Meant to be an honest resource. Start here before you email me.
Can we schedule a meeting to discuss my career/education/life prospects and possibilities?
This is the question that inspired this post. I’ve been getting a lot of these requests and I am afraid I just don’t have the time to say yes to all of them. I take such requests very seriously and, as a result, they take up a lot of my time and mental energy. Further, I end up saying many of the same things over and over again. I don’t want to keep repeating myself. Thus these responses were born.
Maybe I referred you here. Maybe someone else did. Maybe you found this yourself. If you were sent here, please don’t be offended. It is not that I think your questions are generic or not worthy of my time. Rather I have so very little time, that I would like to get all of the frequent questions out of the way and save what little time I have for the specifics. For the places where I can contribute. For requests that are reasonable.
I realise upon re-reading what I have written below that I sound both negative and unapproachable. That really isn’t me. I’m nice! Approach me if it is appropriate! I do however think that few people take the time to tell it how it is to students and recent graduates. Telling it how it is takes time. It also dashes dreams. No one wants to be a dream dasher. I’m probably going to dash some dreams here. I’m sorry about that.
This list is a work in progress. I’ll update it with new questions as I am asked them. I’ll delete bits that are out of date. I’ll probably tone down things that I am sorry I said.
Finally, the answer to this question might be yes! I might be up for a meeting to discuss this. In certain circumstances I am always up for this (e.g. if you are a student at Maastricht University, we can get coffee and chat whenever you like). In other circumstances it depends on my availability and your questions beyond the below. Read on!
Will you hire me?
Probably not. Here’s why. I’m an academic. I have an academic position within a department which is within a faculty which is within a university. I’m not a business or a nonprofit. At times I have research funding to hire someone to do something, but this happens very infrequently. The last time it happened was mid 2020. Those jobs are posted on my website and, more importantly, on the university hiring website where anyone can apply for them. I’m going to be straight up honest with you: competition is fierce. The last time I hired, about 60 people applied. The time before that, over 80 people applied.
While I sometimes have smaller amounts of money to hire for temporary positions, those jobs must go to students at my University as that is where the money comes from. Please don’t send me or other academics your CV looking for a **job** if there isn’t one advertised, it doesn’t work that way. Academics don’t have jobs lying around. [Do, of course, send a CV when you are asking about PhD supervision however]
Do you know of any open jobs?
I post any open job that I hear about on my Opportunities List. Sign up for it here. I don’t know of any open jobs that aren’t on that list.
Should I do an unpaid internship?
I say this carefully and a little sadly: maybe. First, there is a lot of working for free in academia (see my post: I (mostly) work for free: academic reality), that’s just reality…although I’m noting that as I get more senior I get paid more often. You read that right, the academic rung that needs it the least gets paid most frequently. It absolutely isn’t fair.
Working for free comes with a lot of caveats. Have a look at my blog post When NOT to work for free while building a career in research and academia for that in detail. Speaking specifically about the field of art crime research, it pains me to say this, but volunteering strategically is how a lot of people in this field transitioned from student to “person gets a pay check”. The reality is that there are few ready-made positions in this field. When a position does open up, the person hiring often has many applicants to choose from and a track record plus good recommendations make a difference. You can gain both of those from volunteering. Further, positions in non-profits or even academia tend to be made around people who are already there, already part of the team, already being awesome. The organisation often actively seeks out money to hire the volunteer/intern specifically.
You don’t have to tell me that this isn’t fair. You don’t have to tell me that this gives all the advantage to people from certain backgrounds with certain financial positions. I know this. I’m not saying this is right, I am saying this is how it is. But there are ways to do this (…I did) as long as you focus on getting the most return for your time investment. Most places want digital distance volunteers anyway so there are ways to try and make it work. I know, I know, this isn’t great or right. It just is.
Can I volunteer for you/do an internship with you?
Again, I’m an academic at a university. We are not set up for volunteers or internships. From time to time I do take on interns on my project, but these are usually students at other universities who need to do a defined internship for their degree and, for whatever reason, a “real” internship wasn’t forthcoming. This happened several times during the pandemic for obvious reasons. These are the exceptions, not the rule, these are not advertised, and in most situations it was their professor or course coordinator who contacted me about it.
