Turning About Once Again

I only have one more day in Bodhgaya, after which I fly back to Kolkata for the book fair; and it’s been absolutely delightful to be here. I’ve just been pedalling around, making the most of the local food, meditating when I feel like it, sleeping when the mood takes me, making new friends, sitting and thinking, reading things that come my way, and feeling pleasurably purposeless.

There is, however, one problem: in theory, I am in Bodhgaya do research. Before coming here, I filled in research proposals and even managed to get a modest amount of funding for this trip. These proposals were tied to a couple of book projects that I’m working on at the moment, both of which have some kinds of interesting connections with Buddhist themes, ideas and history. But as the days have passed, I have begun to realise that it doesn’t particularly look or feel as if what I am doing is research. Not only am I spending more time at tea stalls and in temple meditation halls than in libraries, but I also have to confess that I’m not even thinking about these books very hard.
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Guard-Dogs and Sausages

Tomorrow the results of the 2014 Research Excellence Framework are to be announced, and in universities up and down the country, anxieties are running high. For those who don’t know, the REF is an exercise that aims to evaluate the quality of university research outputs. At best, this is an affair of dubious value: not only does it create enormous and widespread stress amongst university staff, but it is also expensive, it spreads discord and tension, and it has been linked to an increase in bullying within universities. Worst of all, given all of this, it doesn’t even necessarily do what it claims to do—which is to encourage research excellence (see the articles here, and here). Read more

Writer’s Toolkit: Writings, Travels and Tools

Tomorrow, I’m down in Birmingham at the Writers’ Toolkit day, taking part in a couple of panels. Firstly, I’ll be talking about writing work overseas, and secondly about digital tools for writers. These are rather large, rag-bag subjects, and as these are panels rather than stirring orations, I will need to keep things rather brief; but I thought that here I might present a few thoughts on both topics — both for the benefit of those who might be interested and not make it to Birmingham, and also so that I can use this blog post as a crib-sheet tomorrow, and thus not have to lug my Macbook down to Brum. Read more

Research, One Couch at a Time

After several years of research, writing and rewriting, my second novel, [amazon_link id=”9380905076″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]The Descent of the Lyre,[/amazon_link] is now finally published by the excellent Roman Books (in the UK at least—if you are in the USA, you will have to wait until December 11th), and it’s good to see that the novel seems to be already getting a few nice reviews here and there. But I thought I’d say a little bit here about the research that led to the book. I’ve written already about research and fiction here on The Myriad Things, and also written some research notes over on Necessary Fiction; but here I want to say more about the research trip that I made back in 2007. Read more

Research, or something like it (Part I)

Every few years, here in UK academic circles, there is a curious circus known as the REF, the “Research Excellence Framework”, a bizarrely arcane ritual of humiliation where academics struggle to demonstrate that their research is not merely good (one might have thought that being “good” was a sufficiently high demand, although apparently this is not so) but is instead excellent. And because this is a rigorous exercise, scholars are asked to prove their excellence in research by submitting to learned boards of their peers a range of “outputs” that are scrutinised using the best scientific and divinatory methods, so that these works may be awarded stars. Not real stars, of course; not even the kinds of stars that are handed out to primary school children, shiny sticker-stars, but just notional stars, the Platonic forms of stars that are more true and real than any actual star or representation of a star could ever be. Read more

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