Cumberland Lodge: Two-year scholarship opportunities

Cumberland Lodge offers doctoral researchers in the UK a unique opportunity to benefit from a close association with their work and discussions for two years. If you have at least two years left to complete your PhD and are committed to working for the betterment of society, apply for this exciting opportunity to get involved with the work of Cumberland Lodge.

Designed to fit around and enhance your doctoral studies, Cumberland Lodge two-year scholarships provide a unique opportunity to develop the communications, public engagement and interdisciplinary skills that will set you apart.

  • Network with leading academics, politicians, civil servants, chief executives, faith leaders, journalists and activists
  • Receive communications and public engagement training
  • Be mentored in intellectual leadership
  • Take part in interdisciplinary debates and contribute to recommendations for policy change

Applications will be accepted from Monday 1 March to Friday 9 April 2021. 

For full details and to apply, visit the Cumberland Lodge scholarships website.

Adapting to Change: “It is important to look at the whole picture, instead of focusing on what you cannot do right now”

A selfie of Belen Martinez Caparros wearing a facemask in a street in India. Image: Belen Martinez Caparros
Belen Martinez Caparros, a doctoral researcher in Global Studies

In this Adapting to Change series, we interview Sussex PhD researchers and supervisors about the challenges they faced in 2020, and the different approaches they took to tackle the issues, adapt their projects and continue with their research.

Belén Martínez Caparrós is a doctoral researcher in Global Studies investigating the experiences of women in the male-dominated taxi sector in Spain and India.

Tell us a little about your research and what your original research plans involved.

My original research project was a comparison of two programmes run by local NGOs aiming at the empowerment of women in Bihar (India): a microfinance and a rickshaw driver programme, the latter challenging traditional gender roles of women in India. I wanted to explore if the different opportunities that these programmes offer to rural women in Bihar result in any changes to the way women self-identify, and whether their life choices are less limited by social norms and expectations of their social roles.

Once my research outline was completed and I obtained all necessary approvals, I travelled to India to start fieldwork. I first spent almost three months in Jaipur studying Hindi at a language school. After my language training, I moved to Bodhgaya (Bihar) in February 2020, where I was planning to stay for about twelve months conducting ethnographic research.

Which methodologies were you using in your work, and what stage were you at when you had to adapt your research?

My original research plan was to conduct ethnographic fieldwork in rural Bihar for six months at each programme, using photo-elicitation interviews, participant observation and informal conversations with community members.

Unfortunately, just a few weeks after starting my fieldwork in Bodhgaya, I had to return to the UK due to the pandemic. During my time in Bodhgaya, I made some connections and managed to find a female translator to help me with my research. It was very unfortunate timing that I had to return to the UK when I was just getting ready to start the interviews with my participants. Therefore, when I returned to the UK in late March 2020, I had no data that I could work with. As the pandemic worsened globally, I felt increasingly anxious and worried I was not going to be able to safely return to India to resume my fieldwork. Due to the ethnographic nature of my research, it is not possible to start the writing-up process before the collection of data is completed and the themes of interest have emerged.

Auto rickshaw taxis waiting for customers by the roadside in India. Image: Belen Martinez Caparros
Photo taken by Belen during her initial fieldwork in India

As it was unclear when I could resume my fieldwork in India, I had to rethink my project and transform it so that I could conduct my fieldwork in Europe. I decided to relocate it to Málaga (Spain). As a Spanish citizen and a Spanish-native speaker, I expected a quick and smooth immersion in my new field site. However, the decision of abandoning my research in India was not easy. I had invested a lot of time in developing my literature review and research outline, and I had already spent a lot of time in preparation for my fieldwork in India, which was also lost.

During summer 2020 I did a new literature review and adjusted my research proposal. After obtaining the necessary approvals, my new fieldwork started in Málaga in September 2020, where I am planning to stay until July 2021. My current project examines the experiences of women working in a male-dominated occupation such as the taxi and PHV (Uber, Cabify) sector and if they perceive their life choices as less limited by social norms.

What obstacles did you face to your original research plans and how did you address these challenges?

The main impact of Covid-19 in my research was the inability to conduct fieldwork in India, which resulted in the subsequent change of field site and project adaptation.

