Reflections on the 2016 Berlin Summer School in Social Sciences – Linking theory and empirical research

This post is from Dr Suzanne Egan, Ewing Post-Doctoral Fellow at the University of Sydney about her attendance at the Berlin Summer School in Social Sciences in 2016. Suzanne completed her doctoral studies in 2015 and was a finalist in the Australian Women’s and Gender Studies PhD Thesis Award (2014-2015). Suzanne is currently working on a number of projects including one aimed at exploring the impacts of the ‘brain sciences’ on the field of feminist services. You can contact Suzanne at  and see more about Suzanne’s projects at

Thanks to the generous funding of the German Academic Exchange Programme (DAD), I was able to travel from Australia to attend the 2016 Berlin Summer School in the Social Sciences and I fully recommend it to others who are thinking of applying for a place in future. For me, it was an excellent opportunity to build networks, gain knowledge about academia and universities in countries outside the Global South and most importantly, the workshop theme – Linking theory and empirical research – was central to my research programme. I also found it both interesting and important to learn more about how concepts and ideas are used in social science disciplines outside of my own – in particular in economics and political science.

I found the way in which the summer school was structured in order to address the key themes particularly helpful. Following an evening welcome reception where we presented our research posters the first week consisted of two academics presenting each day on one of the workshop themes. These were the Epistemological Foundations of Methodological Paradigms (Sanjay Reddy & Gilbert Achcar), Causation and Explanation in the Social Sciences (Macartan Humphreys & Hendrik Wagenaar); Concepts as Building Blocks of Theories (Vera Troeger & Donatella Della Porta); Linking Micro and Macro Perspectives (Bob Jessop & Nina Glick-Schiller). The strategy taken by the organisers of pairing presenters with quite different positions on the given theme worked really well in highlighting key issues and areas of debate and provided many useful questions and areas of discussion when we broke into smaller seminar-style groups each afternoon. Having the respective presenter’s spend time in each of the seminar groups really added to the level of discussion and debate.

While there is not space to comment on all the presentations (though all were excellent – really demonstrating the depth of the lecturer’s knowledge and their facility in their areas of research) two have stayed with me over the past 12 months. The first Professor Gilbert Achar ( an academic located culturally (although not geographically) outside the West. Professor Achar provided an excellent historical analysis of the discipline of sociology, drawing significantly on the lengthy scholarship that exists outside the Western canon as well as one of the most thought-provoking critiques of Edward Said’s scholarship that I have heard to date. Second, the keynote by Professor Karin Knorr Cetina ( whose engaging lecture traversed her own career trajectory, through to the role of intuition in empirical research and her current research on financial markets.  While science studies appear to become increasingly popular in recent years in disciplines such as sociology and feminist studies, Knorr Cetina I discovered began conducting sociological research in science laboratories in the 1970s, contemporaneously with Bruno Latour and colleagues.

One of the things I especially liked about Knorr Cetina, in addition to the obvious rigour of her approach to empirical research, was her respectful approach to the scientists and more recently financial marketers on whom she conducts her research. Learn from them, she said, respect their work, they are the experts in their fields. She was also generous with her advice to us as early career researchers giving many concrete examples of her day-to-day life as an academic researcher as well as some humorous anecdotes and pointed advice to Faculties. Interestingly PhD candidates in the Berlin Graduate School in Social Sciences are referred to as doctoral researchers rather than doctoral students, as seems more usual in Australia.

The second week we worked in four thematic groups based on our respective areas of research. Each day began with a lecture in our seminar groups by a local (most at an early stage of their career)  researcher who then stayed on to provide feedback on the presentations by group members that occurred each afternoon.  Prior to the summer school, the organisers had paired us with another participant so that we could act as each other’s discussant during the presentations.

Image sourced via Google Images at

This was my first experience of presenter /discussant format and I highly recommend it both from a presenter and a discussant perspective. Because my discussant had read my paper beforehand and discussed with me my purpose in presenting and the type of feedback I was looking for, they were able to provide their initial feedback and then lead the open floor questions in a directed and purposeful manner. Consequently, the questions asked, the feedback as well as the discussion generated were considerably more in depth and detailed than I have experienced when presenting my work in other forums.  Although I do have to say that presenting after my particular discussant’s paper was a bit of a downer. A paper focusing on one’s methodological struggles is never going to be quite as gripping as research about what do straight people do when they have sex! Essentially a question of how to operationalise the concept of heteronormativity in empirical research and one, which turns the more usual foci in feminist and queer theories on their head.