From time to time I can use unpaid volunteers on my projects, but I usually advertise when I am seeking those. First priority in these go to local Maastricht students, particularly students who can extract their undergraduate or masters thesis projects from the work, so that it really isn’t simply unpaid volunteering, it is research towards a degree with supervision and added access. I always have some truly crappy tasks that I would like someone other than me to do, but see the link about working for free above. You likely gain little from doing my crappy tasks for no money. They won’t advance your career.
Thus I promise I will advertise when I have a good volunteer opportunity available. I also promise that I will go to the ends of the earth to support my unpaid volunteers in other ways. However if I am not advertising a specific opportunity, I likely only have menial crap tasks available that you really shouldn’t be doing for me.
How did you get your job?
When someone asks me a variation on this question (e.g. What is your career pathway?) I think they are really asking if there is a pathway they can or should follow to employment. There isn’t a set pathway at all. If you do what I did in my career path you are unlikely to end up where I have ended up. I’m pretty surprised I am here myself. If you really want to know my exact career trajectory, email me about it and I will put it up as another post. However, here I think it is more valuable to extract out a bit.
How did I get my job? I got my job through creating the space that I wanted to inhabit and then charting a long term pathway to making that space. My job did not exist before me: I have willed it in to existence by defining it, then convincing others (including employers and research funders) that this is worthwhile. The most critical period for doing this involved spending several months in personal reflection, developing 1 year, 3 year, 5 year, and 10 year plans. If I didn’t do that, I would have imploded. I almost did implode, it was terrible. Long story. Bad times. But I planned myself out of it.
Having those plans in hand helped me identify opportunities that were on the critical path towards my goals and helped me turn down opportunities that were distractions or tangents. For example, I knew that no one was ever going to just offer me a job to do this kind of work (and I would never be *applying* for the job I wanted), I needed to fund myself. So I spent a lot of time learning how to write grant proposals. To do this I made friends with the University research office, I proofread proposals for friends and colleagues, I attended seminars, and I joined as many scholarship and grant review panels as I could at all levels. This had the side benefit of teaching me how to effectively communicate the importance and validity of the work I was doing and the work I wanted to do. So “Learn to write grants” was on the 3 year plan with related training and practice sub-tasks in the 1 year plan, with “apply for big grant” on the 5 year plan.
Making a space for yourself is hard work, but that is how I got my job.
I want to join the FBI/Interpol/Met Police/other specialised police art crime unit. How do I do that?
Boy howdy, this comes up often. I’m sorry to say, you almost certainly cannot do this. This is not a realistic or viable career pathway for nearly everyone. All of these units, across the board, hire from within and the people who are given these roles are police officers and agents first and foremost who have been able to move into such positions from inside the respective police force. Thus to get on one of these units, you are looking at genuinely joining the agency as an officer or agent, working there for 15+ years, and waiting until a space opens up in that unit, which may never happen. The police is for people who want to be police officers.
The one exception to this is if you are *ALREADY* a police officer or agent seeking to move into or create an art crime unit. There you stand some chance and my police officer students have had some successes here. Some. Before anything else, the thing to do if you are in this position is to network with the agents that are currently in your unit or to talk to agents in art crime units in other countries. More education may not be the way forward here. But really, this applies ONLY to people who are already in police.
What kinds of jobs exist in this field?
Well not police jobs, that’s for sure! Since we got that one off the table, let’s move on.
I think that the best way to get a feel for jobs in this field is to look at back-postings of my Opportunities List. Sign up for it here, where you will also find a link to previous posts. You’ll see jobs in academia, the museum sector, at IGOs and NGOs, in insurance firms, at auction houses and dealerships, in government-level heritage bodies, at law firms, and sometimes in the more general private sector. The jobs are low-volume on the list, admittedly, because for the most part the people working in this field create their own career and/or research space. They don’t (usually) respond to a job advert to get to where they are.