After my unexpected return to the UK, I looked for possible alternatives such us requesting an intermission to my studies, conducting remote and digital data collection, or undertaking a placement at an organisation. I joined groups created by researchers where they shared articles, ideas and examples of projects that had been impacted by health crisis or political instability. I attended workshops about digital ethnography and creative research methods. I read articles on the matter and looked for examples of how other people had managed crucial disruptions to their research.

However, none of them really offered me a good solution. Due to the rural setting of my fieldwork and language barriers, I did not feel that conducting remote and online research would be suitable. It slowly looked like the best option for me was to change the location of my project, although it was not an easy decision to make.

What support did you receive during this period of change and where did you look to for guidance when you encountered an obstacle?

My main source of support were my supervisors. They were very supportive, both at a personal and academic level. Although this situation was new to all of us, they always remained calmed and open to my suggestions and ideas. They were also highly available during those initial uncertain months, quickly replying to emails and attending numerous videocalls, which helped me to stay connected to my PhD studies despite all difficulties.

I also got a great support from my SeNSS pathway group. As a funded student, I am involved in activities and events with students from other universities which are part of SeNSS. This involvement can feel distant at times. However, I felt relief to discover that some of the students at my pathway group had been similarly affected by Covid. With them I found a shared support and understanding. Although we were all navigating our own personal and academic circumstances we talked regularly, sharing worries and offering advice when possible.

Taxis queueing outside Malaga airport. Image: Belen Martinez Caparros
Photo taken by Belen during her fieldwork in Spain

What advice would you give to someone currently facing challenges in their research?

It is difficult to give advice, but I can share what I feel helped me the most during those uncertain months.  

First, it helped finding people who were in a similar position as me. It provided a group of support and I felt I was not the only one going through so much uncertainty.

Sometimes stepping back and taking some time away from the research project can help you see things differently. It is important to look at the whole picture, instead of focusing on what you cannot do right now. Specific workshops can help with that. I attended a session on “How to create a Plan B” and I would highly recommend it for when you feel you are stuck. It provided me with many tools and ideas on how to look at my project differently.

Finally, talking to people who had finished or were at the last stage of their PhD was very helpful. I reached out to students who had had to significantly change their research as well, although for different reasons than mine, and were just about to submit their theses. I found that talking to people who had already completed all stages of the research project was really useful as they could give you a different perspective. Often problems can look huge in the moment, but once you have finished the project and look back, you realise that was just a small part of it.

Where is your research headed now and what’s next for you?

I am halfway through my fieldwork in Málaga, interviewing female taxi and Uber drivers. Some interesting topics have emerged already, and I feel positive about my change of project. I think that relocating my project from India to Spain was a good decision. The fact that I am familiar with the language and culture of Spain has helped me to quickly progress in my fieldwork.

I am hoping that by end of the summer I will go back to Brighton and start the writing-up process of my thesis.

If you would like to share your experience for the Adapting to Change interview series, please contact

One World Sussex: Do you have a project idea?

One World Sussex

One World Week takes place 15 – 21 March 2021.

This is a great opportunity for researchers and staff to think creatively and find ways to come together at this time and celebrate the wonderful and diverse Sussex community. If you have an idea for a project or campaign that would fit with this theme, the Students’ Union are really keen to work with you!

The Student Union currently have a small number of grants reserved for One World Sussex projects to help enable these ideas. The funding is available to both staff and researchers, and you can apply for funding with this application form.

For further information please contact the Students’ Union Events team (

Archival Discoveries and Discussions

25 February 2021, 14:00 – 17:00

This free, online event features a panel of PhD researchers and a panel of archives professionals discussing their research, collections, and top tips and tricks for working in archives. This symposium is funded by the Midlands4Cities DTP and supported by the Universities of Birmingham, Leicester and Nottingham. 

This interdisciplinary workshop, aimed at PGRs and ECRs, will provide an insight into archival research, and generate conversation with invited PhD researchers and a panel of archival experts. The session aims to cover a range of topics, including contributor’s experiences working with collections, the current state of archives, and panellist’s top tips for undertaking archival research. Speakers will cover topics including women’s history, Black history, local history, and genealogy. There will be plenty of time within sessions for extensive discussion.