Something that struck me throughout the two weeks was the seemingly different approach taken to ‘risk’ in Europe and in South America.  For example, there were several doctoral level, as well as senior academics, conducting ethnographic research on either right wing political groups or guerrilla groups. Not one, when discussing their research mentioned any particular problems with gaining ethics approval for their project. Compare this to my, (frankly ‘low risk’) doctoral project involving interviews with sexual assault workers, which took twelve months to pass through the requisite ethics processes, two different ethics committees and seven governance processes. Several years ago, when I attended my first conference in Europe delegates were adamant that they were not going to go down the UK and USA path risk adverse research, policy or practice. Based on the Berlin Summer School it would seem that they have succeeded!

In retrospect, it would have very useful if I had had access to this type of workshop during my doctoral research as I encountered many difficulties with working out how to operationalise the theoretical concepts of a particular social theorist (Foucault) to use as methodological strategies for an empirical research project. Here is a link to my poster about the project Egan Poster Berlin 2016  Even so, I benefited enormously from having the opportunity of presenting the solutions I did come up with and have continued to draw on the ‘learnings’ from the Summer School in my postdoctoral research programme, a key element of which involves examination of the relationship between contemporary social theory, methodology and empirical research.  For example in the semester after returning home I organised a Feminist symposium programme 11 Nov 2016, which focused on the challenges and opportunities afforded for empirical research of recent theoretical developments in feminist theoretical work. Here is a link to my paper sexual assault as trauma: a Foucauldian examination of knowledge practices in the field of sexual assault service provision

The organising team did an amazing job both in the lead up to and during the summer school.  It is an extraordinary amount of work to organise an event like this especially when it is in addition to your own research and study programme! They also did a great job of organising social activities (drinks, dinners, and sightseeing) for us. One practical tip I would give to others would be to try to stay fairly close to the Humboldt University. Although the Berlin public transport system is exceptionally good I still found that by staying a bit further out from the centre I missed some of the social events, as due to jetlag, I sometimes found it too much to go home after classes and then back again in the evening. It was a wonderful experience.

Describing substance abuse treatment through actor-network theory

Brad Roberg (BSW) has been a social worker within the field of substance abuse treatment for the past 13 years. He has graduate qualifications in substance abuse studies and philosophy. Brad is currently enrolled in a Social Science Honours program at RMIT. He has a particular interest in research looking at how social workers practice, and the forces that shape these practices. Email Brad at

I have recently commenced an Honours thesis, looking at how actor-network theory can contribute to the description and analysis of practice. Methodologically, I will be conducting an ethnography of practice. In part, this comes about because of the importance to understand and research practice, even though, as Pithouse (1985) states, practice is a largely invisible world. So, in the context of evidence-based practice, it seems to make sense that we would try to open up this world of practice to understand and explore what’s going on.

It would come as no surprise to many in the health and welfare sectors that much of the details of practice are hidden, and practice frequently takes place behind closed doors. This presents a problem for a student-researcher who also happens to be a manager: Who is looking? Why? What happens with the evidence gathered? How can one be an ‘insider’ and retain the sufficient objectivity required for research to be valid? These are not unusual questions, and form much of the reasoning for research ethics scrutiny; deservedly so, too.

Practice may be the object of my research, but what I am interested in is not so much what professionals say and do, as it is how people and objects relate, and how this shapes practices, forming the objects of intervention? This is what I take actor-network theory to offer. Actor-network theory is a view of the world where non-human objects have a kind of agency (Sayes, 2014; Latour, 2005); where the boundary that makes humans the locus of action and objects the passive tools of our intent is revealed as unstable, shifting, permeable. For example, the social lives of professionals in a multidisciplinary team for the treatment of opiate dependence are mediated by many non-human objects: laptops, urine drug screen results, patient identification numbers, files and software, proformas and meeting templates requiring dates and signatures. Without these objects, I hypothesise that the kinds of practices that are enacted and the decisions that are made and the outcomes that are produced can be transformed.

