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Research careers at BU

The research career of Dr Raf Nicholson

I started work at Bournemouth University in April 2018 as Postdoctoral Researcher in Sport, Leisure and Tourism. This was one of a number of similar postdoctoral roles created at this time by the university. As “Impact Postdocs”, we were hired to spend 50% of our time helping existing staff develop their REF impact case studies (in my case in UoA 24). I was there-fore provided with full training in the workings of the REF, and learned the importance of embedding impact in academic work throughout the process. This will set me in good stead for the rest of my academic career.

Crucially, the other 50% of my contracted time was explicitly to develop my own research, alongside my impact work. I was supported in this by an excellent line manager, Professor Mike Silk, who also acted as an informal mentor – continually checking in to ensure that my workload was appropriately balanced between REF work and progressing my own research.
Professor Silk’s support allowed me the time to write and publish the book of my PhD thesis – Ladies and Lord’s: A History of Women’s Cricket in Britain (Peter Lang, 2019).

The book has subsequently been shortlisted for two prestigious academic awards – the MCC & Cricket Society Book of the Year, and the Aberdare Literary Prize for Sports History.

At BU I have been supported by peers through both the Research Staff Association and the ECR Network. It was at a meeting of the ECR Network on Funding where I learned about the Acorn Fund, a specific BU pot of funding designed for Early Career Researchers. I applied for an Acorn award in April 2019 and was subsequently awarded £4,444. This gave me the chance to begin work on a new project focused on the underrepresentation of women within sports leadership in the UK, carrying out oral history interviews with women who were involved in sports governance in the 1980s and 1990s. As part of this award I was also able to host an event at BU in December 2019 focused on “Women in Sport Governance”. We had representatives from 15 different National Governing Bodies of Sport attend the event, and I was able to share my research findings and develop my network. I was fully supported in running the event by members of BU’s Research Development & Support team, who assisted with the logistics and with publicising the event.

As a result of all the above support I achieved promotion to Senior Lecturer in April 2020. I am currently on a 90% research contract; my post is funded by BU as part of their Academic Targeted Research Scheme, which recruited academics to work in the university’s Strategic Areas of Investment. My post is in Sport and Sustainability, allowing me to further develop my new research project in the lack of gender diversity in sports governance. The small teaching load in this role is allowing me space and time to focus on publications and grant applications. In this I am once again receiving excellent support from my new line manager, Dr Carly Stewart.

I am now the Research Staff Association Faculty rep for the Business School and I hope this will enable me to support other researchers in the same way I have been supported since I first arrived at Bournemouth. I firmly believe that my progress from Postdoc to Senior Lecturer in a relatively short space of time is testament to the supportive research culture which exists at BU.