Academically speaking

Logo of the Academically Speaking podcast (left) and Professor Christine Milligan and Dr Amanda Bingley in conversation recording Episode 1 © Martin Thornton (logo); Nadia von Benzon (photo)
Professor Christine Milligan and Dr Amanda Bingley in conversation recording Academically Speaking episode 1

A new podcast asks social geographers to choose a favourite journal article that has inspired their work, and to interview the authors about the research and the impact it has had.

Academically Speaking, which was launched in May, is the brainchild of Dr Nadia von Benzon, a social geographer at the Lancaster Environment Centre. She came up with the idea for the podcast when she was struggling to find time to read interesting research papers as a mother of five young children.

“I have so much to cram into my life, that while I will read papers if I need to for something I’m writing, I never have time to read papers I am just interested in. I am really into podcasts and I thought: 'wouldn't it be great if I could hear more about interesting research while I'm getting on with other things.

“I’m aware of the danger of letting our work lives encroach into our home lives, but when you are trying to parent or have other caring duties, you need flexibility in your working day. If I can walk the dog or do the laundry and get a bit of work done at the same time, that ticks both boxes for me. I thought the podcast could be a good way of allowing people, particularly women, to be more engaged with their work is a really flexible way.”

Nadia, whose own research focusses on the experience of children and young disabled people, particularly in relation to access to outdoor green space, had never made a podcast before. She got in touch with Martin Thornton, one of Lancaster University’s digital media engineers, who offered to manage the technical production.

The papers featured on the show are all relevant to human geography, which studies how people interact with their environment and form communities, cultures and economies. Nadia intends that the podcast conversations will explore the researchers’ reasons for writing the chosen paper, the research process involved, and the work’s ongoing relevance.

“I want to look behind the curtain, at how the research project developed, why the methods used were chosen, what has happened since the research and the paper’s enduring legacy.”

Academics - from PhD researchers to Professors - are invited to propose a paper that has been "important" to them and interview the author. Nadia is keen to stress that "important" is personal to the interviewer, and these papers aren't necessarily those with very high citation rates, or written by famous academics, but rather papers that have influenced the interviewer's own work. She hopes that the podcasts will be of interest not only to pressured academics but also to their students, and that it will be used as a teaching resource.

Nadia kicked off the series by hosting the first episode herself. She chose a paper written by two Lancaster University colleagues from the Faculty of Health and Medicine, Professor Christine Milligan and Dr Amanda Bingley.

The paper, Restorative places and scary spaces: the impact of woodland on the mental wellbeing of young people, was published in 2007 and is still influencing Nadia’s work.

“The paper is more relevant than ever in addressing the ambivalence that young people may experience in accessing outdoor green space, and the mix of experiences and emotions that these spaces might elicit,” says Nadia.

Nadia intends to publish one podcast a month. In the next episode one of Nadia’s guests, Dr Amanda Bingley, will be interviewing Professor Robin Kearns, from the University of Auckland, New Zealand during a visit to Lancaster University. They will discuss his paper “A healthy island blue space: From space of detention to site of sanctuary”. The podcast is due to be released in mid-June.

Follow the Academically Speaking podcast here.

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