From the methodology of actor-network theory, the research involves writing accounts of practice. This is an insistent message from actor-network theory. Write an account. In doing so, assemble an account that reconstructs the ways in which the social worlds of informants come into being…or fall apart. It is a critical insight of the approach to insist on widening our frame of reference for ‘the social’ (Strum & Latour, 1987).

© Julien Eichinger via Fotolia

Such an approach calls for the researcher to dispense temporarily ‘the social’ as a frame, and to start with the basic building blocks of sociality, which are conceptualised as associations (Latour, 2005). What associations can be mapped that go together to compose something like a social world? This calls for what I’ve been thinking of as a strict or radical empiricism – leave nothing out. Describe everything, the scene of practice and the various elements composing it, and describe what happens within it.My research aim is to map social worlds of practice in their specificity, and as multiplicities. This is something Mol (2002) describes with remarkable limpidity; the multiplicity of an object (in her case, the disease

My research aim is to map social worlds of practice in their specificity, and as multiplicities. This is something Mol (2002) describes with remarkable limpidity; the multiplicity of an object (in her case, the disease artherosclerosis) has many realities, depending on where it is encountered (the outpatient clinic, the pathology lab), under what conditions (acute illness presentations, chronic disease management needs), in the context of which practices (under the surgical knife, or in the occupational therapists assessment). The object ‘artherosclerosis’ is multiple here, the life of interpretivism (multiple perspectives on one object) doesn’t hold; artherosclerosis is done differently and differentially. Bodies (human and non-human) are taken up into multiple practices, brought into multiple relations with other bodies, producing multiple worlds. This approach demands that as a researcher I take on an ontological shift, away from describing a world of being (“What is it?”) to worlds of becoming (“how is it done?”).

Which brings me back to my original point – it’s easy to think of the invisibilities of practice in terms simply of what professionals do ‘in the room’, matters of technique, whether what’s said is ‘evidence-based’ or not. But if we accept that social worlds are constructed as much of non-human objects as human subjects, and if we accept that non-human objects can have a form of agency,  then the things we often fail to see become visible and important to understanding practice. In this sense, The world dissolves into a multiplicity of world-making practices, and the things we assumed were inert and therefore of little account, tools to be used by an intentional subject, suddenly take on a life of their own or, at least, lives in relation to us. And this really is the point – a life is one that takes place in relations. Which is what Social Work has been trying to say all along.


Latour, B. (2005). Reassembling the social: An introduction to actor-network theory. Oxford, GBR: Oxford University Press

Mol, A.  (2002). The Body Multiple: Ontology in Medical Practice. Durham:  Duke University Press.

Pithouse, A. (1985). Poor visibility: Case talk and collegial assessment in a social work office. Work & Occupations. 12(1), pp. 77-89.

Sayes, E. (2014). Actor-Network theory and methodology: Just what does it means to say that nonhumans have agency? Social Studies of Science. 44(1), pp. 134-149.

Strum, S. & Latour, B. (1987). Redefining the social link: From baboons to humans. Social Science Information, 26(4), 783-802.

Technologies of power in policy and practice

This post is from David Hodgson, who completed his PhD in 2014. David studied the knowledge and reasoning behind the WA increase to the school leaving age, and how this has shaped practitioners work with young people disengaged from school. David is Senior Lecturer in social work in the School of Arts and Humanities at Edith Cowan University and can be contacted on

In my PhD research into the raised school leaving age policy in Western Australia, I drew on governmentality theory to explore the knowledge, power and practices operating with certain groups of young people who were deemed to be disengaged from school, or at risk of not completing school or meeting the new leaving age requirements. Many social workers and youth workers were employed to work with young people to meet the aims of the policy. One such theoretical concept I drew to help frame the inquiry was technologies. This was a helpful way to understand and critique the formation and application of power in the policy context, particularly the way that it operated in discreet practice settings. This concept could be applied and adapted to investigate other social policies and practices.

Technologies are not simply things like computer systems or databases, although these are certainly part of the way that governmental programs and policies are translated into practice. Technologies more broadly are the distinctive forms of practices, tools, intellectual ideas and processes that are invented and developed in the context of the forms and functions of governing (Ball, 2001; Dean, 1999). In this sense, the “techne” of government refers to the “means, mechanisms, procedures, instruments, tactics, techniques, technologies and vocabularies [in which] authority [is] constituted and rule accomplished” (Dean, 1999, p. 31). The researcher following this line would be concerned to study policy as it manifests in myriad forms of everyday practice.