I emphasise that most people create their job in this field from within something else. They make their space. And it is hard to do. It takes a lot of foresight and planning. If you don’t or can’t do that, this isn’t the weird career area for you I am afraid.
Should I get a master’s degree?/Will a masters get me a job?
People who ask the first question are often really asking the second question. The answer to the second question is “no”. The answer to the first question might be “yes”, but it is important to consider which question you are really asking.
At lot of people take on postgraduate study when they either can’t find a job in their field or don’t like the job they have; it is often a desperation move based on the entirely FALSE idea that a masters degree will make you more hireable. While it is true that some positions are only open to people with master’s degrees, it is not the master’s degree alone that gets you a job in this field (or any). It is the extras, the networking, the connections, and the work. Employers want people with real experience and a master’s degree isn’t real experience. Employers don’t consider coursework to be work. Seriously. Really. I swear. If you are thinking about a master’s degree because you can’t think of anything else to do, don’t do it. You need more thinking. You need a plan. That needs to be your goal here.
However, if you do have a plan (like, where do you see yourself in 5 years-style plan, see above), a masters degree may fit perfectly into it. Want to go into academia or research more generally? You’ll need that masters. Want to go into art law? Good chance a focused LLM would help that. Want to move up or sideways in your pre-existing job? Master’s might help. If you have that plan you won’t be asking this because you will already know if you need a master’s or not. You might, however be asking the next question.
What master’s programme should I do? What subject? Where?
Well…what is at the end of your 5 year plan? There is no one-size-fits-all masters programme, and if things are too fuzzy at the moment to zero in on a subject, I’m afraid you have more thinking to do.
If you wanted to go into policing (that’s a long and uncertain road, see above), insurance claims investigation or adjustment, anti-money laundering through art investigation etc. a criminology or law programme might be the right choice (or economics?!). If you were looking at provenance research in a museum or other setting, museum studies or art history might be the right choice. For work with, say, UNESCO or other IGOS or NGOs, it’s up for grabs: anything or nothing might work. For continuing in academic research, well, it depends on what academic research you want to do in the future. Thing is, I can’t decide what is right for you here. That is something that you need to determine for yourself.
I’m considering a master’s degree at Maastricht University…
Ok you probably should contact me about that, provided you’ve worked through all this other stuff. Email me!
I’m thinking about law school…
FOR AMERICANS: Let me get one thing out of the way first for as you need to know this and no one tells you this. In most of the rest of the world, including the UK and Europe, law is an *UNDERGRADUATE* degree. One gets a bachelors degree in it. In contrast, Americans do a whole undergraduate degree in something else entirely, then do another three years of “law school” to get a JD which, despite having the name “doctor” in it, is not a doctorate. It is the equivalent of a bachelors degree in the UK and Europe. What does that mean? It means that with an American BA and an American JD, you do NOT qualify for a PhD programme in Europe: you have two bachelors degrees here. You will need to do ANOTHER degree (probably an LLM) before you can do a PhD. You will almost certainly not be selected for any EU/UK PhD you apply to without an LLM or master’s degree in hand. It sucks: a European goes to Uni for three years to get exactly the same thing that you end up with in seven years, and the European doesn’t have much debt from it either. The US higher education system is a scam.
So here’s the question, my fellow Americans, do you really want to be a *lawyer*, or are you considering law school because you want to study law stuff? If it is the latter, and being a practicing lawyer isn’t in your 5 year plan, why go to law school? Why not get a one-year master’s degree focused on your topic? Why are you going into heavy debt for three years of mostly focusing on aspects of law that you are not interested in? On the one hand, you can enter some LLM programmes in the UK or Europe without a prior law degree (you might have to take an entry exam or have an undergrad degree in something parallel though), on the other hand you can study the law and the social and cultural effects of it without getting a degree that says law. Think criminology or sociology or anthropology or economics or politics etc. If you want to be an academic, really really probably don’t go to American law school. Do American law school if you want to be a practicing lawyer in the USA. That is the only reason to do it.
