Conference Insights | Central Eurasian Academia in Today’s World: Crafting New Paths

On Thursday, October 19, 2023, a room of engaged scholars came together for a pre-conference workshop, brilliantly led by Aksana Ismailbekova, esteemed fellow at Leibniz-Zentrum-Moderner Orient and celebrated author of “Blood Ties and the Native Son.” The occasion? A prelude to the CESS 2023 annual conference titled, Success in Academia in Central Asia and Beyond: Developing Career Perspectives for Ph.D. Graduates in Social Sciences

Central to the workshop was a critical examination of the unique hurdles Central Asian researchers face in the vast academic world, spanning from isolative academic structures to varied networking tactics. Ismailbekova’s workshop was a nexus for burgeoning scholars, providing an open floor to identify research gaps, explore project funding, and cultivate international academic bonds. Beyond fostering collaboration, the event aimed to fortify links between global and regional academic circles, bridging continental and disciplinary divides.

Drawing from the wellspring of her own experiences, Ismailbekova shared a perspective on academia that transcends just penned articles and attended seminars. Below, we distill her invaluable advice:

Diversifying Your Academic Identity: While academic pursuits are primary, it’s prudent to venture beyond the ivory towers. Whether you’re considering development roles, blogging, or digital journalism, cultivating varied skills might just be your academic safety net.

The Power of Networking: In Ismailbekova’s journey, each career opportunity came knitted with networking threads, emphasizing the importance of cultivating relationships in academia and beyond.

Visibility in the Digital Age: In our age of information, a robust online presence can be the linchpin for an academic’s success. Leveraging platforms from Twitter to TikTok, academics have the chance to share their research with a global audience, making personal websites and regular digital engagements indispensable.

Publication Choices Matter: The decision of where and how to publish can sculpt your academic trajectory. Engaging with both international peer-reviewed journals and local publications can amplify the authenticity and reach of your work.

Embracing Rejections: For scholars, especially those hailing from regions like Central Asia, rejection should be viewed less as a setback and more as an opportunity to refine, to re-strategize, and to grow.

The Intricacies of Review: Reviewing, a seemingly straightforward task, is instrumental in cementing one’s stature in the scholarly realm. But, it demands a balance of critique and respect, of being objective without imposition, and of feedback rooted in logic over emotion.

Artificial Intelligence in Academia: While it promises efficiency, AI tools, like OpenAI’s GPT series, be integrated into academic research. There’s a shared apprehension about its potential to overshadow authentic scholarly writing and critical thinking.

The Importance of Adaptability: Being deeply committed to a research endeavor is laudable, but academia demands an open-mindedness to the ever-evolving landscape of knowledge.

Work-Life Balance: In the demanding realm of academia, it’s imperative to prioritize mental well-being and acknowledge that one’s worth isn’t solely tied to academic accolades.

In an age teeming with challenges and opportunities alike, academia seems to be a sophisticated chess match, demanding resilience, adaptability, and a discerning gaze toward the future. As Ismailbekova’s workshop conveyed, the essence lies in embracing tradition and adapting and evolving, ensuring the flame of knowledge-seeking never dims.