Monday, May 02, 2011

A Visiting Card

People who hear what I do sometimes ask whether they can get me to come visit their universities. My answer is generally yes, and this morning I want to reflect a little on what sorts of visits I am willing to make. This post will become the beginnings of page like Jonathan's "Fees and Services". Also, I am (as always) trying to set a good example for young researchers. Think a little bit about how to fit your travelling into your life. Many job announcements (I'm thinking mainly outside academia now) make clear how much travelling you can expect to do. They don't want people to apply who don't want to or can't easily travel if that's what the job requires. In academia, meanwhile, you have some freedom to decide how much travelling your job is going to entail. So you may as well think explicitly about it.

First, some logistical questions. I have both professional commitments (a job) and personal commitments (a family) in Copenhagen, so I like to keep my travelling focused and limited to four nights away (preferably less) and twice a month at most. I was recently asked to consider a two-week visit, and my immediate response was "yes, but...", where the "but" was simply that it would have to be four days there, three days back here in Copenhagen, and then another four days there. So when I think about what I can offer, I'm usually thinking about what I can accomplish in a few days.

Next, money issues. Here I have to distinguish between the primary nature of my visits. If I'm being invited somewhere, I will expect to have my travel and accomodation paid by the host university. If I am being invited only to come and discuss my research (at a seminar, for example), I will not of course expect any fee, but if I'm coming to do a writing workshop for PhD students or faculty I will normally expect a daily rate. Most universities have standard rates for external teachers, and I'm settling on around 500 Euros as a reasonable fee (but there are all kinds of considerations, so just ask).

Here then are some things I'm likely to accept invitations to do.

1. Research seminar. I sometimes get invited simply to talk about my research. I have a pretty focused research agenda, and I'm always eager to discuss my projects.

2. Academic writing seminar/lecture. I have a packaged presentation that can run from 1 to 3 hours and can run, depending on the size of the audience, either as a seminar or a lecture. It is a combination of a "how to" talk and "motivational" seminar. I try to give people a fresh perspective on academic writing, some basic principles of composition, and some time-management tools. All along, I'm trying to get them excited about the particular challenges of writing for an academic audience.

3. Writing workshops. This is something I do mainly for PhD students (and sometimes junior faculty). The workshops run from 1 to 3 days, 3 hours per day. Depending on the city, it is usually possible to fly in on the morning of day 1, do an afternoon workshop on the first day, then another in the morning on the next day, and get me home that same night. That sometimes makes it easier for me to fit into my schedule, but the ideal situation is to meet only in the afternoons, and have the participants work on their writing in the morning. For these workshops, all participants are expected to contribute their own writing projects and we cover issues of organizing a paper, writing an introduction and conclusion, thinking of your audience ("research as a conversation"), principles of composition (especially the importance of paragraphs), and time management (the importance of discipline). The workshops proceed as discussion about the work the participants are doing, with some elements of the "master class" format: a participant is briefly "coached" through an issue in their paper as an illustration for the others. There are "basic" and "advanced" versions of this workshop.

4. Longer-term visiting positions. Here in Copenhagen I run my workshops on a weekly basis, in 8-week series. I am not averse to building such a workshop into a longer stay at another university, but this will of course require a lot of planning and, in all likelihood, some way of bringing my family or letting me return to Copenhagen often. We can talk.

Okay. Those are my thoughts on visiting your institution. Drop me a line at tb dot lpf at cbs dot dk if you're interested.


Jonathan said...

A guy we wanted to invite just to give a lecture wanted $1,500. We passed. I don't know why just discussing your work should be without honorarium.

Thomas said...

One reason people take a speaking fee is to sort serious invitations from unserious ones, I'd think. (Although I don't know why anyone would need to be assured of the seriousness of an invitation from you of course!) Even if you cover his transportation and accomodation, he'll still feel like he's wasting his time if no one shows up for the lecture. So by charging you he may simply be trying to give you a stake in the success of the talk.

Jonathan said...

Yes. He sets the price so that he doesn't have to do as many speaking engagements, but when he does do one he knows the department wants him enough and he gets compensated. To ask that much means that he is already quite economically comfortable.