If you are considering law school because you can’t think of something else to do or are having trouble finding a job, but your five year plan is still hazy…stop. Don’t.
FOR EVERYONE: I want to be 100% clear: to study or work in art crime research you do not need to study law or have a law qualification. Law is only one angle to look at this issue from. Why not consider security studies, economics, anthropology, archaeology, heritage studies, museum studies, criminology, sociology, politics, development studies, tourism studies, art history, chemistry, etc? If you are a better fit for one of those, why law? I think there is a big misunderstanding out there that law is the only way forward in this field. Totally not…indeed law is crowded in this field. Come at this from economics? Then you are doing something special and unique. Case in point, I HAVE NEVER STUDIED LAW, I HAVE NO LAW DEGREE. All my degrees are in archaeology or heritage. Yes I research and teach in a law faculty but that is because my work has been ABOUT the law, and its effects: socio-cultural stuff.
Now don’t interpret this as me saying “don’t do law school” or “don’t study law”. I’m saying do it for the right reason if you are going to do it. The right reason is: “because I want to be a lawyer”.
Should I do a PhD?
Again, what’s your 5 year plan? Do you absolutely need a PhD to get to your crisp clear goal? Then yes. Otherwise, no, you shouldn’t.
Look folks, PhDs are hard to do and they are not for everyone. I will be honest here and say there is a certain way of thinking, researching, applying, and writing that I become more and more convinced is just sort of a talent that people either have or don’t have. It cannot be taught. Professors will tell you about this: you can see it so clearly, so so clearly, in some students, even students in their first year of undergrad. It is a particular way of arranging the world. Those people would be good at PhD-doing. For other people, well, it is extremely hard to get to the end of the PhD and it is a waste of time, money, and mental state doing it.
The lingering problem is that few academics in a position to do so tell people “you really shouldn’t do a PhD”. They are afraid to hurt feelings and dashed (wildly inaccurate) dreams. But if these academics had enough guts to be honest, it would spare people a lot of anguish and heartache, not to mention crippling debt.
Story time. When I was 21 I had a discussion with a senior professor of mine about my future. Due to a slightly rough start to Uni, my marks/GPA were not as high as would traditionally warrant admittance into the graduate programmes I was interested in. I told him that I thought things were over for me. He was like “look, remember So-and-so? They had better grades. They sat here and told me they wanted to do a PhD and I told them, not a chance. They don’t have it. YOU have it. You should do a PhD. I’ll write you a great recommendation”. Yeah the prof should never have told me the person’s name, but the prof did write me what felt like a 3 page rec letter (I’m old, it was a physical letter in an envelope that I had to post) to fancy-pants university which he was affiliated with, and I was admitted to their masters then PhD programme despite having a GPA lower than the posted acceptance level. This isn’t to toot my own horn, I am terrible at a lot of things that I wish I was good at: learning languages, anything mechanical, drawing/painting/arting, baking, playing all musical instruments. I’m good at academia. People who are good at academia might consider doing PhDs.
So if you are considering doing a PhD because you don’t know what else to do, or because you like the idea of “Dr”, or something like that, don’t start. You might not finish and it will likely be a bad experience. If you are doing a PhD because you have a burning, well defined question that you want to answer and a genuine love and facility for academia-ing, and you want to academia in the future, we can talk.
FOR AMERICANS: in most of the rest of the world PhDs are purely research. There are no classes and they take much shorter time because you apply with a research proposal and start doing research on day one. As such, in most cases you are expected or even required to get a master’s degree beforehand. These are usually one year in length and in a topic of relevance to the PhD. If you only have a USA BA, do not apply to UK or European PhDs, you are not qualified for that yet, you need a master’s.
FOR AMERICANS AND BRITISH PEOPLE: You are getting hosed on PhD fees. Totally, utterly hosed. Do you know what a PhD costs in the Netherlands? Nothing. See this post. Throughout Europe PhDs are cheap or free or totally paid positions, even for foreigners. Don’t get Stockholm syndromed into thinking paying is right or correct…indeed, you won’t pay for a PhD in Stockholm.
