Posts Tagged ‘event’

Early Career Fellowships – Notes on CAS Event

Thursday, January 26th, 2012

Yesterday I was happy to attend an Early Career Fellowships Event organised by the Centre for Advanced Studies in the Arts and Social Sciences (CAS) at the University of Nottingham.

Whilst the event drew on funding opportunities and support services specific to the University, it primarily focused on the key national funding schemes relevant to the Arts and Social Sciences, and general advice on applications, which might be useful to pass on.

Kicking off, Prof. Pat Thomson – in her capacity as CAS Director and an ESRC reviewer – located the role of fellowships in the post-doctoral landscape, and provided an honest assessment of the current opportunities facing new researchers in an increasingly competitive field. She stressed the need to be flexible, opportunistic and entrepreneurial. There was no mistaking that the limited number of fellowship awards represent a highly sought-after opportunity for academic career development, and that potential applicants should also consider other trajectories including: teaching posts, working as a post-doc on research projects (with possible opportunities for limited teaching), and external non-academic research work in the public, private and voluntary sectors.

Lisa McCabe from CAS ran through the main national award schemes relevant to the Arts and Social Sciences, namely:

Each have their own specific requirements and conditions of eligibility, but from these some common concerns and tips for applicants emerged that were re-emphasised by subsequent speakers.

It was stressed that applications should not be seen as a reworking or extension of doctoral theses, but a proposal for an original and timely piece of research in a significant field of study. The Leverhulme award in particular has an emphasis on originality and might privilege applications that challenge traditional disciplinary boundaries. Evidence of pilot work (including publication) may be advantageous, though not to an extent that risks concerns over ‘double funding.’

Crucially, reviewers of Early Career Fellowships give equal quality weighting to the project and to the applicant. Therefore, applicants should clearly demonstrate their ‘independent research potential’ and passion for the research subject.

Review bodies are commonly multi-disciplinary, and applications should have a clear rationale that engages a non-specialist audience. Ample time should be given to writing applications, inviting feedback from senior academics, such as supervisors, thesis examiners, and heads of school, as well as successful award holders, whilst making the most of research support services in the university.

It was stressed that applicants are eligible for most fellowship awards for several years after successfully gaining their doctorate. Whilst some may be fortunate to be awarded a fellowship soon after graduation, many will require the extra time gaining experience in teaching and research work and consolidating their publication output to be in a position to develop a successful application. As such, it is common for applicants to reapply for fellowships, though some schemes may have conditions on the timing of reapplications.

Not surprisingly, the need for strong evidence of work through peer-reviewed publications was emphasised throughout the event. Briony McDonagh, a successful Leverhulme ECF holder, explained how she worked as a post-doc for two years before receiving her award, giving her the opportunity to develop further journal articles from her thesis.

In addition, significant evidence of partnership and networking activities, knowledge exchange and public engagement are greatly valued.

Svenja Adolphs, an ESRC Grant Assessment Panel member, provided further insight on impact and outreach activities from a reviewer’s perspective, suggesting applicants involve end-users in the process of developing the application. It may not be sufficient to merely identify potential partnerships – a full commitment should be sought. She also reminded us that impact activities need to be evaluated, and that the method of evaluation should be described.

University of Nottingham researchers can access the presentations and further information on the CAS Workspace.

Reflecting on #RP2Nott

Monday, November 14th, 2011

I’m a bit late with this follow up to our Research Practices 2.0 event a couple of weeks ago, but it’s been good to allow a chance to reflect on the several things that struck me the most on the day:

Can we stop talking like academics?

Most academic practices reflect the most basic human activities, but we try our best to make them sound otherwise. Even the most generic academic terms are loaded by disciplinary bias and individual assumptions. PhD students (and I include myself here) are amongst the worst culprits as it consolidates the necessary enculturation process inherent in becoming legitimised as an academic (you see, there I go again).

Using broad terms are useful starting points though not always workable. For example, in the morning session I helped facilitate, one table interpreted data collection as general academic information sourcing rather than in the narrower methodological sense. So, terms like collecting stuff, exploring ideas, explaining things etc. are useful to cut through the bullshit.