Vector design technology, Network background.
Image via @teerayuttae at Fotolia

In any policy field, enclaves of professional knowledge and expertise will reside (Foucault, 2007). These professionals are organised in systems and they develop and draw on specific kinds of knowledge and expertise to do their work in a calculated way (Foucault, 1980a; 1980b). This is the case for lots of social policy areas, such as child protection, housing, health or social security. Social workers and human service workers are examples of professionals who may work in these areas using specific kinds of knowledge in a calculated way. So, conceptualising the technology of policy means to critically investigate these forms of knowledge and how this used in practice.

Rose and Miller (1992) cite Latour in explaining two methods of the technologies of government: inscription devices and centres of calculation. Inscription refers to the procedures by which phenomena are translated into information. Think of case notes, reports, evaluation studies, statistical data-sets about service users, and so on. Centres of calculation refer to the collection and organisation of information in ways that make visible certain individual or group characteristics or descriptions (Rose & Miller, 1992). Think of assessment tools, diagnostic concepts, terms and labels. These calculative technologies are instrumental to the governmental power of policy. Investigating these means examining the records of practice—how they are produced, by whom, what form they take, what effects they have on the lives of professionals and services users alike. This form of knowledge will reveal much about the way power circulates in policy and practice settings.

To summarise, here are four concepts of governing technologies that I used in my PhD research, which could be adopted as a research framework to establish a through-line from policy to practice.

  1. Legislative technologies – the form and function of legislation, its concepts, rules, requirements and stipulations, including how and why it has come about, arguments for or against it.
  2. Programmatic technologies – data-sets and reports on the phenomena being intervened in, conferences, meetings and symposia, contracts and agreements, sector-wide or geographically dispersed service delivery points, funding arrangements.
  3. Procedural technologies – paper and digital forms and the methods for filling them out, intervention methodologies, service compliance requirements, assessment and reporting tools and methods, the daily routines and methods of practice.
  4. Intellectual technologies – theoretical ideas and propositions, concepts, practice terminology and vernacular, diagnostic and assessment concepts and associated criterion.

These four points above provide a way to examine the practical translation of policy into practice. This contributes to a rich critique of the formation and application of power and knowledge in social policies.


Ball, S. (2001). Global policies and vernacular politics in education. Curriculo sem Fronteiras, 21(2), xxvii-xxliii.

Dean, M. (1999). Governmentality: Power and rule in modern society. London; Thousand Oaks, Calif.: SAGE.

Foucault, M. (1980a). Truth and power. In C. Gordon (Ed.), Power/knowledge: selected interviews and other writings, 1972-1977 (pp. 109-133). New York: Harvester Wheatsheaf.

Foucault, M. (1980b). Two lectures. In C. Gordon (Ed.), Power/knowledge: selected interviews and other writings, 1972-1977. New York: Harvester Wheatsheaf.

Foucault, M. (2007). Security, territory, population: Lectures at the College de France 1977-1978 (G. Burchell, Trans.). Houndsmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire, New York: Palgrave, MacMillan.

Rose, N. S., & Miller, P. (1992). Political power beyond the State: Problematics of government. The British Journal of Sociology, 43(2), 173-205.

International Field Placements- which model will fit me, my team and my students?

Dr Mim Fox is an early career researcher and Lecturer in social work at the University of Wollongong. Dr Mim Fox graduated with her PhD from UNSW Australia in 2015. Mim explored the relationship between international field placements and the development of a professional international social work identity. Mim’s research interests, post-PhD, are focussed on the development of professional identity, the practice of international social work, social work education and the learning process. Mim maintains a professional and research interest in health social work.  Contact Mim at her email

International field placements have become increasingly popular, in line with globalisation (Panos, 2005), and global interdependance (Pettys et al., 2005). Key areas of learning for social work students undertaking an international field placement include international comparison (Healy, 2008), cross-cultural skills and anti-colonialist practice (Gray, 2005), and the development of cultural sensitivity and ethnorelativism (Engstrom and Jones, 2007).

