Beki Grinter

Edgy Research Statements

In academia, academic management, discipline, research on May 18, 2011 at 11:34 pm

I was recently asked about how you handle “edgy” research in the research statement. I got some good advice about this which I will pass on. I should say that this advice was given to me, but not about me and my research statement.

Before I do that though, I want to address the question of edgy. I would hope that all research takes risks, pursues edges, the edges of what is not known, building on what is, in order to do so. But that’s not why I was asked, I was asked because this person thought I had done more than take risks, that I had also shifted into topic domains that were not necessarily or obviously HCI research.

Anyway, back to the research statement. The good advice I was given was that it should always be clear what the fundamental contributions to the discipline are. In other words it’s important to translate it into terms that your core community of practice can understand and operationalise. One example I got was that a reader should be able to know how you fit into their core HCI agenda. Can you teach Intro to HCI? (That would probably go into the teaching statement of course) and the research version of that would be that the reader would know that despite the “eccentricity” of the domain it matters to an agenda that is more fundamental and central to the discipline.

That’s not to reduce the power that being at the edge brings. Perhaps another way to think about it is that they want to know that if you take these other risks you do so in order to have a conversation with the community at large, not because you seek to stand outside of it.

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