Tools vs. Practices

Social media is itself a problematic term. Social media constitute a range of different tools and platforms. Whilst some provide defined parameters of use that may be attributable to recognisable activities, many do not. As the Visitors and Residents framework suggests, understanding the effectiveness of social media can be dependent on whether they are perceived as purposeful tools for specific academic activities, or as flexible, social and cultural spaces for participation, enquiry and critique.

Despite practice-based approaches such as those we promoted at the event, there are those who inevitably lean towards the instinctive tool-focussed ideologies inherent in learning new technology, and therefore partly quantify the success of workshops or events on box-ticking exercises such as the collaborative listing of social media we employed in the first session. Some attendees appreciated the opportunity to explore some of the social media we discussed in the morning session in the drop-in IT workshop after lunch.

Expectations and Assumptions

To me, the success of an event like this is partly dependent on the dynamic between how it placates and challenges both (a) expectations of the event, and (b) assumptions of practice – in this case, not only using social media, but also what it means to ‘do a PhD’. And, as Jen’s excellent account of her workshop experience suggests, this is equally true for facilitators. The difficulty is; that dynamic is different for each individual who participates.

Thinking practically, this might be best served by developing an initial dialogue necessary to gain an understanding of these collective expectations and assumptions, and adopting a flexible approach that can adapt to changing needs. Basically, there are as many ways to do events like this, as there are events. If we go away not wanting to rip it up and start all over again, we are probably doing something fundamentally wrong.

Dissemination 2.0

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

This is the abstract for the workshop I am running in the afternoon session of Research Practices 2.0 event on Saturday. The downside is I don’t get to see the sessions @jennifermjones and @mark_carrigan are running at the same time! However, we will each be feeding back in the plenary that follows.

In what ways can I use social media to disseminate my research?
What are the potential benefits and risks involved?

Social media are providing new spaces for disseminating research work, enabling new forms of dialogue and engagement with different audiences, through various formats and media.

In this interactive session, you will be able to discuss and develop ideas about sharing your work online. Drawing on specific examples of social media – such as blogging and content sharing sites – we will explore how they can challenge and support established forms of research dissemination and publication. We will identify potential reasons for not wanting to share work online, and how we might address this by discussing different stages and contexts of PhD study, and core and peripheral research activities.

#RP2Nott Programme

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

We’ve now finalised the timings for the Research Practices 2.0 event on Saturday. Looking forward to a busy day.


Research Practices 2.0
Social and Participatory Media in Academic Life

Saturday 29th October 2011
Business School South, Jubilee Campus, University of Nottingham

9.30–10.00 Registration & Coffee

10.00–10.30 Introduction Session
(Lecture Theatre A25)
Claire, Andy & Emily

10.30–11.30 Morning Sessions
(A24, A26, A06, A07)
Lead Facilitators – Warren, Claire, Jennifer & Kat

11.30–12.00 Coffee & Networking

Sign up for the afternoon sessions
Opportunity to watch participant videos in A08

12.00–12.45 Plenary
(Lecture Theatre A25)
All Facilitators

Reporting back from morning sessions
Open discussion and questions

12.45–1.45 Lunch

Opportunity to use the IT Suite A03 and watch participant videos in A08

1.45–2.30 Afternoon Sessions
(A06, A24, A26, IT Suite A03)
Mark, Jennifer & Andy plus IT drop-in facilitators (Claire, Emily & Kat)

2.30–3.00 Coffee & Networking

Opportunity to use the IT Suite A03
Fill in assessment forms

3.00–4.00 Plenary
(Lecture Theatre A25)
All facilitators

Reporting back from afternoon sessions
Open discussion and questions


Thursday, October 20th, 2011

The Research Practices 2.0 one-day event is fast approaching on Saturday 29th October. This is the culmination of the project and internship programme that developed out of the Graduate Centre workshop sessions I conducted with LeRoy Hill. It also compliments a web resource (to be located on the University of Nottingham Graduate School site), which we will be launching at the event.