Despite some universities establishing an environment conducive to international partnerships and universities recognising the benefits to including international field placements in social work curriculum, support for international field placements by social work programs can be variable and subjective in nature, with the inclusion of international field placements being social work program specific across the country. Each social work program is in a position to determine whether or not they choose to include international field placements in their curriculum, and when doing so the nature of the model they include. Hosting agencies are even less likely to have an international mandate, it is often a decision made by an individual social worker as to whether they supervise an international field placement. Given these factors, it is timely that an argument is made for social work programs to implement a planned approach to international field placement provision.

As part of my PhD, I surveyed 28 social work programs in Australia. Of those surveyed, 15 indicated that they either accepted students internationally for international field placements in Australia, or sent Australian students overseas for placements. Fifteen social work programs were then interviewed about these placements and the results showed that although there is no consensus as to how to organise an international field placement, there are 4 models that academic and professional staff use when doing so. In addition, many programs discussed using a combination of these models at different times, dependent on the capacity of the social work program to support the international field placement, and dependent on the capacity and previous skills of the student involved. Ethics approval was gained from the University of New South Wales Human Research Ethics Committee for this study initially in 2009 and data analysis was complete in 2012.

The table below provides a snapshot comparison of the various models operating. By defining the relevant variables involved in the organisational context of the international field placement, university staff and hosting agencies are able to compare and contrast the models in order to plan in advance for their involvement. Whilst some universities have an overt internationalised agenda, this is not the case for all. Similarly, while some social work programs are willing and able to invest the time and resources in supporting the international field placement, others are not. For some hosting agencies, they are not able to shoulder the total delegation of risk management or supervision that some models require. For others this is possible. By considering these variables in advance the final success of an international field placement is maximised for both the student, the hosting agency and for the home university.



It takes a Village….and a Research Symposium

This post is from Haidee Hicks, who is completing her PhD at RMIT University. Her research focuses on international students’ learning during social work field placement. Haidee is also a Sessional Academic at RMIT University and Victoria University. Haidee asks what could a regular research symposium do for Trans-Tasman Social Work and Welfare Education PhD and Early Career Researchers? Haidee answers through reflecting on her own experience attending such a forum at Sofia University, Bulgaria in 2014. 

I have recently been reflecting on my experience as a social work researcher, and specifically as a doctoral researcher located within the broader social work discipline in Australia. Questions such as: what is likely to happen to my “original contribution to knowledge”? How might that be disseminated? Who is listening? Is there an opportunity to engage in a critical dialogue with other researchers within the profession? Research from the United States perspective from Maynard et al. (2014) confirms the low rates of publication of dissertations in the United States and that only 28.8% are published and “enter into the discourse of the social work profession” (p. 1045).

In September 2016, ANZSWWER launched The “New Voices in Social Work” Research Symposium at the Symposium held in September in Townsville. This Symposium is an opportunity to disseminate social work knowledge and research. It is an opportunity for PhD and ECR Research Symposium to contribute to scholarly discourse in Australian and New Zealand through a collaborative approach.  It will provide forum for PhD and Early Career Researchers to receive feedback and comments in relation to the progress of their research from an experienced Panel of social work thesis supervisors. This Panel will comprise 4-6 members who will provide feedback and comment in relation to the progress of presenters’ research.

In August 2014, my PhD Supervisor, Professor Charlotte Williams (RMIT University) and I travelled to Sofia, Bulgaria to attend the TISSA Conference (The International ‘Social Work

St  Kliment, Ohridski, Sophia University Source: Google Images

& Society’ Academy)  that includes a Pre-Conference of the PhD Network. This Pre-Conference offers PhD students an opportunity to present their research to a panel of approximately ten academics who are experienced in doctoral supervision. It specifically offers students an opportunity to present an aspect of their research for further comment and feedback from the Panel. The panel spanned a number of countries – Switzerland, Germany, Bulgaria, United Kingdom, Sweden and Australia – and offers a broad, global perspective and analysis to presenters. In relation to my own PhD research, I was at the ‘Confirmation of Candidature’ stage, so the feedback related to research design, methodology and some discussion in relation to conceptual frame of the research.

Auspiced by ANZSWWER, the “New Voices in Social Work Research” Symposium – also draws on some of the TISSA model: it too will be a “cooperation between universities and institutions” and allow for a “broad international connection for a critical discourse about social professions” Attending TiSSA, highlighted for me the need to collaborate across a broader research community of practice.

