Monthly Archives: April 2011

Academic Integrity

This post has been inspired by something I read over at the wonderful PhD2Published blog.  I seriously love this blog and the insight and wisdom that it so freely shares.  They run an ongoing series called Weekly Wisdom in which they share a short, snappy piece of advice.  The Weekly Wisdom this week really caught me off guard.  It’s number 40 in their ongoing series.  Here’s what is says:

Don’t give your ideas away and let someone publish before you; publicise the outline of your book, not the details!

On the face of it, that statement is not overly shocking.  But it really worried me.  Is there that little academic integrity that people would be willing to steal, claim and pillage the ideas of their colleagues in pursuit of some sort of fleeting fame?  It worries me that this could be the case.  As a young academic, just beginning my career and trying to forge my path is this what I have up ahead of me?  Is it really this ruthless?

I hope that the world that I am entering is in a better state that this.  I, for one, know that I could never blatantly steal the ideas of someone else and pass them off as my own.  I hope there is much more integrity in the world of academia that this.

I’m not even sure this is the sort of thing that Sarah from PhD2Published was hinting at or anticipating but it’s certainly what I took away from it.


The Monday Retrospect

What is ‘The Monday Retrospect’?

This is a weekly collection of things that have caught my attention and imagination over the last week.  It is a chance to put into words what I have been doing, thoughts I have been processing, things that are happening.  It’s a bit of a mind dump really.

  • Happy Easter.  I hope everyone has had a lovely time.
  • I have not posted one post since the last Monday Retrospect.  #fail.  It has been a busy week.
  • It’s official.  From September onwards I will be living in Belfast.  I have got accepted to a PhD program at QUB.  I have another application in at TCD that I am waiting to hear about.  Either way it looks like I’ll be commencing PhD research and I’m pretty excited about it.
  • The TEDxBelfast videos are finally online.  They’re being uploaded to the TEDx YouTube channel.  (AlanInBelfast has uploaded the available so far TEDxBelfast talks here).  They’re all great, but I especially recommend listening to Mark Dowds‘ talk embedded below.
  • You don’t develop courage by being happy in your relationships and interactions everyday.  You develop it by surviving difficult times and challenging adversity. – Epicurus
  • I’m in the process of putting together an abstract for a conference that I’d like to present at on transitional and restorative justice.  I’m not brimming with confidence, and I’ve never done anything like this before.  But, I’ve got to start somewhere I guess.
  • For those who don’t know already, Cassie and myself will be spending the summer in Canada.  I leave in about 2 weeks and Cassie will follow me out shortly after.  We’ll be working here!
  • Let’s connect on Facebook, Twitter, or  Or, all of them.
  • TOWARD Consulting have put a new video up.  Head over to their homepage and have a look.
  • Finally, I will leave you with this hilarious video from Los Whittaker.  He’s already put up one hilarious video that’s gone viral and this is just number two.  Enjoy.
That’s it for this week.  What’s going on with you?

The Monday Retrospect

What is ‘The Monday Retrospect’?

This is a weekly collection of things that have caught my attention and imagination over the last week.  It is a chance to put into words what I have been doing, thoughts I have been processing, things that are happening.  It’s a bit of a mind dump really.

    • Want to succeed as a PhD researcher…Thesis Whisperer reckons you need to become best friends with the Librarian.
    • The Alliance Party of Northern Ireland have put out their latest party political broadcast/party election broadcast.  I think it’s a visually stunning piece of work.  It uses all the right words, but for me, it lacks any tangible policy or plans.
    • I’m currently working on a paper that is exploring whether or not justice is necessary for peace.  If you have any opinions feel free to share them.
    • I was away at a wedding for the past few days.  It was nice to meet up with some friends that I haven’t seen for a while, and of course watch friends commit to each other in new ways.
    • 22 days and I’m outta here.
    • It is not the strongest of species that survives, not the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change. – Charles Darwin.
    • I love this display of creativity.  Check out AmpleSample which challenges people to come with abstract uses for carpet samples.
    • Are we connected on Facebook?  Or Twitter?
    • Currently doing some reading around the Sunningdale Agreement (1973) and the Belfast Agreement (1998) for my dissertation.
    • And no, before you ask I am not relying on these Wikipedia articles!
    • #fact: Academia is expensive.

Derailing Peace in Northern Ireland

This post has been inspired by the conversation that was started by good friend Nathan Erskine.


