In this week’s Profcast we’re thrilled to have Danny Dorling, Professor of Geography at the University of Oxford, and expert on social inequalities, answering our questions.
Why did you become an academic?
I fell into it – the key thing was doing a PhD in Newcastle in 1989 – of the four of us who did one then in my year group, three are now professors.
If you were not an academic what would you be?
No idea – there is a big range of possibilities – on the basis of what other people who did my degree now do – I’d probably be middle management in a public sector utility.
When was the first time you felt accomplished as an academic?
When my first book was published (1995) and it got a prize for layout – I typeset it.
What are the best and worst reviewer’s comments you’ve ever received?
I have managed to burn them all out – it is amazing how many academics use blind reviewing to act in the same manner as Internet trolls. Best comments are always the ones that are not anonymous. I’ve had a lot of nice comments by book reviewers. The best criticism is also in published reviews where the critic gives their name. The best thing is when someone you have never met and will probably never meet sends you a short email saying they enjoyed something you wrote. I don’t send enough of those and should send more.
If you could do one thing to improve population health in the UK what would it be?
Change the 30mph default road speed limit in residential areas to 20mph.
How do you achieve a work life balance?
I don’t – but I do work and kids – when the kids leave I’ll do work and play; when the work stops I hope I can do grandkids and play.
How has academia changed since you started?
It was worse in the past. It was snobby, condescending, there were hardly any undergraduates when I was a student and yet despite the very low workloads of the academics then they still failed to get together and check they were not teaching you the same thing three times over. Of course there were some wonderful lecturers and of course much become worse and more commercialised but, honestly, the 1980s were not some utopia and I suspect 1970s and 1960s were not either.
What makes you happiest?
Playing on a beach with children, sand and a stream.
What is your favourite book?
Chicken Licken, published in 1971 – it had very few words and many pictures so was not too painful to try to read at school for someone who could not read
Where is your favourite place in the world?
Golden bay, north end of South Island (New Zealand)
If you could go back in time and do one thing differently what would it be?
I’d prevent some deaths
Who has helped you most in your career?
Women (partners, mother, etc).
What part of your job do you find most challenging?
Not saying ‘f***’ in polite company
What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?
People are not that bothered about what you are doing – worry less.