Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Alternative Academia 5.0 - Costs

So, here’s my second problem encountered in my Alternative Academia world where I try to keep one foot in academia through teaching and conferencing. The first I talked about here, about academic affiliations.
As part of the session bids from the Oxford Medieval Diet Group to present sessions at the International Medieval Congress in Leeds (the second only to Kalamazoo, Michigan as the biggest gathering of medievalists!), I proposed a paper on the “Medieval Table as a Noble Space” and it got accepted, yay! Leeds July 2016 here I come!
The downside is that since I didn’t put the proposal in myself, but rather it was put in as a session by the organisers, I forgot to apply for a bursary. IMC Leeds website provides bursaries for “delegates from Central and Eastern Europe, students, independent scholars, pensioners, and unwaged scholars”. I think it is wonderful that independent scholars are included in this, because the financial cost to attend these events with department support, research funding, or travel grants, becomes overwhelming for those of us who pay out of our own pocket.
My paper is in the late morning on a Tuesday, so I can either use my annual leave to take 1 day off work and only attend on Tuesday. I could go up on Monday, but then I would need to find and pay for accommodation. Or I could go for the whole shindig and take 4 days off work. These are things that many others don’t have to think about – using your annual leave for academic work rather than leisure which they are intended for. I do wish that more conferences were willing to span at least one day in the weekend to help people trying to keep “one foot in”.
And I cannot be the only one. Only around 20% of humanities students with a PhD will end up with an academic job, so what about the remaining 80%? Surely many of them, like me, have found alternative jobs or careers, but have been told that we must keep publishing and conferencing if we have a shot at coming back to academia! But, the costs and timings of conferences often prohibit the people who need it from attending.
Whatever about using my annual leave, the cost is what really affects me. Take IMC for example. This is their guidelines for costs:
-- Full Registration c. £225.50
-- One-Day Pass c. £135.00
So, my choice is between 1 day and 4 days, and I will likely be attending for 1 day. So £135. Add travel at another £80 for the train, and if I have to go up the night before then accommodation at £45, so then I am looking at £260 all in. In addition, I was invited to present at the Harlaxton Symposium which was an offer I could not turn down, and full registration and accommodation will come to £200. So for July my conference bill will come to just under £500.
I don’t mean this to be a moan. I want to attend this conference and it was my choice. Both have amazing opportunities to meet new people and both have potential publications associated with them. But the pressure put on early career researchers to continue these activities means that we will pay this money out of pocket and take time off work. We don’t have a department, college, university, or research grant to support us.
I am sorely tempted to set up a GoFundMe campaign or something of the sort. Not for me, but as a means to pool resources for independent researchers and those working outside of academia who want/need to keep up their academic activities to keep their dreams alive. Funds could be allocated to conference registration costs, costs associated with publishing (such as image copyright costs), etc.
Is this a crazy idea?
Would people even donate?
If there is a positive reaction, I may go ahead and try it! I mean, ‘tis the season and all.

Update:
I have set up a trial GoFundMe campaign, which you can find here.

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