Is academic work a kind of perfectionism? Single-minded focus certainly goes a long way in scholarship. But we must also be circumspect, not forgetting the constraints on our time and resources, our health and the need to make concessions to our audiences when communicating discoveries. All-round perfection will be an elusive goal. So what really is good scholarship, in God’s eyes?
In just under four months the 2016 Fisch Leaders’ Conference will be taking place in Leeds. It’s going to be epic; a crucial moment under God’s grace for this cohort of Christian postgraduate leaders.
Fundamentally it promises two things (with a money back guarantee): you will enjoy a time of rest and encouragement as you are fed in a community of Christian scholars; and you will be challenged to grow in your thinking and leadership as you share your experiences and listen to others.
The Faith-in-Scholarship working group on ecosystem services is starting to have an impact! Twelve of us started meeting back in February to work on a challenge in conservation science (read about the basic rationale). Now we’ve presented some of our work at an ecological conference in Rome and are working on journal articles. We want to substitute ‘ecosystem services’ with ‘ecosystem values’: read on to find out why.
Dr Xia Zhu describes the role of Christian academic groups in her faith:
I was brought up and educated in a system which believes in no god and claims that the reason why so many gods look like men is because they are simply human illusions. Ironically, it was in order to understand a different culture that I was encouraged to read the Bible by a professor from my undergraduate studies.
I came to the UK in 2006 to start my PhD at York University, not knowing anyone. Thankfully, in my first week there, the Christian Union distributed a leaflet in the college accommodation where I was staying, and I quickly became involved in the CU’s postgraduate small group. It was great to meet people who were also pursuing research, and together we grew in our faith and made small steps towards understanding the place of our scholarship within the larger picture of God’s kingdom.
Towards the end of my undergraduate degree, I encountered a group of students meeting to discuss why Christian faith no longer seems to affect our culture as much as it did in the past. The ‘Big Picture Group’, as it was called, excited me by its sweeping worldview and its candid discussion of serious challenges. I think many of us there in Cambridge were particularly disappointed that so few of our friends were won to faith by the Christian union events we tried so hard to promote.
The main reason I chose to do a PhD was, as they say in some theology schools, ‘missional’. In this post I will explain this, and also assess the strengths and weaknesses of my answer a few years into my PhD research.
For most of us, particularly academics, New Year really takes place not on 1 January, but on 1 September. Term might not have started yet, but the holidays are definitely over, the inbox is starting to fill up (again), and everyone around you is getting ready for the imminent influx of students. Happy New Year!
So what better time for some New Year’s resolutions?
If you’re weighing up whether to do a PhD or not and have got this far in the “Why do a PhD?” series, you will have already considered your motivations, skills and the honour brought to Christ by studying his creation. But, you may also be trying to decide if it is worth spending 3-5 years more researching.