All welcome, prior registration required via the Eventbrite link and if you have any queries, please email

Agenda below:

14:00 – 14:30 Introductions and Housekeeping

‘Approaching archives and thinking critically within and about archival spaces’

Amy Wilcockson (University of Nottingham, Co-Organiser)

Ellen Smith (University of Leicester, Co-organiser)

Charlotte Johnson (University of Birmingham, Co-organiser)

14:30 – 15:30 Session 1: PGR Perspectives

Jessica Cretney – The Concentration Camp, Spatial Experience and Architectural Modernism, 1933-1945 (De Montfort University)

Annabelle Gilmore – Slavery and Empire on Display at Charlecote Park (University of Birmingham)

Rebecca Hickman – Gender-nonconformity and the quest for ‘recognition’ in the United Kingdom, from the 1970s to the present day (University of Nottingham)

Keisha Bruce – Black Women & the Curation of Digital Diasporic Intimacy (University of Nottingham)

15:30 – 15:50 Break

15:50 – 16:50 Session 2: Professional Perspectives

Arike Oke – Managing Director, Black Cultural Archives

Ella Ravilious – Curator: Documentation and Digitisation, V&A Museum

Kathryn Steenson – Archivist: Academic and Public Engagement, Manuscripts and Special Collections, University of Nottingham

Dr Charlotte May – University of Nottingham and The Workhouse, Southwell

16:50 – 17:00 Closing remarks

Help disrupted learners be brilliant – The Brilliant Club

With every day of the pandemic, and lockdown, young learners are disrupted. Pupils from underrepresented backgrounds face an even greater education challenge that grows by the day. Every day of the pandemic, pupils are disrupted. Those from underrepresented backgrounds face an even greater education challenge that grows by the day. The Brilliant Club need your help to tutor and #HelpDisruptedLearners.

The Brilliant Club works with PhD students and PhD graduates, who work across three core programmes, from catch-up in key subjects to sharing PhD research to inspire specialist subject learning. With the guidance of the PhDers we work with, over 65,000 learners from underrepresented backgrounds have graduated from our programmes.

The pandemic presents pupils from underrepresented backgrounds with an unprecedented disadvantage reaching further education. A generation of lost learners would have serious implications for university access, so we have pledged to do all we can to support the catch-up effort in schools. We are a National Tutoring Programme approved Tuition Partner and our PhD tutors will be delivering catch-up tutoring to schools through the recently launched Brilliant Tutoring Programme.

Visit The Brilliant Club website for more details and to apply!

Handling perfectionism and imposter phenomenon: RDP workshop

Researcher Development Programme

Sign up via SussexDirect and the link to join this workshop will be sent to your Sussex or BSMS email address one day before the event.

Perfectionism is the act of setting unreasonably high standards so that you find yourself unable to reach them. Perfection is the enemy of ‘done’ because no matter how hard you work, you don’t feel the work is ‘good enough’, and the mindset can cause you to delay starting (or finishing) when the task is complex or difficult. Imposter phenomenon describes the sensation of thinking of yourself as a fraud, coupled with the intense fear of being found out.

Perfectionist behaviours and imposter feelings mean we sometimes get in the way of our own success – forms of self-sabotage. Experiencing either (or both) may mean you put yourself under more pressure to achieve, whilst at the same time your stress increases, productivity declines, and confidence is undermined.

This digital workshop will introduce you to some techniques to minimise, address, and (with practice) overcome these unhelpful thinking patterns so that you can effectively handle perfectionist behaviours and imposter feelings if they arise.

Engaging with this workshop will enable you to:

  • Explore the aspects and impact of perfectionism and imposter feelings
  • Analyse your individual experiences and responses to these phenomena
  • Experiment with some tools to minimise self-sabotage

Target audience: Doctoral researchers at all stages. Research staff are also welcome to book this workshop.

Technical details: This is an intensive interactive workshop: participants are expected to be present in every sense, which means email off, cameras on, and ready to take part in activities, discussions, and small group breakout rooms. This session is not suitable for those seeking a passive learning experience.

Please join a few minutes early – the zoom room will be open ten minutes before – and we will start on time. Note that because of the format of this programme, late arrivals will not be able to join after the workshop has started.

