A woman with white curly hair, dark frame glasses and a jaunty multi-coloured scarf around her neck tied in a side bow.

This is me, here in the photo to the left. I love colour and playing around with the clothes and scarves I wear when I go out to people, and when I am going to be on camera – because there’s always room for a fabulous side bow! So, yes, like many of us I like to think I project an image of cool funkiness.

However, there is sometimes so much going on that you would be amazed that I manage to get to the end of my workday in one piece…

I haven’t ever talked openly about what kind of regular demands are made of my time and (believe it or not!) my bank account, but in the interests of helping you understand what sorts of pressures people like me can experience here we go.

I am an end of life doula and consultant, a freelancer, a psychotherapist, an educator and trainer, a writer a (even after all these years) casual academic and a social researcher. It’s this latter that attracts a good deal of demanding – and often deliberately demeaning – attention from both conference organisers and academic publishers.

Increasingly, now that the Mallon Model is out and garnering a good deal of academic attention as well as public interest I get approached to speak at conferences and to contribute to academic books and journals. At the time of writing the article has been downloaded 2200 times! I’m pretty bloody chuffed.

The reason behind this wild download success (apart from the fact that the model solves a lot of home support network issues including carer burnout) is the Mallon Model article is open-access. This means you can download it for free here. If you don’t know the juggernaut of academic publishing free access may not sound like a big deal, but when you consider that usually a single article can cost upward of $30-40 dollars, you begin to see how important it is.

Oh – and don’t worry about academic publishers. They make huge ching-ching from university and institution access licences and wildly expensive textbooks. Yes, a good deal of work goes into these books, but the dark and toxic side is that the writers – we academics and experts – don’t get paid. Usually, for open access in fact, we are expected TO PAY for the privilege of seeing our work in print. This generally amounts to thousands of dollars.

So, as a result of good download numbers, I am now a hot commodity for conference organisers and publishers. And I’m happy to be that, don’t get me wrong. But where it all goes sideways is in the avalanche of unsolicited emails – fawning in nature at the beginning – where my “expertise” is “highly regarded” and “sought after”, you get the idea. Then it turns out that their must-not-miss conference in Las Vegas, Rome, insert name of city here, is not paying for my travel, accommodation or speaking fee. Nope. I am expected to pay conference fees (check the exchange rate on the Australian dollar to the Euro or USA dollar, it’s sobering) and for all associated costs.

When you value me – or any other academic expert – you don’t waste my/our time with this nonsense. I have value – you’ve already admitted that up front – so do the right thing and put your hand in your pocket. Put your money, literally, where your mouth and keyboard is.

But – hang on a minute Dr Annetta, I hear you cry! Why bang on about this stuff?! Why not let it go and get on with yer day like a normal person of precarious and knife-edge working arrangements??!

And this is actually a really important question. I have been. But the sheer volume of unsolicited squealing-with-excitement-WE-WANT-YOU-NOW communications has taken a toll. At one stage I was getting more unsolicited* emails that I was genuine communications from clients, colleagues and friends. That’s a lot to wade through – and it takes a toll on self-esteem and time-management on a daily basis. I’m already stretched. This makes me outright exhausted.

*A thought occurs – is this the academic equivalent of a dick pic? I didn’t ask for it, I don’t like what I see, and I kinda want to shower after I’ve had to deal with it. For a visual representation of this mood please look to the right…

Annetta, a woman with white curly hair and dark frame glasses wearing a mint green Winnie the Pooh Oodie, looks disbelievingly at the camera over her glasses. Her chin is in her hand.

So, last week I’d had enough and actually replied immediately to the person who had approached me from yet another northern-hemisphere-based big publisher (who shall remain nameless) with an honest reply about why I should be paid rather than salivating at the chance to pay the Australian dollar equivalent of, oh, about $3,500 dollars in today’s money.

My hat’s off to the chief fielder of communications on the front line, because she replied to me that she didn’t set the money rules, essentially the publisher has high costs (yes, but let’s not gloss over the high cha-ching income mentioned earlier). She perkily ended with regrets that I wouldn’t be ‘joining them’ on this publishing venture*

*An unsolicited dick-pic academic equivalent with a yacht, one wonders? Venturing out into unknown publishing waters, etc?? There’s certainly enough publishing income for a medium-sized yachety-thing I suspect. But I digress.

My response was as follows:

Hi [name withheld],

I am not an academic with an institution, except as a casual – my precarious employment means that being paid for my work and expertise is of paramount importance. It is also a reflection of how my work is perceived by publishers.
Traditionally, academic publishers have absolutely shafted academic researchers – a practice that continues to this day. And, while I agree that open access is a great option for public access, the prohibitive costs of much open-access publishing still keeps the elite and wealthy among academics visible in the public eye and in reviews at the expense of people like me. Smaller fry in the overall academic picture – freqently female or other minority – and yet still important simply because of what we do and how we do it. We are not lesser or less important than wealthy or well-supported individuals with regular incomes who can afford to pay to play in terms of publishing spotlight access.
I appreciate your honesty in letting me know that you are just the messenger, and I truly do not want to shoot you!
However, I also hope that you can see my perspective as a tenuously employed independent researcher doing her best to keep a roof over her head while maintaining integrity. I field an increasing number of requests for my ‘valuable’ and ‘expert’ input (for publishing and for conferences), but always at a high cost to myself with zero return except “exposure”. I am both too old and too fierce to be a perennial unpaid intern for academic juggernauts of publishing. The time it takes to research, write, edit, refine and proofread prior to publication is considerable. All of that is worse than free labour in this process – because we the authors and creators are expected to pay, literally, for our own exploitation.
It’s an interesting dynamic… Also an appalling one. It exhausts us and burns us out. The field is poorer for the loss of academics who give up, find other fields, or stop entirely. This is ultimately an unsustainable model of practice.
I’m sorry too, that I won’t be joining you in this venture. But as I write to you a thought occurs: do you yourself ever stop to consider the role that you play as the front-facing communications liaison for an exploitative industry? What if I was paid 500 pounds to write a high-quality chapter? What if all authors were – and the end result could be purchased for 20-30 or so pounds? How might that shift the power and access balance for researchers and specialists in their respective fields?
I’d love to write a kick-arse chapter for you. And I can.
And I do hope you understand why I will not.
Thank you for communicating so honestly with me about your own perspective, and I hope you have a good day,
The Trademark GDEP dandelion logo in purple

What are your thoughts and reactions to too many insistent demands on your time, energy and attention?

Do you – like me – ignore most of it until you cannot any more, and then actually engage in a dialogue with someone on the other side about it?

Where are your boundaries and limits on requests to endlessly give and be grateful for relentless unsolicited opportunities be imposed upon to do so?

Thank you for reading this. I appreciate your time. Feel free to bounce me an email about it anytime.

Let’s talk. Within reason of course – and NEVER at the expense of your income or limits.