Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Productive retirement............

I was amused to see an article in a recent Times Higher Education (February 4th) about retired academics and what they get up to. It seems they're often surprisingly productive, with some claiming that their post-retirement years have turned out to be their most fruitful. That all rings very true, as I find that in the early stages of my retirement I'm busier than I expected to be, and enjoying every minute of it. The book I was sent by our HR people when I formally retired, on 'Making the most of your Retirement' (or something like that, I don't recall the exact title), has not proved of any use at all!

The great thing about being retired is that no one in the home institution really cares terribly much what you do, presumably because you're not on the payroll, and so not formally accountable to anyone. Hence there are no administrative duties to undertake, no formal teaching either, except as the occasional guest lecturer, and no pressure to conform to RAE - or now REF - demands on the research side. In my case, I do still have a small office with a PC and most of my remaining academic books (many were culled in previous room moves), and I enjoy going into the university once or twice each week to meet colleagues, talk about research, and supervise my one remaining PhD student.

Most importantly, there's no shortage of interesting things to do, and the whole of this year is already looking very promising, with various papers and projects lined up, on very diverse subjects. Already there have been trips to Kuwait and Galway - see previous posts - and in the past couple of weeks I have been working with colleagues to finalise bids for some new activities, namely:

  • A small EU-funded consultancy project in the Falkland Islands, to advise on budget planning, and on ways of spending their next tranche of EU funding. As I discovered, all of the UK's remaining Overseas Dependent Territories (or ODTs, as they are known) receive some funding from the EU's Economic Development Fund, and it seems that advice is needed on the best way of spending it. I'd love to visit the Falklands, so I hope that my colleague and I win the contract, but I guess the chances are probably below 50-50. We'll see. If the project happens, it will start very soon, so I'll report back on this blog.
  • Working with colleagues in Poland and elsewhere, and led by a research institute based in Vienna, I've been helping to write and put together a bid for EU research funding as part of FP7 (Framework Programme 7). This is on the theme of EU widening and deepening, a mix of economics, political studies, and a few other things, and the consortium is seeking about 2.5 million euros in funding, for a three-year project starting next January. It should be really interesting and a lot of fun if we get the money, but we won't find out until the summer. No idea what our chances are, but you never know. I think the final bid (all 100+ pages of it!) as assembled by the Vienna institute looked pretty good, but of course I don't get to make the decision about funding.
  • Closer to home, my own university (Heriot-Watt) is thinking about a small project to estimate the impact of the university on the local region, and on the Scottish economy, along various dimensions. Quite probably, if this goes ahead, the university will use consultants to do the actual study, but I'm likely to be involved advising on how to do it. At the moment we're still at the rather preliminary phase of trying to specify exactly what we want to do. Again, though, potentially very interesting.
So who needs a proper job when there's so much going on?

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