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Workload

(20 Posts)
MarasmeAbsolu Mon 19-Dec-16 12:31:50

I am going to post this here for a bit of perspective - having a big wobble with current position at the mo (RG, SL), and considering jumping. Probably not thought through though, and I may well be ungrateful!

What's killing me is the workload - and not the actual amount of work, but its distribution.

So basically, here is my typical workload:
- approx 7-8 undergrad dissertations per year (10-12 weeks)
- approx 10-12 postgrad dissertations per year (12 weeks)
- approx 2 PhD student writing / submitting per year, plus 5 under active supervision [with active input in their research projects]
- 2 members of staff (tech & postdoc)
- core teaching postgrad: 15 hours per week face-to-face, over approx 12 weeks, then down to 3 hours a week contact for
- marking: all the dissertations above, plus approx 150 big essays, and 100 exam scripts per year
- pastoral / mentoring: 2 hours per week
- chairing one big committee in my school with a big submission every 2 years
- editorial board member for 3 journals, once of which I am very involved with
- society committee member
- board of studies and board of progress member, plus 2 or 3 random little academic/service committees around
- papers: loose target of 8-10 papers per year [won't make it this year - more likely 5]
- other writing commitments: one book, three reviews
- grants: loose target 5-10 per year, with at least three to RCUK [income target is not set, but with expectation that we should hold £150k share in research funding per year]
- current big RCUK grant which is underway, with two staff to supervise
- big european collaboration (takes loads of time, but high profile), plus approx 3 industrial contracts with no directly allocated staff [not big money at all]
- Admin: finances and HR associated with all the projects, staff and students - not the actual nitty gritty, but the management

I am very very rarely in the lab - I just manage people and I write. It's a pain. When I teach, I do enjoy it, but I resent the fact that it means that everything else is left to be done in the evening. The interesting bits of my work are the bits I do in the evenings and WE (data analysis, grant writing, paper writing).

I am wondering whether 20 more years (optimistically) of this is sustainable.
Sorry for the ramble sad

fr567 Mon 19-Dec-16 16:16:57

With a few notable exceptions that sounds fairly par for the course to me. I also have no clue how it's supposed to carry on for the next (in my case) 30 years.

Commenting on your strategy though:
- (As always it's discipline specific but) 8-10 papers as a target sounds very high to me. REF is only 1 per year. Obviously you need 'spares' and high target/stretch ones, but you could easily dial back the quantity to a target of 3-5 and focus on quality.
- You don't specify PI vs CI, which makes a big difference, but to make 150k average, that's only one 'standard' one of 450k being successful every 3 years. (I find it incredibly difficult to cost an RCUK for less than ~400k these days.) You're projecting a very low success rate, incorporating EU and industry bids maybe 1 in 10? If the workload is too much I would dial back to 1 more solid RCUK per year as PI (I bet the portfolio managers will thank you), and CI only on ones which (in your opinion) stand a realistic chance even if they are 'zero' work.
- I'd drop one of the AE roles. The main one is enough for your CV unless the others are giving you some tangible benefit in a different way.

user7214743615 Mon 19-Dec-16 17:46:00

(I find it incredibly difficult to cost an RCUK for less than ~400k these days.)

But this is incredibly dependent on scientific field. In the area around me, nobody is getting 400k, unless they are successful at ERC grants. (Fundamental science, industrial money not an option, funding councils in my area very short of money and diverting it to applied research.)

I think I am too far removed from OP's discipline to comment on typical workload but it is definitely true in my area too that too much time is spent on administration, teaching, management and not enough on research.

fr567 Mon 19-Dec-16 18:33:06

These things are always field specific.

As a (probably unnecessary) clarification I did say cost rather than get. 450k is essentially one post doc for 3 years, some PI time and travel.

MarasmeAbsolu Mon 19-Dec-16 18:35:29

Thanks fr - in my small field (bioS/bioM), it s rare to be a sole applicant on RCUK (average is 4 to 6 coI, with PI never holding much more than 40% of the cake).

I apply as PI on approx 50% of applications. Success rates are abysmal, but writing grants is what i like (and do) best.

The admin - on the other hand - causes loads of stress. Especially dealings with HR or finance dealing with contract staff coming or going, the grievances over pay, overtime, etc and the FEEDBACK. I swear, i spend my daytime "feedbacking".

Joke aside - i like my job, but not the politics, and the relentlessness. We teach PG all year round, and there is no true "break" may it be summer or winter. This may be just a symptom of that... but 20 / 30 more years!?

bigkidsdidit Tue 20-Dec-16 12:22:14

I'm sciences and I am staggered by 10 papers and 10 grants per year. We submit 2 grants per year, usually, rcuk. I can't work out how you have enough ideas!

I think your workload sounds extremely heavy (we are in a research institution so would do your job plus grant panels but minus all teaching, and with only one or two dissertations).

bigkidsdidit Tue 20-Dec-16 12:22:42

Oh and 3 or 4 papers for us (1 or 2 as lead author)

bigkidsdidit Tue 20-Dec-16 12:26:44

I still can't get my head round this. Minus August and Christmas - one grant every MONTH? How on earth do you do it? All the faffing with JeS takes me a month grin

MarasmeAbsolu Tue 20-Dec-16 16:23:49

Hello BKDI! 10 papers and 10 grants is a max / big year.
My targets are 8-10 papers (easy ish, when you have a big team and collaborative groups), and 5-10 grants. There is a lot of recycling going on here (starting ERC, then down to RCUK, then smaller bodies), plus some co_I jobs that are less onerous.
...and we don't really have August off since many RCUK deadlines are in Sept wink

But again - this, I don t mind. I mind the barrage of admin crap that prevents me to do the work on papers and grants (or even teaching). And the politics, and the pettiness of certain committees. And the countless meetings with no actions agreed at the end angry ARG!

bigkidsdidit Tue 20-Dec-16 18:15:54

Would it cause great problems politically if you a) resigned from the two journals you aren't heavily involved with b) made plans to resign from the internal committee in 2017 /2018 c) resigned from the society committee?

