Thursday, 31 January 2008

Writing a proposal

There's the opportunity to present my research to fellow associate lecturers (ALs) in my region. But first I have to write a proposal for the presentation. This has to be an anonymous 200-word abstract giving the title and outline the content of the presentation. So I've taken the abstract from my Masters and tried to rewrite it for the AL audience. Then I emailed it to Dimitra, who has offered writing help. She was absolutely excellent, both in the comments that she emailed back and in the hour and a half she spent discussing my writing with me, pointing out the ambiguities, the points I hadn't made or needed to make clearer, as well as the order in which I made them. The discussion brought to the fore that my original abstract didn't mention the important finding about the difficulties of access, the need for constant negotiation for access, and how that both suggested a reason for lack of empirical evidence of public accountability and implied difficulties for future research.

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Research questions

I'm going to have to start identifying research questions from my literature search. May be one from the contracts paper that I mentioned a few weeks ago, but also may be this article by Peled will raise useful questions.

Peled, D. A. 2001. Outsourcing and Political Power: Bureaucrats, Consultants, Vendors and Public Information Technology. Public Personnel Management, 30(4): 495.

Friday, 18 January 2008

Difference between 'techniques', 'methods' and 'methodology'

The OU PhD skills web site points to a comprehensive list, which for skill A4: asks Can you articulate the difference between 'techniques', 'methods' and 'methodology'? so I'm revising what I had learnt in B852: management research.


  • Reading documents, searching for and retrieving them, filing them, taking notes from them.
  • Contacting people, recording contacts

Perhaps this is the how of the research


Procedures for collecting and analysing data – like what you are going to do to get the data


Strategy, and design behind choice of methods to reach outcome – like why are you doing it this way

Crotty, M. (1998) 'Introduction: the research process'. The foundations of social research: meaning and perspective in the research process, Sage, London. 816

See Crotty (1998) in the ‘Introduction’ to his book, The Foundations of Social Research: Meaning and Perspective in the Research Process

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Getting your work published

Professor Hetherington advised the PG Social Science students on getting work published.

  1. visibility
  2. gateheepers
  3. small conferences
What have been the big issues that people are writing about? Those are the areas where you should be writing if you want to get published.

  • Choose three journals that you read on a regular basis and get a feel for them.
  • Volunteer to review a book on a particular subject. Find the reviews editor of that journal and ask if you can review in that area. Look at the London or NY review of books. Can referees like your supervisors put you forward?
  • Give papers at conferences to make yourself known, ie. visible.
  • Continually speak to your superviors.
  • Pick your external examiner who'll open doors for you.
  • Publish. The RAE counts research monographs and journal articles - reviews are padding. Measures are how often you get cited. Write on a topic or in a textbook that sells to undergraduates. A book chapter is useful - through a small conference (40-50 people) on a tight theme.

Monday, 14 January 2008

Intellectual Property Rights

Richard McCracken lead the latest doctoral training workshop, on a research student's guide to intellectual property rights.
Intellectual property covers:
  • patents
  • trademarks
  • copyright
  • know-how
and elabaorated on the distinctions, with an example of how they all combine in sometimes, e.g in CocaCola.

Patents - you can only patent something that has not been made public. There was the case of the LED, first presented at an academic conference, before the patent was applied for, and then couldn't be patented because it was already in the public arena.

Copyright rests with the author though there are circumstances in which you can relinquish it.

You need to be careful when signing journal contracts that you don't assign copyright to the journal because then you won't be able to use your own material without paying the journal. For instance, you couldn't photocopy your own article to distribute it to a class. So if you get a contract to be published in a journal, check and delete the clause that assigns copyright to the journal.

McCracken's advice on copyright came up again only a few hours later when I received an email explaining that I could not directly access some material from a web site because of copyright reasons.

There are restricted acts and permitted acts.

Photographs - you are permitted to take photos in public places, though it differs between countries. In France in the fifties Robert Doisneau took a photo called "Kiss" of two people kissing in the street. Every now and then, someone would turn up, saying that they are one of the couple and demanding money.

Saturday, 12 January 2008

Accountability in India

Having just spent two weeks in India, I wonder what public accountability for anything exists in Indian public services. Luce [1] in the chapter on the Indian babudom (bureaucracy) quotes Kautilya's Arthashastra:
"Just as it is impossible to know when a fish swimming in water is drinking water, so it is impossible to find out when a government servant is stealing money."
That might be comment on any current government - and what is 'stealing money'? It could be inefficient or ineffective spending, on management consultants, or even effective spending, but without explaning or justifying.

Kautilya's writing on management (Arthashastra translates as 'economics' or 'science of livelihood), written around 350 BC predates that other management classic, Machiavelli's 'The Prince'. It is apparently more broad-ranging than 'The Prince'.

The Arthashastra covers management fundamentals including:
  • leadership skills,
  • selection of employees,
  • consultation,
  • corporate govenance,
  • information systems.
I'd like to find the chapter from which the above quote comes, to read what Kautilya had to say about public accountability.

On consultation he advises:
"All undertakings should be preceded by consultation. Holding a consultation with only one, he may not be able to reach a decision in difficult matters. With more counsellors it is difficult to reach decisions and maintain secrecy."
(1.15.2, 35, 40)

"Therefore sit and counsel with those who are mature in intellect."

Not only are UK public servants using external consultants, but I notice also that more bodies, such as county councils, are going to public consultation before making changes. Such an example is Buckinghamshire's need for a new waste recycling centre, which has been much in the local news.

[1] Luce, E., In Spite of the Gods: The Strange Rise of Modern India,