The focal point of a research symposium is in itself important for individuals – but also important in relation to connecting us as a community of researchers. It also an opportunity to strengthen the research capacity of the social work profession through developing the skills and knowledge of emerging researchers. This symposium offers an important opportunity for dissemination of knowledge within the collaborative Trans-Tasman research network that ANZSWWER continues to promote.

If you are interested in participating in the ANZSWWER New Voices in Social Work Research Symposium to be held in 2017 you can register your interest here by emailing us at 

Grappling with some of Foucault’s “bizarre machinery”

Lynelle completed her doctoral study  in 2015 and is now working on applying some of the findings from the research into classroom practices with students. This post is a reflection about one aspect of using a new method. You can find Lynelle on ResearchGate here or on Twitter @watts_lj

For one of the lines of inquiry in my doctoral research about reflective practice in Australian social work education I employed an archaeological analytic, outlined by Foucault in his work in The archaeology of knowledge (1972), to consider how reflective practice had emerged in social work education as a ‘thing’? I use the term bizarre machinery after Sheridan (1980, p. 103) who suggested that Foucault’s attempts to “replace the old unities of discourse” resulted in the development of methods that are able to encompass transformations, engage in comparisons and map innovation in discursive formations. Likewise, Koopman and Matza (2013) suggest Foucault’s methods can be seen as tools aimed at diagnosis, analysis, and critique. It is a critique of a particular kind as I discovered.

My study juxtaposed methods from distinct paradigms of qualitative inquiry (autoethnography, archaeology and interpretivism). While this proved to be a challenge, it also turned out to be fruitful in an unexpected way. Autoethnography has interpretation at its centre – it’s built around the idea that human consciousness and interpretation is central to understanding and meaning-making. Therefore, autoethnography is based around one of the unities of discourse that Foucault’s machinery is aimed at suspending, or at the least, constraining. Why? Well, the idea is that you can consider discourse through a field rather than through a “single mind, thought or subject that engendered it (Foucault, 1992, p. 61). Discourses in this sense are seen as incorporating more than language, they include practices (Garrity, 2010).

For an archaeological analytic, the analyst must engage in the constraint of two main operations of thinking to establish the field in which one might locate statements. Statements are considered to be a basic unit in discourses and they are not mere linguistic propositions, but events (Bernauer, 1990). The operations of thought which must be constrained turn out to be pretty central to accepted practices of scholarship. The first is where we place humans as the originators of all interpretation – this is referred to as the sovereignty of the subject (Bernauer, 1990). This is an idea close to the heart of all human services work – the human being is central to our professional consciousness. The second operation is the idea that history is about the search for origins, requiring the scholar to engage in looking deeper for meaning. Suspending these scholarly habits is part of the scepticism (Kendall & Wickham, 1999) deployed through Foucault’s machinery. If we place humans at the centre, it becomes less possible to clear a space to even see discourses. It also means that we should be careful not to see language and discourse as the same thing – a point which Zoe Garrity (2010) discusses so well in her paper here on the issue.

The upshot of all this was that I spent considerable time looking at a so-called ‘field’ but one that I had constructed out of authors and origins – it was very interesting but it wasn’t archaeological in the Foucauldian sense.  No statements were to be found there. The operation of thought I needed was the equivalent of seeing the vase instead of the

Vase mit zwei Gesichtern
©Klaus Eppele

faces. Once I was able to engage in this different operation of thought it became more apparent that there are different kinds of critical reflection possible – something that may not have been possible to see if I had stayed with the familiar interpretive and/or critical kinds of reflection I was more familiar with. It may not have happened if I had not spent some time grappling with some of Foucault’s bizarre machinery.

Bernauer, J. W. (1990). Michel Foucault’s force of flight – Towards and ethics for thought. . New Jersey, USA: Humanities Press.

Foucault, M. (1992). Politics and the study of discourse. In G. Burchell, C. Gordon & P. Miller (Eds.), The Foucault effect – Studies in governmentality with two lectures by and an interview with Michel Foucault (pp. 53-72). Chicago, Illinois University of Chicago Press.

