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How to be an Academic Superhero

Establishing and Sustaining a Successful Career in the Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities

Iain Hay

In universities across the world, academics struggle to establish and sustain their careers while satisfying intensifying institutional demands. Drawing from the author’s decades of observation and experience in academia, this exceptional book responds to the challenges of fostering and sustaining a successful academic career.
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Chapter 23: Join or start a research team

Establishing and Sustaining a Successful Career in the Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities

Iain Hay


Research teams take many different forms, depending on their purpose, funding, role and location and may comprise diverse groups including local and distant co-investigators, postdoctoral scholars, postgraduate students, professional and technical staff, industry representatives and so on. Nevertheless they have in common an identity as ‘a group of people working together in a committed way towards a common research goal’ (Vitae, 2017). Research teams are much more common in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) than in humanities, arts and social sciences (HASS) disciplines that have a more established ‘lone scholar’ tradition, but they can be helpful where the research problem being explored requires multiple perspectives, interdisciplinary backgrounds, diverse capabilities (e.g., GIS [geographic information systems], qualitative research skills, statistical expertise) and more than one person to do the work. Given the growing complexity of many of today’s ‘human’ problems (Hay, 2016a), the need for multidisciplinary HASS teams seems likely to grow.

Johnson (2011, pp. 30–31) observes that, aside from bringing together strong multidiscipline groups, research teams comprising the right partners, with compelling and appropriate credentials, working together, promise: access to new tools, information and skills; an (inter)national perspective to your work; greater bidding strength for research grants and consulting; a heightened profile, locally, nationally or internationally; and greater research outputs. Collectively these yield personal and professional rewards, including achievement of project goals.

But for career success and sustainability, research teams do need to comprise partners who are right not just...

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