Creatives |

It’s my last day of work for the year today.

It has taken the writing of a couple of end-of-year posts for me to build enough momentum to give this blog some love. The two other posts I’ve contributed to in the last few days are:

  • Surviving 2020 (final post for Research Whisperer; co-authored with Jonathan O’Donnell)
  • Looking at 2021 (final post for RED Alert; co-authored with Jeanette Fyffe, Dan Bendrups, and Jamie Burford)

If you read both of these posts, you’ll get an idea of how I’m feeling towards the year and what’s transpired. There was plenty I didn’t say, though, because of space and also the types of forums those blogs are. There are things I’d say on this personal blog that I wouldn’t as part of RW or RED Alert (and I realise there’s a whole blogpost in the whys/wherefores of that statement…). For a start, this post is really quite long…

Melbourne is out of lockdown and things are seemingly returning to normal, a ‘normal’ that now means physical distancing and mask-wearing and continued, assiduous hand-washing. Compared with what’s happening elsewhere, I’m incredibly grateful (NSW’s growing cluster notwithstanding…). 

I’m looking forward to a normal Christmas/New Year break that means giving little or no thought to whether we can do things and much to whether we want to do things. Looking back over last year’s summer holidays, I can confirm that I’d like to do most of that again! 

For this post, I wanted to focus some time on the Top 3 researcher-related things to happen for me this year – a small attempt to counterbalance the bad news we have been swimming in for 2020:

1. We did #Whisperfest.

My colleagues and I convened four days of sessions for hundreds and hundreds of scholars (from approx. 40+ different countries). Inger ‘Thesis Whisperer’ Mewburn wrote about the event just before it happend and talked about how we all came together. #Whisperfest was an amazing, exhausting, and inspiring few days, and working alongside Jonathan, Inger, and Narelle was fantastic. We have never done something like this before so it was all new territory and experimentation. Very happy to have these peeps as my fellow travellers on this project. I’d like to also give an appreciative nod to those I specifically invited into the event as guests and facilitators. They are people I greatly admire and have fangirled to varying degrees over time. They all agreed without hesitation and were part of making the event such a success. Thank you, Jen Polk, Raul Pacheco-Vega, Wade Kelly, Becky Willson, Troy Heffernan, Ben Kraal, Sarah King, and Kylie Ball!  

The feedback from the four days was beyond what I expected. I was hoping that what we did would serve as a good intervention into the dire feelings around this year and the general awfulness of university life, that it might make a small difference for people who were seeking support, company, and timely perspectives. The day after #Whisperfest, I found this tweet from @GouldLabS, who’s based in Scotland: 

It was delightful to think of someone on their morning run in the UK listening to something that we were doing in Australia at the tail end of our day (and entire event!). Yes, I am still in awe of timezone connections. Many lovely Twitter peeps posted their thanks – here’s a selection below. My ulterior motive for collecting them here is to be able to read them when I’m having not-so-good times and feeling daunted or intimidated by things I’ve taken on! 

It’s been great! Started the week feeling ‘betwixt and between’. Ended it feeling inspired, empowered and part of a collegiate academic space that reaches across disciplines and countries. Utterly brilliant 🙂 – @MyHEdDSpace (Gayl Wall)

I couldn’t attend as many sessions as I wanted to, but those I did made my heart so happy #Whisperfest – @LauraSimRee (Laura Simpson Reeves)

Thanks for opportunity to attend #WhisperFest – you really delivered on your promise “We want the kind of academy we want to see: inclusive, empowered, engaged and kind.” Amazing to hear from experienced #researchers and very down to earth people. Look forward to sessions missed. – @JedhaDening

Oh my goodness what a fabulous set of sessions it’s been @ #Whisperfest from @researchwhisper @thesiswhisperer @rellypops @jod999 and all the wonderful speakers. Solid integrity. Best thing I’ve done in a long time. Inspiring and very thought provoking. Thank you all! – @KatarinaTui (Katarina Tuinamuana)

Bryony Tucker totally got what we were trying to do: 

#Whisperfest 2020 – the academics guide to building a bunker whilst connecting allies globally. – @PigwifPhD

You can check out this post-#Whisperfest thread of links and resources to keep the love going! 

2. Albatross Paper is flying.

This sole-authored paper is the first in a whole new direction for me and it has taken AGES to even get to submission stage. My colleagues all know what I’m talking about when I refer to ‘the Albatross Paper’. I hope I don’t have another albatross paper in my life anytime soon!  