Garrity, Z. (2010). Discourse Analysis, Foucault and social work research: Identifying some methodological complexities. Journal of Social Work, 10(2), 193-210. doi: 10.1177/1468017310363641

Kendall, G., & Wickham, G. (1999). Using Foucault’s methods. London ; Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage Publications.

Koopman, C., & Matza, T. (2013). Putting Foucault to work: Analytic and concept in Foucaultian inquiry. Critical Inquiry, 39(4), 817-840. doi: 10.1086/671357

Sheridan, A. (1980). Michel Foucault: The will to truth. London; UK: Tavistock.

How this blog came about…

How this blog came about…

Welcome to the New Voices in Social Work Research blog. The New Voices in Social Work Research blog is an initiative of  the Australian and New Zealand Social Work and Welfare Research (ANZSWWER) organisation. The aims of the blog are to promote and support Higher Degree Research (HDR) students, (includes PhD, Masters and Honours) and Early Career Researchers (ECR) in the area of social work and human services in Australia and New Zealand. The inaugural curators are Dr Lynelle Watts and Dr David Hodgson, currently members of ANZSWWER and also Senior Lecturers in Social Work at Edith Cowan University. Lynelle and David are also early career researchers (ECRs) with a passion for social work research and education.

This blog was inspired by Lynelle’s attendance at the 2015 Melbourne ANZSWWER Symposium held at RMIT. Three sessions were particularly important. The first was the Keynote address by Professor Donna Baines, which made a case – amongst other aspects –  for how research needs to include processes of knowledge transfer and engagement, as this can lead to new research relationships that might contribute to changing social conditions.

The second important catalyst was Associate Professor Liz Beddoe’s Keynote address (pictured above – photo by Sophie Goldingay). Liz is something of a social media star in social work. Liz  discussed “how social media has a powerful potential to grow a stronger space for social work activism in important debates”  and for disseminating ideas from research. This is neatly demonstrated by Associate Professor Beddoe’s blog Social Work Research in New Zealand. Liz also talked about the RSW Collective, and their use of a blog called Re-imagining Social Work in Aotearoa New Zealand . This blog is an example of important activism aimed at “the development of modern, progressive, inclusive, democratic, and culturally responsive social work services in Aotearoa New Zealand.”

The third session, important to the New Voices in Social Work Research blog initiative, was given by Professor Charlotte Williams entitled TISSA O’Z new collaborations – A Phd Network for Social Work. Charlotte outlined the need for more support for doctoral researchers in Australia and New Zealand. Here it was suggested that there was a “need for a step change in the breadth, depth and quality of research evidence for social work in Australia”, which would require a “systematic investment in building capacity”. According to Professor Williams, we need to find ways to address the isolation of social work researchers, the relative weaknesses in doctoral education in social work, and begin investing in the new generation of social work researchers. The audience was enthusiastic and some members including Professor Williams thought that ANZSWWER was well placed to take up some of these challenges. It was suggested too that a doctoral symposia, modelled on the same process as that of The international ‘Social Work & Society’ Academy (TiSSA), could be attached to each annual ANZSWWER conference. ANZSWWER Executive members who attended Professor Williams session promised to take the ideas back to the committee to see what could be done.

Lynelle was already a committed Twitter user and blog consumer, having received so much support and encouragement in the final phases of her PhD through the large supportive PhD twitter community.. Using social media was an important way of connecting with others undertaking higher degree research, often doing quite different topics. At the 2015 ANZSWWER Symposium, Lynelle met so many Doctoral students, many of whom, like myself, were already working in Universities but who also felt a little isolated with their research. Lynelle also met a lot of people who had just completed their doctorates and were now looking at what to do next as early career researchers. When she returned from the 2015 ANZSWWER Symposium she discussed the idea of starting a Blog with her colleague and long-term collaborator David Hodgson. He got excited by the idea too and they worked together on setting up the parameters and thinking about how it could work. Both were, by this stage, members of the ANZSWWER executive and so they pitched the idea to the rest of the committee – What about starting a blog for higher degree and early career researchers?  The thinking was that it had the potential to connect social work and welfare education researchers across Australia and New Zealand, gives a space for researchers to showcase their research, and could support the establishment of doctoral symposia attached to the annual ANZSWWER conference. Members of the ANZSWWER committee got excited too and agreed to support the initiative…

And so here we are…