Working with difficult materials during your research? How to protect your own wellbeing

Researcher Development Programme

Thursday 25th February, 10:00 – 12:00

Sign up for this RDP workshop ‘Dealing with Difficult Materials’ via SussexDirect.

Come along and hear real-world and practical advice and experiences from fellow researchers about how as a researcher, you can look after your own wellbeing whilst accessing and researching traumatic documents.

This online workshop will explore vicarious trauma in research, the separation of the private and the professional in on-line research, and the role of supervisors in supporting students in the research process.

The session will follow the agenda below:

10.00 – 10.30 (inc Q&A) Susie Ballentyne shares her experiences of working in difficult research fields such as Iraq, Bosnia and Sierra Leone and with refugee participants

Susie Ballentyne is a part-time doctoral student, within the Crowds and Identity Research Group, under the supervision of Professor John Drury. Her research examines how social identity influences the post-migration life of refugees, specifically the impact on psycho-social wellbeing and resilience. In addition to her research at Sussex, she works as an independent psychologist offering research, team development and psychological coaching. This follows a four-year contract with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in the UK and Brazil developing behavioural science training, coaching, and team workshops. During this time, she also provided consultancy to the Brazilian Federal Government and Rio state police on the issue of radicalisation, in advance of the Rio 2016 Olympics. From the late 1990s until 2012 she worked as a research psychologist, and latterly Team Leader with the Ministry of Defence, including a secondment to the Home Office. During her 14 years in the civil service she worked on many operational projects from the Balkans to West Africa, Iraq and Afghanistan with a multi-disciplinary team of psychologists, anthropologists and political analysts. She completed her MSc at the London School of Economics in Social Psychology having carried out my field research in Southern Iraq shortly after the end of the formal conflict in 2003. Suzie is a member of the British Psychological Society (BPS), as well as the Social Psychology Section and the Special Group in Coaching Psychology and also a member if the International Society of Political Psychology (ISPP).

10.30 – 11.00 (Inc Q&A) Tim Parkinson – Issues in online research and separating the professional and private.

Tim Parkinson is the Research Ethics Integrity and Governance Administrator for the Social Sciences and Arts at the University of Sussex.

11.00 – 11.30 (Inc Q&A) Florian Zabransky – Working with historical documents and trauma.

Florian Zabransky is a doctoral researcher at the University of Sussex. He was awarded the Clemens N. Nathan Scholarship for his research on male Jewish intimacy during the Holocaust. Florian studied Sociology at Goethe

University Frankfurt, Sapienza – Università di Roma and Hamburg University. He also worked at institutions commemorating the Holocaust, including the Neuengamme Concentration Camp Memorial Site near Hamburg and the Fritz Bauer Institute in Frankfurt am Main. His academic interests include Holocaust studies, history of sexuality, Nazi concentration camps and the history of antisemitism.

11.30 – 12.00 (inc Q&A) Professor Aleks Szczerbiak – The Role of Research Supervisors – Keeping your boundaries and supporting our students.

Aleks Szczerbiak graduated from the University of Sheffield and, following a few years spent working as a political researcher and consultant, returned to take a Masters degree at Birkbeck College, University of London and PhD at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University of London. Aleks started lecturing at the University of Sussex in 1998 and is currently Professor of Politics and Contemporary European Studies in the School of Law, Politics and Sociology (LPS). Aleks is currently supervising 4 PhD students and has previously supervised 13 to completion. Aleks has been involved in doctoral research administration at Sussex for more than 15 years, initially as convenor of postgraduate research in Politics and Contemporary European Studies and, since 2013, as Director of Doctoral Studies for Law, Politics and Society. He was also Co-Director of the Sussex European Institute (SEI) from 2006-14.

Women in Red: Wikipedia Editathon

Women in Red, Wikipedia Editathon #IWD2021 

Monday 8th March, 13:00-17:00 GMT, via Zoom.   

Calling all Sussex researchers who care about gender equality: contribute to open knowledge justice this International Women’s Day! 

The theme for #IWD20201 is #ChooseToChallenge. We can choose to challenge and call out gender bias and inequity. We can choose to seek out and celebrate women’s achievements. 