Will a PhD get me a job?
No. See Master’s above. A PhD will get you a PhD and a PhD is simply a bar passed. At times, it will keep you from getting a job. However, if academic research is what you want to do, a PhD is a requirement. So in that instance a PhD won’t get you a job, but the PhD is needed to have the job.
Do you know of any postdoc positions for me to apply to?
Again, I post everything I see in my opportunities list. However if you are waiting for a postdoc to come up there, I think you are probably going to be waiting forever. If you have a PhD already and you are itching to do research, you need to be looking into the various postdoctoral funding schemes that fund your own research projects. I got one in the UK. They exist here in the Netherlands. That’s where you can start creating your own research space but you have to have your own idea and it has to be a good idea.
Will you hire me to do a postdoc?
Probably not, at least not directly, and let me explain. There are three ways that I might “hire” a postdoc, and for each of those, there are barriers. First: I might hire a postdoc with existing research funding. Those positions are advertised publicly but I don’t have any of those coming up any time soon so there will not be any to apply to. Second: I might include a postdoc as a named contributor to a grant proposal. There are a number of people named on my most recently submitted proposals who are of postdoc status. Thing is, these are all people I know to be spectacular scholars and who I want to work with. They get to bypass the hiring process and most of them have gotten to carve out a bit of the grant work that they want to be doing. I know these people from their prior work and through their effective networking. I know they are solid, they have shown me that. If I don’t know you and your work, you can’t be in this position. Third: I might “support” and mentor a postdoc who is applying for their own funding, e.g. a VINI in the Netherlands or a Marie Curie or something like that. I will not write a proposal for these people, these people have to come to me with an important proposal in an advanced stage of prep. I’m unlikely to vouch for someone whose work I don’t know.
So what does that mean for you? Well, if you are working in this space, let me get to know you through your work. Then I’ll be thinking of you for 2 above and would be open to supporting you for 3 above.
Will you supervise my PhD (at Maastricht)?
Maybe. First see this post. And this post.
Summing it up, funded PhDs are limited and I advertise when there is a funding opportunity available. Usually funded projects need to be in criminology or law done by people with that sort of background.
However, as you hopefully have clocked, there is a way to get a totally free PhD in the Netherlands, which sounds a lot better to anyone on earth than paying money elsewhere. As such, I get a lot of requests for supervision of free PhDs. I am a present and hands on supervisor so I simply do not have time for many of these. I am VERY selective. I will only even consider PhD projects that:
- are related directly to one of my areas of academic interest
- are already in an advanced stage of development with regards to method and theory
- make a clear contribution to knowledge
- are feasible with regards to access, ethics, etc
That isn’t meant to scare you away, far from it. I want great projects to come my way for supervision. Rather I’m not going to work for it or on it. It has to be your idea, your vision, your work. Show me what you want to do is interesting, matters, and is possible.
For those of you contacting me about supervising a PhD that is unrelated to what I do, please don’t email me. I have no idea who told you that casting a wide net is the thing to do here, but it really isn’t. It’s confusing and annoying. That person gave you horrible advice.
Will you supervise my PhD at another University?
No. I’m not paid to supervise anyone by PhDs at Maastricht University. Technically I am not even paid for that, but that’s complicated. I cannot take on outside supervision.
Will you supervise my masters (at Maastricht)?
Maybe. At the moment I don’t have any obligation to supervise masters projects, but I usually voluntarily take on a number of supervisions within our Criminology master’s programme. Those are usually projects directly related to my research. At times I supervise projects on the Heritage master’s programme but at the moment we have many many students in Criminology and I need to focus my supervisions there. Thus coming to Maastricht is no guarantee that I will supervise you. Best get in touch with me to talk about it specifically.
Will you supervise my masters at another University?
No, that is not my job and I am not paid to do that. Your university is supposed to supply you with a supervisor.
Will you be on my PhD Committee, be my External Examiner, or equivalent?
Ooo maybe! It’s the kind of thing I like to do. Your PhD really does have to be in my area for me to do this, but certainly contact me about it. I have to be realistic about the time I have available, but I really like doing this.