The heinous murder of newly qualified Police Constable, Ronan Kerr in the last week has simply served to highlight that Northern Ireland’s history is anything but history in the minds of some people.  And, in the minds of those who are trying to keep the events of the past where they belong it simply recalls to memory some painful times in the legacy of this beautiful but complex piece of earth.

The way I see it is that there are a number of possible explanations of this attack.

– It is an attempt to derail the Peace Process in Northern Ireland

– Is it a way of subverting a perceived dominant and unwelcome force by a violent minority?

The death, tragic as it is, is not an isolated incident but it is an attempt at something much larger.  It is an attempt to create chaos and derail the peace process in Northern Ireland.  The murder was a chance to corrode the already tenuous relationship between government and peace.

The timing of this event is significant at election time.  The plan here was much deeper than misery for one family, unfortunately OC Ronan Kerr’s life was being used as a catalyst to spur a larger political crisis in Northern Ireland.  On the whole this objective was unsuccessful, many leaders stood in unity and faced, with dignity and courage the difficultly of leading a country through this terrorism, unfortunately however a few of the political parties showed narrow-mindedness and unwilling to move away from a political game and point scoring.

Is this the litmus test for Sinn Fein as peaceful leaders of the Republican movement?

Sinn Fein have been almost unanimous in their condemnation of this attack and similar attacks in the last few years.  This, however seems to be their chance to really step up to the plate and prove their mettle as peaceful leaders of a nationalist movement.


At the end of the day however, this attack is not simply affecting those in the political world.  Behind this carnage we must remember that Ronan Kerr was a real human bein, with hopes, aspirations and dreams.  It saddens me greatly that when we now talk about the ‘Omagh Bomb’ we will have to distinguish just what bombing we are referring to.


The Monday Retrospect

What is ‘The Monday Retrospect’?

This is a weekly collection of things that have caught my attention and imagination over the last week.  It is a chance to put into words what I have been doing, thoughts I have been processing, things that are happening.  It’s a bit of a mind dump really.

  • The Legislative Assembly and Local elections are well underway in Northern Ireland.  It certainly is a fascinating time in our country’s history.  Alan in Belfast has composed a list that ‘Charts the Assembly Elections‘ – it provides great insight into who’s who, what’s what, and where’s where!
  • If you’re serious geek like me you’ll want to read about the different types of dashes to use and when to use them.
  • The next month is going to be an absolute roller-coaster.  I love it.
  • “Here is a test to find out whether you mission on earth is finished or not: if you’re still alive it isn’t.”
  • Spring time weather does the soul good.  The essays not so much.
  • A few other people are following along in the same vein as The Monday Retrospect.  There is now a Thursday Retrospect being run by Clamorous Voice and The Friday Retrospect being curated by MetaphoraMetaphora.
  • I’ve just started reading ‘What the Dog Saw’ by Malcolm Gladwell.  It seems like a pretty fun book.
  • I heard Gladwell speak this past year on the subject of Serendipity – what a truly fascinating dude.
  • Yesterday I found my favourite pair of shorts.  I thought they were long gone but they were just hidden!  The summer is looking good!
  • I’ve still got some books available for sale on Amazon.  They’ll likely be available for another 3 weeks or so.  Click to go to my shop.
  • Rory McIlroy – I feel for him.  And, I’m not even that into golf.
  • I’m currently researching the differences (if any) in representative governance and democracy.  if you’ve got any thoughts feel free to jump in.
  • Do you guys often preorder books?  I think I’ve only ever done it once.  I preordered Tribes by Seth Godin.  What have you preordered and why?
  • Check out this awesome looking home library.

That’s it for this week.  What’s going on with you?

Dissertation Supervision

I had my first official supervision appointment with Prof. Stefan Wolff on Wednesday.  It was really beneficial.

I explained to him the approach that I was hoping to take for the next month in terms of reading and structure.  He seemed really happy with my methodological approach and proposed direction.  He gave me some valuable food for thought regarding the underlying assumptions about ‘power-sharing’ governance in post-conflict societies.

We also chatted a little bit about doctoral studies.  If I haven’t already announced it yet Prof. Wolff has also agreed to be my PhD supervisor.  Obviously this is great news.  I’ve managed to bag a well-respected scholar in my chosen field and I’m really looking forward to seeing how the relationship unfolds.

Now I begin the task of starting to piece together this work.  I’ve added a tracker to let you all know how I’m getting on with the word count.  It’s looking a little bit meagre at the moment, but it will get better!  I promise.

