Rachel Franklin is professor of geographical analysis in the Centre for Urban and Regional Development Studies (CURDS) in the School of Geography, Politics and Sociology at Newcastle University. She is a population geographer who works at the intersection of demographic change and spatial analysis. Her most recent research projects have focused on the geography of population loss in the US and she has recently started a new project on spatial inequality and smart cities. Perhaps because she came to the discipline of geography and quantitative methods relatively late (after studying French and political science), she has developed a longstanding interest in pedagogy, training and institution building—how are geographers and regional researchers trained, socialised, and supported? With Dimitris Ballas, Graham Clarke, and Andy Newing, she has published a textbook on GIS and the Social Sciences and is currently editing a handbook on spatial analysis in the social sciences with Serge Rey. She is also the current editor of Geographical Analysis.
Fun biographical facts about Rachel are that she is an enthusiastic American immigrant to Newcastle, who has also lived in many US cities, as well as Bremen, Germany, and Strasbourg, France. Her ideal city has a population of about 200,000 and she loves to travel, especially by train.
Rachel’s words of wisdom
I have three pieces of advice, all of which blend the personal with the professional. First, and most importantly, education and career progression are not a race. There is no final destination in our journey (except the final one, I suppose) and no rule that career paths must be linear. When deciding what research topics to pursue, where to submit journal manuscripts, or which jobs to apply for, try to be true to yourself and not to external expectations. This is especially important, I feel, for early career researchers—especially women—who may worry that they are not doing things “the right way”. I took an indirect route to where I am today and, although it definitely was/is a source of stress, it has also provided me with the perspective and the combination of skills that make me who I am.
Second, although we all work hard, it is also true that we get where we are through good fortune and the help of those around us. As you become more senior in your chosen field and profession, especially academia, don’t forget to assist those who come behind you—thoughtful, constructive manuscript and proposal reviews; constant internal reminders to look beyond our insular networks when doling out favours (and a reassessment if you don’t recognise the wide range of informal “favours” academics do for each other!); inclusion of early career researchers in the conversation, whether through conference sessions or special issues of journals; and writing recommendation letters and nominations for awards.
Finally, do research that interests you and find a community that supports you. This means scholarly societies, such as the RSA, as well as smaller networks of colleagues and friends. To me, research is not only about contributing to society but also about intellectual engagement and interaction with other interesting, knowledgable people. We all find our sweet spot, but I have found the personal exchange of ideas to be one of the most fulfilling aspects of my career.