Can I interview you for my BA/MA/PhD?
This question comes up surprisingly often and I have had long conversations with colleagues about it. Sometimes, though rarely, the answer is “yes of course”, but for the most part I am asked this question by students who aren’t really sure what they are asking for and/or seem to be getting poor supervision from their real supervisor. Let me explain.
I’m an academic. I do academic research. I publish that research. That research contains my thoughts about nearly everything that I work on. I am not sitting on a hoard of data that I am not sharing. If I have insights to share about something, I publish them. Thus my published work *IS* my statement on all researchy things. Want to know what I think about the illicit trade in cultural objects? It’s in my articles, blog, and books. Want to know how the illicit trade works? It is in the publications. Etc etc, in the publications. Most students contact me to interview me about facts or my research results and that is not what an interview is for. Interviews are for gaining information that doesn’t exist elsewhere from a valid information keeper: that is usually not who I am. Seriously, 90% of the requests I get for this are from students or people who should just be reading my publications and citing the source.
That’s not always the student’s fault. Really whoever is supervising them should be having conversations with them about research methods, what interviews are for, etc. Instead they either are not monitoring very closely or worse, they are pawning their supervision duties off on external colleagues by encouraging interview that is really supervision. Boo. Lame. It’s the worst.
Now understand there are some times when I am a valid interview subject and I almost always say yes to those. Those interviews tend to relate to how I see my role as an academic or researcher within a particular scenario or framework, e.g. one I did recently was how I positioned myself, an academic who studies a hot-button heritage topic, in relation to museum activism. If you are seeking that kind of interview, totally contact me.
Thing is, I don’t I believe that students in group one can SEE that they are in group one. They are often being supervised so poorly that they really, honestly, don’t understand what they are and aren’t asking for. They don’t know that I am a citation, not an informant. It’s pretty dire.
I’m doing a BA/MA/PhD, can you give me references or just tell me all about x?
My answer here is similar to that of the last question. I’d say 90% of the time someone emails me with this sort of request, it is for something that they should be looking on Google Scholar for. They want the results of basic literature searches. Sigh. I don’t know if it is poor supervision, lack of research skill training, or a lack of awareness, but it is rough. I have to stop myself from sending them to “Let Me Google That For You“.
THAT SAID: it is often totally right to contact the RIGHT academic with a niche request for info when you have exhausted all other avenues. My own PhD research was kick started after I cold contacted a senior academic about antiquities trafficking in Ecuador in the days before Google Scholar. After spending weeks searching, I emailed her and I told her what research I knew about in this area, expressed that I felt I was hitting a wall, and asked her, as an expert in that exact country who had published on the topic in the past, if she knew of anything else hiding somewhere that I didn’t know about. Maybe it was in another language? Maybe it wasn’t digitised yet? SHE DID! The key here is that I knew what I wanted from her, I knew that what I wanted was unfindable otherwise, and I knew that she had the very specific specialist knowledge in exactly what I was looking for.
Again, I don’t know if the students in category one contacting me looking for outsourced reference finding realise that they aren’t in category two so I am not sure typing this here makes any difference.
Help! I don’t know what to do with my life! Nothing is working! I am desperate! Help me!
You break my heart, emailer in this situation. You really do. But I’ve got nothing for you. I’m just an academic, I am not a life coach. I have no secret to share. I promise you, if you are in this position, there is nothing at all I can do. You may think otherwise, but I promise this is the case.
I’ve been in this exact situation: 2010 to early 2012 were dark late- and post-PhD years. I was exactly this. There was nothing anyone could do for me, though. I know that now. I don’t think I knew that then. Then I wanted help, but help didn’t and couldn’t exist.
Perhaps your next question is “how did you get out of it”, but I’ve answered that over and over above. I made plans. I volunteered in-between working terrible jobs. I came up with an idea, sold it, and got it funded. I re-established contact with mentors. I took some big risks. I also “faked it till I made it” by starting this very blog here. Yes, this blog was how I announced my presence in this field and established my voice as a valid one. A decade later, a blog is unlikely to do this, but something else will and you have to find it.
