Today is exactly one year since we launched this lovely blog we are so very proud of! Which makes it a good the occasion to look back at the things which we have done over this year – both related to the blog and to the community.
Let’s start with the Blog…
Since the outset, the purpose of this blog has been – and continues to be – to act as a virtual space where early-career scholars come together and share information, experience, advice and opinion about the art, craft and practice of doing research in the interdisciplinary field of higher education. It is exactly for this reason that the editors and authors of the blog’s content are, with some exceptions, early-career scholars themselves.
Across several thematic sections, we have, over the past twelve months: listed and announced interesting events to attend; commented on things in and around academia; looked into what it means to work in academia; shared tips & tricks, read and reviewed interesting and useful literature; asked other early-career higher education scholars to tell us about their work; reflected on our network and our community; and covered some other things in addition to these. The content has been authored and edited by 17 early-career scholars and one guest contributor.
In addition to the posts, we have created pages with academic resources to help early-career researchers could in their work. List of recommended literature on writing, advice from more experienced colleagues from the field on how to write effectively, as well as two repositories of scholarly journals in higher education studies (here & here).
While we are at numbers, it should maybe also be mentioned that, taken together, over the past year our pages have been visited more than 21,000, or a little over 400 times each week on average. For a young blog, which serves a not-so-large a community such as ours and which we produce in our own free time, I guess we are doing just fine.
Our editorial team has been changing over the first year, with some people coming, others going or taking a break. While having some stability is good for planning, the voluntary nature of our work makes this a little bit difficult, yet we are not stressing over it. We do as much as we can and – crucially – only as long as we enjoy it.
What’s coming next? We will try to keep the pace of one blog post per week (give or take), while also trying to expand both the blog’s thematic and geographic coverage. We are working towards having more authors from countries outside Europe as a way to make ECHER more relevant for early-career academics in other parts of the world, but also globally.
We also like to keep things open, so if you are reading this and thinking you’d like to write something for the blog or suggest how to improve it, send us an email or write in the comments section below.
What else have we done this year?
There are two things I would like to single out here. One is our Academic Writing Clinic – a peer-to-peer workshop we organized on the eve of this year’s CHER conference. We plan to do something similar in the future, so, stay tuned!
We have also initiated a number of working groups within ECHER – on academic writing, on doctoral education, and one on CHER (in relation to our representation in its Board of Governors). The purpose of these and any future groups is to simply gather people around topics of interest, such as theories, methods, writing, teaching, or pretty much anything.
Motivated by our positive experience with Everybody Struggles with Writing, Everybody Gets Rejected, we are thinking of doing similar things in the future. Along these lines, we wish to find creative and simple ways for making the exchange of views across “the experience spectrum” within academia – easier. If you have got any of those, just get in touch!
And what about the community?
ECHER is older than this blog. Many might not know it, but our community came into existence in 2011. Earlier this year, however, we decided to make our membership a little bit more systematized and open not only to early-career scholars but also to those who are past that stage yet still wish to support us in some way. We are also thinking of how we can improve in general (towards becoming more relevant, for our members and for the broader community) and any suggestions in this regard are especially welcome.
At the moment, we have 145 members, in 34 countries and across five continents. The “largest” European countries in ECHER are the UK, Germany and Russia. One-fifth of our members are based (live or work) outside Europe. As we believe ECHER should belong to all early-career higher education scholars, wherever they are in the world, and that the rest of the world is far bigger than Europe, we would like to do better than one-fifth.
In closing, on Melina’s and my behalf (your lead editors), I’d like to thank our editorial team and our contributors, without whose dedication, time, and professionalism this blog would not have been possible. A big Thank You also goes to ECHER members and friends for taking part in or supporting the activities we have organized this year. And last – but not least – to all of you who have been reading and sharing our content, because that’s what this blog is all about!
Not a member yet? What are you waiting for, join us!
Jelena Brankovic is a postdoctoral researcher and lecturer at the Faculty of Sociology, Bielefeld University, Germany. Currently she is trying to figure out how to get as many people as possible to help make ECHER a more relevant organization for the community. She is also one of the lead editors of ECHER Blog. You can follow her on Twitter.