Women in Red Logo

The Library is inviting you as Sussex researchers to do this by joining us in editing content on Wikipedia through an online collaborative Editathon workshop on Monday 8th March, 13:00-17:00 GMT, via Zoom.   

No prior Wikipedia editing experience is necessary – Library staff will equip you with the skills and tools for this and together we can make Wikipedia more representative of the diverse range of the knowledge produced by the diverse women of the world!  

“There is an upstream problem with Wikipedia, which is that women have been left out of history and not written about in sources for centuries. […] Not only does knowledge deserve to be free, but knowledge needs to be representative and it needs to be just. We can use platforms like Wikipedia to help shape history and be on the right side of history.”  (Siko Bouterse, Former Director of Community Resources, Wikimedia Foundation) 

Did you know? 

  • It has amassed 50m pages of content with almost 1bn edits since the site launched 20 years ago 
  • 90% of Wikipedia’s 33m editors are men; the vast majority of these are white cis men 
  • Since Women In Red’s founding in 2015, the number of women represented in Wikipedia’s total pages has climbed from 15% to 18.7%. A lot of this has been achieved through collective Wikipedia Editathon events 

How can researchers make a difference? 

As researchers, you are experts on your topic and as such you’ve actively chosen to dedicate your time to communicating information. You also have privileged access to world class information resources through Library subscriptions and research communities. We’re inviting you to use this privilege to improve content on world’s most popular open knowledge platform Wikipedia by joining the Women in Red movement.  

Women in Red 

Find out more about Wikipedia’s amazing Women in Red project where editors develop content around women’s biographies, women’s works, and women’s issues. The objective is to turn “redlinks” into blue ones. If the subject of the article self-identifies as a woman—binary and/or non-binary and/or other, that person is included within the scope of Women in Red.  

Contribute suggestions for Wikipedia pages that need editing or creating to better represent women via our padlet board. We’d love these suggestions to be drawn from the research interests of the Sussex community!   

Register for the Editathon 

CORTH DOCTORAL FORUM: Get feedback on your research from the CORTH community

Monday 22 February, 3-5pm. (verbal presentation or pre-submitted abstracts)

Chaired by Hayley MacGregor (CORTH co-director, IDS)

Only for research relevant to the Centre for Cultures of Reproduction, Technologies and Health (CORTH).

This is an opportunity for new doctoral members to join CORTH and to speak about their research for a few minutes and to get feedback on their ideas from the CORTH community. We also welcome post-doctoral students and any other researchers who would like to come and update us on their work!

It is also an opportunity for students further along in their doctoral studies to submit an abstract of their current research a few days in advance, to get feedback as well. This will be circulated, read and discussed in a friendly and constructive manner by those present (this can include an abstract for a journal article; dissertation chapter; book proposal etc). If you would like an abstract of your work to be discussed, please submit no more than 300 words to Sophie Hurford by Friday 19 February and we can circulate to attendees.

We would also like to hear about how COVID has impacted your research, so please bring these issues to the discussion as well.  

This session is all about providing friendly and supportive feedback on work-in-progress and to connect with other doctoral researchers.

To register please RSVP to Sophie Hurford

Sussex Centre for Gender Studies: open seminar

Sussex Centre for Gender Studies open seminar: Developing a career in international gender equality advocacy

Friday 5th March 2021, 12:00 – 13:30 GMT

About this Event

In conversation with Brita Fernandez Schmidt, Executive Director of Women for Women International, and Tariro Masaraure, MA in Gender and Development, Institute of Employment Studies.

Brita Schmidt is an international advocate for women’s rights and gender equality. A Sussex alumna, here Brita will talk about her journey from gender studies Masters student to leading an international organisation that includes working on the ground to support women internationally as well as engaging with government to inform top level gender policy development. Brita will talk about the relationship between her personal values and professional development, and how her feminist politics are embodied in her work. She is keen to share her experiences with others committed to advancing equality and seeking to develop professional pathways that embody this commitment.

Tariro Masaraure is a recent graduate of the MA in Gender and Development in IDS. She is experienced leading work supporting sexual and reproductive health for vulnerable youth in Zimbabwe. Tariro has founded a charitable organisation to support young girls with sexual health advice and support.

This will be an online event, register via Eventbrite. All are welcome to join!