I know that me saying “I’ve been there” helps you zero. But, really, I have zero ability to help you and that is part of the zero.
Will you be my mentor?
I’ve benefited from having some spectacular mentors in my professional life. I also enjoy mentoring junior researchers myself. I am unabashedly proud of my mentees and will do just about anything for them. The thing is that in my experience, mentorship relationships have to form naturally to be meaningful. I gained my mentors and my mentees via a protracted process of mutual respect building. As we start to work together that relationship forms. You can’t just turn it on. It doesn’t work like that. Every forced or assigned mentorship programme I have participated in has been a flop.
I get it. You’ve been told you need a mentor but you haven’t been told how to get one. Perhaps you’re in a situation where you have limited support for your research (I’ve been there, trust me) and you feel like you are all alone. Perhaps there’s no one at your institution or job that gets what you want to be doing. I’m sorry about that but I can’t fix that problem for you. It isn’t just that I don’t have the time to do it (I don’t), but it is also what I said above. The mentor/mentee relationship can’t be forced. It comes naturally.
What I can offer is that I will talk with you at conferences and other events. I’ll get coffee or a drink with you. I’ll pay attention to your paper. I’ll pay attention to good work. Later on I’ll be open to certain types of collaboration (provided my contribution is clear and you are the leader). During that process we might click. Or not. Who knows. But I’m open to it.
What additional advice do you have for someone wanting to get into this field?
Be social! Attend events digitally. Attend them in person if you can and it is safe to do so. I post opportunities on my Opportunities List. Share your research and ideas in the appropriate venue. Share them online. Be someone that I know about. Come talk to me at these! I’m tired of talking to the same people over and over. Trust me, I’m approachable. Talk to other people too.
Oddly, Linkedin is bumping on this topic, however much it pains me to say so, so probably go crazy with the adding of people there and follow what they are up to and saying.
I’ve said it already, but spend a significant amount of time on short, middle, and long term planning. I am so dead serious about this one.
Can you share your data about X with me?
It is weird the number of people at all levels who assume I am sitting on some vast hoard of research data …a stack of indexed databases of knowledge that I am keeping to myself. Look y’all, I publish what I’ve got. Anything I don’t publish or don’t share, I either can’t share or I don’t have. Things that I have that I can’t share, ever, no matter what, with anyone: interview notes and transcripts; details from active court cases that I am involved in; stuff given to me for reference only by people who maybe shouldn’t have given me the stuff. I’m not sharing those with you or anyone. I don’t have anything else.
Now granted, I do have things like spreadsheets etc that were generated in the course of writing some of my published work that aren’t shared anywhere but also don’t contain any sensitive or restricted information. In rare instances, those are useful to other people (I shared one with a colleague last week and he did a few cool things with it), but almost no one asks for these. When they do, it is ultra specific, so like “for your paper on theft of Colonial art from Bolivian churches, did you also collect and save info on the material that the stolen objects were made from? Do you have that to hand?”.
If you ask me for those sorts of specific things, sure you can likely have them. If you are emailing me for speculative data sets that you don’t know I have, well, I don’t have them. I’m an open book, folks.
Will you co-author something with me?
I might! I’m pretty keen on this sort of thing, but usually in situations where you have developed a clear idea of what you want to do, but just need my specialism on some aspect of it. So these would be situations where you are objectively the first author of the piece, but you know the piece could use something that I can provide. I don’t have time to be the leader at the moment, but I have time to be an aider and abetter if the idea is good.
Will you collaborate with me on x project?
Maybe. It depends on what you mean by collaborate. If you mean that I will have to do a significant amount of development on this, probably not. If you only have a very hazy idea, again probably not. If you are talking about collaborating towards research funding, or me contributing in a well-defined role in a project, those are a different story. Get in contact with me. I will warn you now that there are limited projects that I will participate in that are unpaid. In what little free time I have, I do my own unpaid projects so I am unlikely to take any more on.