In addition to me, Claire Mann and Emily Buchnea from the project team, we are delighted to have @WarrenPearce, @jennifermjones, @mark_carrigan and Kat Gupta (@mixosaurus) helping facilitate the event. Most of them contributed to the video interviews we conducted, which will constitute a significant part of the web resource.

We had a meeting yesterday to finalise a collaboratively-designed workshop session that we will be running in the morning across four groups. Later in the afternoon, me, Mark and Jen will be leading three separate sessions focused on more specific practice contexts. In addition, there will be opportunities for attendees to use a ‘drop-in’ IT clinic and to view the videos. We are looking at filming the plenary sessions for later inclusion on the web resource.

It was good to see the 100 places taken up within a week or so of publicising the event. We have a considerable number on a reserve list that we’d love to accommodate, but many more would compromise the interactivity of the sessions.

We wanted the event to be as inclusive as possible so it’s particularly satisfying to see attendees from across the disciplines. And whilst this project has been developed primarily for the University of Nottingham doctoral community, it was always our intention to make both the web resource and the event accessible to external PhD students and researchers. So it’s great we have a good representation from a number of other (primarily East Midlands) universities.

Pitching events like this is difficult. People will come with a range of experiences, competences and perspectives on social media, and different assumptions and expectations of the event. We hope to be responsive and collaborative by creating an informal and interactive environment for discussion and an opportunity to listen to and share experiences of using social media.

I’ll be blogging more on this, before and after the event, in the next few weeks.

Communities of Practice Webinar

Saturday, May 14th, 2011

George Roberts, Educational Development Consultant at the Oxford Centre for Staff and Learning Development (OCSLD), has kindly invited me to participate in their latest one-day webinar on Communities of Practice in Higher Education this coming Wednesday. I’ll be presenting briefly on examples of emergent and institutional models of communities of practice within a doctoral education context, before taking part in a follow-up discussion with other presenters including George, Rhona Sharpe and Jenny Mackness. It will be my first time using BigBlueButton, an open source web conferencing platform that looks like a tidy, stripped-down alternative to Eluminate.

Non-Digital Researcher

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

My predominantly non-digital experience of yesterday’s Vitae Digital Researcher (my dodgy laptop plus erratic British Library wi-fi) was actually most enjoyable. And this is in no way a criticism of the event, which, similar to last year’s, managed to pull off the trick of engaging a large, multidisciplinary audience of doctoral students and trainers (well done to all concerned.)

In between the plenary sessions, the workshops and the keynote address from Aleks Krotoski, the programme provided several opportunities for discussion. I found myself in a lovely group of fellow academics who shared a healthy mix of enthusiasm and criticality in understanding their own social media practices. The organisers were particularly keen to encourage Twitter networking and amplification and collaborative meaning making through Google Docs. But for me, it was a useful reminder that sometimes the best conversations happen when we put down our mobile devices and close our laptops.

Navigation in City and Online Space

Sunday, December 12th, 2010

The main event of New Research Trajectories is happening this coming Wednesday, 15 December in Nottingham City Centre, with a range of activities by postgraduate students from universities across the East Midlands. Download the poster and see the website for more information.

Joint European Summer School

Friday, May 14th, 2010

I’m delighted to have been selected on a scholarship with the STELLAR Network of Excellence in Technology Enhanced Learning to attend a summer school next month in Ohrid, Macedonia. The Sixth Joint European Summer School on Technology Enhanced Learning 2010 takes place from 7th-11th June, and aims to encourage critical thinking about the role of learning technologies around three research ‘Grand Challenges’:

  • Connecting learners
  • Orchestrating learning
  • Contextualising learning environments

I greatly value the many opportunities my Higher Education has given me to study alongside international students; for their friendship, perspectives and cultural diversity, and this is my first chance to engage in academic work abroad since starting my PhD. I sometimes feel academic discourses in e-learning and learning technologies tend towards a North American bias, marginalising valuable European (particularly non-UK) research in a global field. So I’m hoping this event will provide an opportunity meet up with fellow PhD students from across the continent and establish sustainable links for the future.

It looks like a packed programme of seminars and workshops, with plenty of opportunities for networking, and I’m hoping to stay on for a couple of days for extra sightseeing.

More to come on this no doubt…