Monday, September 22, 2014

End of Sabbatical

This blog has been very quiet for the past 12 months or so as I was away on sabbatical (and I joined FB, where I post almost daily). As such I thought I should post a few remarks here.

While I am sad that the extra research time afforded by the sabbatical has come to an end, I am happy to have full-time teaching return as a regular part of my responsibilities. I find teaching helps stimulate thought and balances what can be an otherwise hermit-like existence (my research tends to be very solitary).

What did I accomplish on the sabbatical? I spent the Fall term teaching in the School of Public Policy at UCLA. This was an excellent opportunity, compelling me to devote a great deal of time and attention into the questions- Why learn normative theory? And how best to teach such theory to practitioners? (i.e. those who will work in public policy rather than become moral or political philosophers). I am bringing a version of the new course I taught at UCLA back here to Queen's where I will teach it in the MPA program in the School of Policy Studies.

Some challenges on the family front meant that my research output was not as productive as I had initially planned. I completed a draft of my book examining the ethical and social challenges of the genetic revolution. But the interdisciplinary nature of the book makes finding a publisher extremely challenging. Theory types will want more theory and less science, and science types want more science and less theory. Various chapters of the book have already appeared in print in over a dozen articles in journals in Philosophy, Bioethics, Medicine and Science. But at this stage I am unsure if the book will ever see life as a larger, more unified, project. I want to move on to other things.

I signed a book contract to write a textbook on genetics and ethics. This nicely overlaps with the research I already conducted over the past decade for the work I just described above. So at the very least I hope to have a new textbook written up in the next year or so.

Typically I write almost exclusively for peer-reviewed journal submissions. Looking over my CV I see that 94% of my article publications are in journals vs only 6% as chapter contributions to books. This was in many respects a conscious decision I made many years ago having spent time in the UK system where the RAE values such publications over book chapter contributions. Furthermore, I think there are many benefits to subjecting oneself to the uncertainties, labour and torture of the peer review process of journal submissions. But perhaps I have gone overboard in this respect! Proportionality is in order, so this year I actually agreed to write two new chapter contributions. The first on virtue and politics, and a second on ethical issues related to life extension.

My hopes to make serious headway on a book on play have been delayed as I have had to invest a good deal of time and energy into some other priorities. But I am optimistic that a viable project on this topic will be pursued in the years to come. The theme of play is something I find myself grappling with in my own personal life as well. And I think the intersection of personal and professional interests is the best recipe for maintaining a productive research project (it certainly seemed to work with me and the topic of aging... :) )

So I hope to start re-posting on here more regularly.