Recap of 2018-2019

Since the beginning of the 2018-2019 academic year, I’ve been going non-stop!

  • Presented at AMLaP and SSLP2018 in Berlin
  • Participated in a week-long summer school on Bayesian statistics in Potsdam (SMLP2018)
  • Taught a 3-week primer in R (RfficeHours) for Newcastle University staff
  • Gave several(!!!) invited talks about my research at universities around the UK
  • Had a first-authored paper published in Linguistic Inquiry!
  • Taught a mini-course on experimental methods and statistics for linguists at Universitat Autónoma de Barcelona
  • Taught a one-day workshop on data visualisation and statistics in R at the University of Leeds
  • Was a speaker in the Newcastle Pint of Science 2019 series of pub talks
  • Taught a four-day summer school on statistics and analysis in R for linguists at the University of Reading
  • Gave a keynote talk at the inaugural conference of They, Hirself, Em and You Conference (THEY2019) at Queens University, CA.
  • Had my first solo-authored paper accepted at Glossa!
  • Taught the second annual session of Adventures in R at Newcastle
  • Completed collecting all planned data for my REA Fellowship project (😱!!!!)

I’ll be entering the last semester of my fellowship in the autumn, and I have a lot planned already. I’m trying to submit a grant to the ESRC by the beginning of Autumn and I’ll be writing up my experiments for publication as well. I’ve also got a couple of collaborative manuscripts in the works which are getting close to submission.

As I look back on my time as a postdoc at Newcastle, I can see how much I’ve learned and grown. I feel like I am overflowing with ideas for both research and scholarship, and I’ve struck out in new directions that complement my expertise and help pull together my research programme into something that suits me and my career goals. I’m not sure what the future holds, and that’s certainly a bit of a stressor, but I’ve begun to feel more confident that there could be a place for me to stay in academia. I certainly hope there is, because I have fallen in love with teaching methods, quantitative analytical skills, and statistics in R. I’ve got reams of ideas for how to integrate these pedagogical goals with teaching psycholinguistics, phonetics, and syntax… I just need an outlet now!

It’s been fabulous being able to concentrate on my research, but as you can see from my main activities in the past year, I really do miss teaching. I think teaching, for me, is a way of processing and consolidating the research I’m doing — in a sense, getting to see my students’ perspectives on linguistics and statistics helps me to look at my own work with fresh eyes and new invigorated energy. What a treat to be able to teach and do research for a living!

Summer progress

A lot has happened since my last update. This spring semester was a bit disjointed, but I finished collecting eye-tracking data from my general population sample and presented at CUNY2018. I got a lot of good feedback and enjoyed spending time with my colleagues in the US.

Ethics of researching gender as a syntactician

This summer, I’ve submitted a few papers, though I haven’t heard back on two of them yet. Here’s the LingBuzz page for the preprint of Syntactic and cognitive issues in investigating gendered coreference. This is a squib on how to frame human gender going forward for research that concerns grammatical and human gender, with an eye to domain-general cognition. In particular, I think it’s crucial that work on this area acknowledge the conceptual overlaps between grammar, cultural categories, biology, and social sensitivity and justice. It can be easy for syntacticians and psycholinguists to focus on syntactic features while ignoring how our discussions of these features affects transgender, nonbinary, and gender nonconforming people. Even if it’s entirely unintentional, it creates a hostile environment for colleagues and members of the wider community. We’re better than that, but to move forward I believe a framework for ethical investigation must be made explicit.

See also: Vincent, Benjamin William. (2018). Studying trans: recommendations for ethical recruitment and collaboration with transgender participants in academic research, Psychology & Sexuality, 9:2, 102-116, DOI: 10.1080/19419899.2018.1434558

Teaching R, methods, and analysis

The other main project I’ve been working on is integrating updated quantitative analysis into the postgraduate curriculum here at Newcastle and in the general linguistics community.

  • In March, I led a workshop with Nick Riches on Internet Methods for conducting experiments, which touched on MTurk, Ibex Farm, Inquisit, and other similar tools.
  • In June, Jalal Al-Tamimi, Danielle Turton, Nick Riches and I organised and implemented a two-day postgraduate workshop on using R for analysis, including tidyverse, text mining, and linear regression. (Adventures in R)
  • In September and October, I will be hosting a series of tutorials (RfficeHours) geared to familiarising staff with R so they can support their students and conduct their own analyses. I intend on hosting RfficeHours throughout the year, in order to keep staff fresh and help boost support for R at the School and Faculty level as we’re also providing postgraduate support through Faculty training workshops.
  • Next year, in January, I will be running a five-day mini-course on experimental syntax methodology and analysis in R at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, invited by Àngel Gallego. Materials for this mini-course will be made available in January.