New project on Hungarian left-wing intellectuals

Hello blog! Welcome readers!

As of March 2014 I’ve been engaging on a project on Hungarian intellectuals. This is in an Academy of Finland sponsored project Asymmetries on Intellectual Space, where I have a two-year research period. For the record, this is my longest period in research and the longest contract I’ve signed – or my previous contract as a Senior Lecturer was equally long, but just before summer last year, I started my maternity leave. This is how things go in Finland. The work is precarious, but at least you get paid parental leave. Also, I’m glad to hold a research position for a while after years as a lecturer and with the little one to devote time for, too.
Not that I’d have time – academics don’t have time. The new project is indeed quite new to me, and requires full-time engagement indeed.

On my first day as a working mother, I took part in a social media training for researchers, science journalists and public information officers in Finland. No surprise, the first group was quite underrepresented, while the rest of them were oversubscribed. This is as much social media interests researchers – in their roles as researchers, at least! While in Finland facebook still is more used for general activities rather than personal stuff, this got me to learn about using Twitter (@epalonen).

One of the things I learned was that people would be interested in the research process itself, alongside the results. From my own research I know, the journey may be even more important than the results, and having traces of one’s thinking process somewhere else than the notebook (virtual or physical) helps the recovery of the research. Therefore, why not recovering this old blog!

Admittedly, I’m slightly worried about this research that cannot really be done in two years – but that’s what I got. I need to set the parameters well enough. On Tuesday after work, I was teaching research design to MA students in Political and Social Sciences on a course on Ideology and Discourse Analysis. One thing to note was: one needs to find the Interesting in research. It may be in flux at times, but all in all it should hold tension between the researcher and the research object.

Also, starting a research where one has not done much background reading before, is quite intimidating. Going public on that is even more so. My thoughts may turn out slim or uninteresting. Or simply wrong or inadequate. But then, as researchers we know that knowledge (or reality) is limitless and all we can is to dig, explore and provide (critical) readings, offer new insights.

Besides, there may well be other things to write about, both in the blog and in the work. This is quite standard for academics: even though you seek to devote yourself for one project that pays your salary, you end up revisiting old stuff, or writing, speaking about or commenting on something new. This is potentially only beneficial to the researcher. I’m simultaneously involved in another Academy of Finland project on Populism. Potentially it may hijack the whole research project – and then one is in trouble for the funding agency or the project leader. Mine thankfully sit in the neighbouring office, so I hope to get focused also through our discussions along the way.

As I ended up writing my PhD thesis in 2006 on a rather different topic than I launched with back in 2001 (with severe RSI that had an effect on my publication record for years), I’m quite aware of the problem and virtue of sticking to the plan. Now, writing the research plan for a big conference (ISA 2014 in Toronto), I’m slightly worried about redefining things too much ahead of time, so I’d just embark on the Research Train, which would lead me from the hypothesis or research plan to the results. Luckily, relative ignorance is a bliss: there are bound to be surprises ahead. And without surprises research would be predictable, machine like production, i.e. no research at all. Let’s see what surprises we will discover.

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