126 / 13500 words. 1% done!

The Monday Retrospect

What is ‘The Monday Retrospect’?

This is a weekly collection of things that have caught my attention and imagination over the last week.  It is a chance to put into words what I have been doing, thoughts I have been processing, things that are happening.  It’s a bit of a mind dump really.

  • I have been deeply saddened by the news of PC Ronan Kerr’s death this week.  This is a futile attempt to derail a complex peace process with which the people of NI are engaging.  Thoughts and prayers are with the family and community at this time – they have all shown such grace in the face of adversity.
  • For further information about the complexities and meaning of this attack check out this erudite account ‘Why the dissidents kill’ by Ross Frenett at ‘Human Rights in Ireland’ and an impassioned account about ‘Getting Serious about Peace’ by Nathan Erskine.
  • Comparative study (in Politics/IR) is important and useful, but perhaps a little bit overrated?
  • Harvard Referencing or Chicago Referencing?  Which do you prefer?  Me?  I prefer Chicago.  Personally I think Harvard referencing is one of the most god awful things to enter academia.
  • Is there any difference between representational governance and democracy?  Let me know your thoughts?
  • First say to yourself what you would be; then do what you have to do.” – Epictetus
  • I am looking forward to watching ‘The Event’ tonight!
  • Some of the most awesome offices ever!

    Beauty Office

  • I’d like to take this blog onto someday – I just don’t quite know if I’m there yet!  Who knows…maybe I am.
  • Inspiration and Genius–one and the same.” – Victor Hugo

That’s it for this week.  What’s going on with you?

Terrorism: How to Respond

The POLSIS department at The University of Birmingham run a weekly seminar which is normally led by a guest speaker on a topic relating to Political Science or International Studies.  The seminar this week was something special.  We had Prof. Richard English the esteemed ‘Northern Ireland terrorism’ specialist and Director of the Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence at St Andrew’s University.

Prof. English delivered the seminar based on his book ‘Terrorism: How to Respond’.  As a student of Northern Irish politics it was a particular honour for me to hear Prof. English speaking.  I found him to be a pleasant and affable man who approached his subject with sensitivity and personality.

Prof. English has recently joined the faculty at St. Andrews after a 20 year career at Queen’s University Belfast.  Alongside other incredible scholars this makes St. Andrews one of the best places for the study of Terrorism and Political Violence in the UK.

Whilst this talk was undoubtedly brilliant I did have one time niggling question relating to Prof. English’s thesis.  Please remember, as with everything else context is King.  If you weren’t there don’t jump to any conclusions, rather read the book and formulate your own thoughts.  I would also like to suggest checking out my post on ‘Academic Etiquette’.  I am challenging one of Prof. English’s ideas, not him!  Therefore, this is just one of my observations.

Out of a list of seven ways to respond to terrorism and political violence Prof. English suggested one way was to ‘Learn to live with it’.  My understanding is that Prof. English is suggesting that over response to terrorism simply legitimises the cause of those perpetrating the horrible acts – but this suggestion was seemingly out of kilter with some of the arguments towards the preservation of human dignity and human security.  I’ll try to give some background to the discussion that went on here.

The first suggestion of Prof. English in response to Terrorism was ‘Not to have an overmilitarised response’.  There was a question fielded on this topic.  An attendee at the seminar questioned Prof. English’s rationale for this.  The attendee noted that in fact a heavily militarised response had been extremely effective in some cases – citing the examples of Sri Lanka and some parts of Russia and the Caucasus’.  Prof. English gave a great response to this based on argument of human security, protection and dignity and said that an overmilitarised approach jeopardises this.  I agree.  But, it seems to me, that there is a tension between this argument and the argument that an appropriate response to Terrorism is to ‘learn to live with it’.  I’m not sure these ideas are entirely compatible.

Prof. English did recognise that the book on which his talk was based was a short work and therefore there was only so much that could be addressed fully.  So perhaps it is simply the case that this tension has not been appropriately debated yet. 

In theory both ideas have credibility.  Giving legitimacy to Terrorists is a dangerous thing to do and having a heavy-handed response is dangerous for all parties and, indeed, innocent citizens.  it’s a hard argument to ratify and I’m not sure either theory is necessarily full or correct as a lone-standing argument.

Overall, the talk was provactive, challenging and interesting – much like the person delivering it.

What do you think?

 Purchase Prof. English’s book Terrorism: How to Repond.
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