Could you plan in a sabbatical for research only in a few years' time?

MarasmeAbsolu Tue 20-Dec-16 18:28:54

Yep - considering to drop the two small journals (not that much time). The big committee is however a gender equality one, which i am heavily involved in (so politically not great to drop).

My uni does not do sabaticals un my field - i d need to "earn" that salary through the few applications in existence. I am going for on in the coming quarter in the vain hope it will succeed.... this would be a dream come true!!

bigkidsdidit Tue 20-Dec-16 18:32:26

I've just resigned from my society committee and my Athena swan - I've done three years on each and I've just got in a big grant I want to focus on. Trouble is if you are the only / one of a few women in the department you end up doing more of this stuff angry

Foureyesarebetterthantwo Wed 21-Dec-16 23:12:18

This sounds like a lot to me, but I am not working so much in teams, so each paper would be written by me and possibly one other author. Ditto grants although I have written in larger teams and usually don't like it.

The problem I have with this workload is that is looks doable to go flat out like this for a year, or even two, but not a decade and not two decades. I don't have an answer for you but I don't think you can do all parts of your job really well with this workload and basically you have to section off parts of it as 'vaguely good enough' and work on the rest. But it does seem excessive to me, and I'm also SL at RG uni.

sammySammyA Thu 22-Dec-16 07:56:13

It seems the only place where there's any real flexibility is on the research side, e.g. setting your personal paper and grant targets. Does anyone have strategies for introducing flexibility into teaching and admin tasks (other than just doing them less well!).

impostersyndrome Fri 23-Dec-16 13:56:17

OP for perspective, I'm staggered by your workload. I'm at a similar level and neither I, nor any of my RG colleagues are expected to do so much. Just one comparator: postgraduate dissertations - we're actually not allowed to supervise more than 6 as it'd be seen as neglectful of the students, as we'd be unable to give them sufficient attention. I'm no fan of these workload assessment schemes, but I'm wondering if this is something your department needs to consider. I cannot see how this is sustainable, especially as you have no genuine quiet time.

MarasmeAbsolu Fri 23-Dec-16 17:29:58

Thanks for the replies!

I must say that my workload is not dissimilar to many of my colleagues who are "on the track" - we are in a relatively "aggressive" RG which sees its staff as quite expandable. I do however enjoy a lot more financial freedom that colleagues in other unis.

Sammy - i agree. The flexibility is on the research side, but it s also the side i do not want to drop. Interestingly, with REF looming, our contracts are "being scrutinised" with the likelihood of many of us being put on teaching only contracts. I d hate this.
Flexibility in teaching / admin - my mostly male colleagues choose to do a crap job, and actively refuse to take on supervisees, renegate on their marking loads etc. It just means more for us mugs (i am a programme coordinator, and i have no official "teeth" to "make" them).
On top of this, our class size has been steadily increasing but there is a hiring freeze.

My mentor (old school / ancient) tells me to refuse anything above and beyond and generally to be obstructive. A bit of a suicidal strategy.

I think i m just tired. I need to apply for that sabbatical money to at least (maybe) have the satisfaction to put some dedicated uninterrupted time on papers and grants

Finally - we have a workload assessment coming in force soon. I doubt it ll do much though as it is designed to identify the dead wood...

user7214743615 Fri 23-Dec-16 18:30:56

This articles seems very relevant to your situation:

www.timeshighereducation.com/news/female-professors-pay-price-academic-citizenship

I do think women are penalised for being good citizens, and doing a decent share of admin/supervising/management. Ambitious male researchers often do the minimum they can and concentrate on the tasks likely to give them career progression and pay rises.

And I also think that in the UK we academics are fools. We are doing far, far too much for our universities when our universities are typically treating us badly, punishing those who don't meet targets but not rewarding those who go above and beyond.

Japonicathehorseygirl Fri 23-Dec-16 18:41:56

I would suggest dropping a few things that could be considered less important for example you could maybe scale back on review writing. I am in natural science and to be honest the main things to me are obtaining grants/ publishing as senior author and under grad / post grad teaching. These are also I think the main things that my Institute cares about. You could try to trim anything that you consider to be peripheral. Could you delegate some supervision of students to the post doc

MarasmeAbsolu Sat 24-Dec-16 10:26:04

user - agree with the article.
Japonica - yep - the reviews are getting it

Objectively speaking, for the sake of self preservation, I should: drop all pastoral, all mentoring work. Drop the gender eq committee. Stop accepting to bail others out when they do not / cannot / will not mark on time.
Pretty much what I've accused my male colleagues to do for years sad

The system is pissing me off, it is a lose lose situation.

Japonicathehorseygirl Sat 24-Dec-16 16:50:31

Might be a bit hard to give up all mentoring but would be worth considering if you are doing more than your colleagues. There is no way I would help out those who could not get their marking done. Do you have rules about a women being on all committees etc? If so be careful that this does not mean you get roped in to doing more. I have decided that not having enough femal staff to do these tasks is not my problem it's the universities problem

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