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Blog: Going ON In A Meeting

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Being in a job that I Actually Find Interesting is still a bit of a novelty to me, even after being IN it for over a year, so when I went to a meeting on Friday that was Quite Good I was a bit surprised. When it turned out to involve a certain type of academic behaving like a certain type of academic, however, I was less so!

The meeting was all about research data, and gathered together a bunch of people from the London area who deal with it in academic environments. Rather than have presentations we were put into groups on tables and given a series of QUESTIONS to discuss. For each question we got about 15 minutes, and then at the end each table fed back to the group. I always DREAD this sort of thing, largely due to my long history of working in subject areas that I neither know much about nor am hugely interested in (sorry, all my previous jobs) but this time around I was delighted to find I was not only interested in what other people had to say, but had some remarks of my OWN to make! Even better, I was able to access the BRANES of people who were significantly more experienced than me in such matters who were VERY happy to share their knowledge. What made this especially handy was that the FORMAT of informal chats meant that they were able to share the SECRET knowledge as well about e.g. How To Get People To Archive Their Data and How Not To Fall Out With The Library Forever. It was DEAD good!

Most other people were from the Library, Scholarly Communications or Research Department at their relevant institution, but one person there was an Actual Researcher, a fact which he seemed to think we would all find FASCINATING. "This is your chance to talk to one of us!" he joked, apparently unaware that Talking To Researchers is approx 40-60% of most of our JOBS. I could hear this chap talking in his Loud, Confident, Posh voice behind me throughout the first half of the meeting, and ended up sitting on the same table as him when we came back after a break - we had all been told to move around, and it was VERY NOTICEABLE that every single person who'd been on the same table as him before had gone to one of the other two instead!

I soon found out why as he entirely DOMINATED the conversation for the entire rest of the session. MAN ALIVE but it was frustrating, but everyone was TOO POLITE to call him out on it, so what had been an Interesting Conversation turned into an unasked-for monologue, with two people gently trying to move things along when they could get a word in and the rest of us fairly quickly giving up. He had that way of talking where a sentence never ever ends, just pauses very briefly before the next bit starts, and a voice that seemed to have an UNDERLYING DRONE like a SITAR or something so there was always SOUND going on even in the gaps, so there was no space for anyone to jump in. At one point, after a series of ANECDOTES about Times He Had Been Proven Right someone LEAPT in and quickly asked "But how is this different in the Arts?" Others amongst took up the conversation and we then got about 60 seconds of discussion before The Researcher smiled and said "I'll give you another example..." and then smilingly carried on from exactly where he'd been before, completely ignoring what the rest of us had just said!

The thing is, I know many people will think "AHA! Welcome to my world! This is THE PATRIARCHY in action!" which, of course, it surely is, but this sort of behaviour is surprisingly Not That Common in my line of work - not to this INSANE DEGREE anyway. Most academics I meet are, if anything, PAINFULLY AWARE of the fact that they COULD be like that, and do at least TRY to remember that other people sometimes need to be heard too. That also gets a bit frustrating after a while, but after Friday's meeting I will hopefully appreciate their efforts a bit more - there are some people who have a propensity to GO ON A BIT and think themselves FASCINATING, but it's a lot easier to forgive if they at least recognise this fact about themselves and try to temper such behaviour.

Er... what do you think?

posted 20/5/2019 by MJ Hibbett

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