An Academic Diary in the Strictest Sense of the Term

by Kirsten Bell

You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile ~ the Borg Collective, Star Trek.


In part because of the insidious way it has of implicating all of us in its webs of power… we have all bought into the audit culture and allowed it to shape our thinking and our subjectivities

~ Cris Shore, “Audit culture and illiberal governance”.


March 5th, 2015.  Went to workshop about writing successful grant applications and facilitator emphasized need to demonstrate ‘impact’ in order to score well on ‘researcher excellence’ category. Asked question about whether citations are valid proxy for ‘impact’, giving example of my paper on e-cigarettes getting lots of citations purely because of topicality. Facilitator looked at me blankly and repeated that they require evidence of impact; she also stressed merits of Twitter. Afterwards, joined Google Scholar and (drew line at Twitter!). Spent 3 hours creating profiles and uploading documents on each site—complete waste of time! Don’t understand whole ‘follow’ thing—seems juvenile, so avoided it entirely.


March 13th, 2015. Already have 10 followers on! Have no idea how people found me so quickly unless they’re on it constantly (kind of sad). Out of curiosity, checked out profiles of people following me but haven’t heard of any of them. Thinking about maybe putting up picture and adding blurb to personalize my profile a bit.


March 25th, 2015. Now have 25 followers on! Also, realized I forgot to add one paper to Google Scholar so updated profile and h-index suddenly jumped up to 10!! Still trying to figure out what profile picture to choose. Have narrowed down to two options:

  • Me at outdoor café. Pros: looks ‘natural’ and unposed. Cons: Glass of wine might suggest drinking problem.
  • Me holding Spike. Pros: Animal lover! Cons: Crazy cat lady?

Alternatively, could follow trend of uploading picture looking away from camera rather than directly at it—to help cultivate impression of lack of vanity and disinterest in ‘image’. (Note: ask A to set up photo shoot on Saturday.)


April 3rd, 2015. ‘E-cigarettes’ article now has 150 views! According to Analytics, this is primarily due to someone posting link on Twitter. Decided I look arrogant not following anyone (plus, read article saying that people who follow people get more followers themselves), so followed 50 people—especially academics with Twitter accounts.


April 8th, 2015. ‘E-cigarettes’ article now in ‘top 5% by 30-day views’!! Noticed R hasn’t followed me back yet but she MUST have looked at my profile because Analytics indicates a hit from someone in Tasmania shortly after I followed her.


April 10th, 2015. profile is now in ‘top 5% by 30-day views’!!! Based on Analytics, numerous people found it by doing keyword searches of ‘Kristen Bell breasts’, so having similar name to famous actress is finally working in my favour (note: papers with ‘breast’ and ‘genital’ in title seem to be getting particularly high downloads).

Also, R still hasn’t followed me back although she followed 2 other people today.


April 15th, 2015. profile has dropped off ‘top 5% by 30-day views’ category. WHY??? Did Google searches on my name in library, at Starbucks (Burrard St and Howe St locations) and on N’s computer in order to increase profile views. Later got v. excited about flurry of interest in my work when received email notifications about searches on my name, but then remembered it was just me. Despite wasting two hours, still not back in the ‘top 5%’ category. Note: next time make sure to also click on individual papers as well as profile to increase number of page views. Also, brainstorm future paper titles containing ‘arse’.

Unfollowed R.


May 1st, 2015. Now have 55 followers on! Uploaded informed consent paper; by end of day it had 50 views and 1 bookmark! Noticed that only M bookmarked it, although W bookmarked several papers by other people.

Removed all bookmarks for W’s papers; bookmarked another one of M’s papers.


May 10th, 2015. Did Google search on informed consent paper and noticed ‘Altimetric’ score listed next to it. Looked up Altimetric—seems to be new measure of publication impact based on social media coverage. Reminder: set up Twitter account tomorrow.


All the characters in this diary are (semi)fictitious, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is (not) purely coincidental.


I am indebted to Shaylih Muehlmann, whose incisive observations about provided considerable inspiration for the diary. Other sources of inspiration include Roger Burrows’ paper Living with the h-index: Metrics, markets and affect in the contemporary academy, Cris Shore’s paper Audit culture and illiberal governance: Universities and the politics of accountability, Denielle Elliott’s Follow ME on Twitter, Meljean Brook’s Diary of an Author, Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones’s Diary and, of course, Bronislaw Malinowski’s A Diary in the Strict Sense of the Term.


Kirsten Bell is a social anthropologist at the University of British Columbia (why, yes, that link does go to my page. Why do you ask?)