After the swiftest desk reject I have ever had from the first journal I sent it to, I quickly turned it around and sent it to the next one and it’s now back from reviewers. The suggested revisions are not major but will require some thought and careful working through so that’s an early 2021 job. I have confidence that the paper will be published, and this is something that I did not have last year.

Thank you to my colleagues Jeanette Fyffe and Jamie Burford for being such fine early critical readers for this piece, and to Erika Smith for not only taking on the role of critical friend with savvy enthusiasm but also becoming a #circleofniceness buddy during COVID-life. 

3. New project underway in earnest.

I received ethics approval for a new project back in February this year, before any of the Melbourne lockdowns. I only started it properly in July. Sure, I could blame COVID and the frenzy that accompanied the lockdowns, isolation zone, and the general miasma of pandemic doom. I could do that but it wouldn’t necessarily be true. The simple fact is that I did not prioritise it and kept finding excuses why it wasn’t moving along. This was the case until another activity enabled all that has followed.

What was this wondrous other activity? It was an interview with Chris Smith (Prolifiko) for the book he’s writing about people’s ‘hidden writing systems’. I hope Chris got something useful out of our interview because I have definitely benefited from being interviewed and partially coached by him during the interview and for two exchanges afterwards via email! After talking to Chris and doing what he suggested, I lined up interviews, did interviews, lined up more interviews and did them, too. All in all, have completed 7 interviews for this first stage of the project and have rough transcriptions for all of them. Still a lot of work to do but the project has momentum and expectations that will drive it on from now. So, THANK YOU, Chris! This was certainly an instance where good, serendipitous advice met my increasing push against inertia with the project. 

Now, onto a slightly different but related track: 

As you’ll see if you read the final RW post for the year, my writing and research productivity has been good this year, despite it all. It has been a long time since I’ve had multiple things to report on this front so I’m listing forthcoming publications here with profound gratitude for the encouraging, shiny-brained colleagues who encourage and challenge me to be a better scholar: 

  • Khoo, T., J. Burford, E. Henderson, H. Liu, and Z Nicolazzo. (2021) ‘Not Getting Over It: The Impact of Sara Ahmed’s Work within Critical University Studies.’ Journal of Intercultural Studies. 
  • Burford, J., J. Fyffe, and T. Khoo. (2021) ‘Working with/against imposter syndrome: Research educators’ reflections.’ The Palgrave Handbook of ‘Imposter Syndrome’ in Higher Education. Ed. M. Addison, M. Breeze, and Y. Taylor.
  • (currently revising) Khoo, T., J. Burford, and J. Fyffe. ‘Creating care-full conditions is institutional work: Research developers as campus earthworms.’ Healthy Relationships in Higher Education: Promoting Wellbeing Across Academia. Ed. N. Lemon. Routledge.
  • (currently writing – under contract) Khoo, T., P. Ward, and J. O’Donnell. (2021) Getting Research Funded: Five Essential Rules for Early Career Researchers. Part of the ‘Insider Guides to Success in Academia’ (Series editors: P. Thomson and H. Kara). Routledge.

What I love about this listing isn’t just that there is one (which I do indeed love) but also that I am working with such a range of savvy, generous, fun people. They are the stuff of happy academic life, and it makes this career – with all its sector’s flaws – a desirable and sustainable venture. 

I’ll end this post with a few shout-outs to buddies who have started wonderful, nourishing new projects in a year where many have struggled to be inspired – thank you for your enthusiasm and vision! 

  • Congrats and a huge thankyou to Helena Liu for starting Disorient, a new blog that is a “living and growing resource for intersectional feminist thought, education, and activism”. I love it. It’s smart, soothing, and totally gets it. 
  • Thanks for the laughs, and insider stories and tips, new podcast bus-drivers Inger Mewburn and Jason Downs!  Inger and Jason created On the Reg and aired their first episode at the end of June 2020; they got up to 12 episodes by year’s end (one of which was a live recording during #Whisperfest). 
  • Amazement and respect always to Narelle Lemon who does so much! In a #COVIDlife year, she launched two fabulous projects: The Wellbeing Whisperer and the ‘Teachers supporting teachers‘ podcast. Both are big on providing space for supportive community voices and generous strategies, which is Narelle through and through!