Thursday, 14 June 2012

Research update

Following on from my previous post - a swimming update - I thought I should also offer an update on my research project, which is sadly inching towards a close but which I know many people who visit this website have participated in. I completed the fieldwork in September 2011, and since then, have been analysing all of the data and starting the writing process. So far, I've had one article (on swimming and pleasure) accepted for publication by the academic journal Feminist Review, and a second paper, this time on swimming and body fat, is currently under review by the journal Body & Society. The Feminist Review paper should be out later this year, although copyright restrictions will mean that I can't make it publicly available here or on the research blog immediately; I will do my best to get copies to people who request them however until they can be made openly accessible (welcome to the world of academic publishing and the problems of open access materials!). On top of this, I'm writing a further paper on marathon swimming and identity, and then after that, I'm going to get started on the book. At the moment, I'm struggling to think of a decent title, so all suggestions welcome; at the moment, I keep referring to it as 'my swimming book', which I don't think will quite do the job.

I've also started giving some presentations of the research - again mostly in academic contexts for now, but I'm hoping to expand this to non-academic audiences over the next year. This includes 3 conference papers in the next month - one on swimming and food, on on swimming and body fat, and a third on swimming for charity. Podcasts of all of these will be posted on the research website (as well as being announced here). Most recently, I gave a paper at an event organised by the Centre for the Study of Women and Gender  on the topic of 'Gender and Sport'. The event included papers on 'walking out' programmes, parkour, sport in development programmes, and, of course, marathon swimming. If you would like to watch the talks, video podcasts are available on the event website, and I've also added the link to my talk to my research website. Scroll down the page to the section on 'presentations' and click on the title 'Man up!: marathon swimming and the gendered body'. When the page opens, select 'default lite' and open the player - this should take you to the video, including insets of the slides. I hope you find it interesting. It's all still a work in progress, but talks like this are a great chance to try out ideas and get feedback and questions.

The aspect of the research where I've made the least progress so far is in the presentation of the findings to people outside of academia. This is primarily because the publication demands of academic life, and of research funding, mean that it's necessary to prioritise academic publication in the first instance. However, I am also very keen to find as many different ways as possible to share the results of the research more widely and in a variety of ways outside of the conventional academic language and formats of my working environment. In the first instance, this will be done on the website via an electronic magazine-style publication, and through a series of 'Channel stories' - carefully edited start to finish accounts of training to swim the Channel that bring out key aspects of the research. I'm also going to be preparing policy papers to circulate to key policy-makers in the fields of swimming, sport more generally, and health, and am hoping to identify further speaking opportunities to interested non-academic audiences - I would welcome any suggestions you might have for this.

And last but not least, I'm organising an end-of-project one-day seminar on 11 September, 2012, provisionally titled 'Extreme / Endurance Sport' until I can think of something better - it will include research on running (fell, marathon, ultra), climbing and swimming....including two artists working on representing marathon swimming visually, and a fantastic film about marathon running. It would be great to have a wide range of people attending, so please get in touch if you would like to come.

I think that's everything for now. The project has been an enormous amount of fun to do - and not just because it meant that I got to go swimming A LOT in some amazing locations. If you're interested in the research, please take some time to browse through the research website  - if you have any suggestions for what you would like to see up there, or what's been most interesting / helpful, I'd love to hear from you.

And to all those who are gearing up for big swims this season, very best of luck. Writing up the research is fun, but I don't think anything will ever match the excitement of my Channel swim. Good luck - I'm looking forward to spending hours and hours watching trackers inching their way to France.

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