Festival round-up: staying connected at a distance

A mobile phone below three pink speech-bubble-shaped post-it notes.

This year’s Festival of Doctoral Research posed a unique challenge – how to celebrate the doctoral community when we’re all working and living at a distance? How can we bring people together when we have to be apart?

Converting some of our regular events was straightforward – the 3MT live final, the new Finishing your Doctorate panels and the RDP workshops lend themselves to the Zoom meeting set-up we’ve all come to know, if not love! But we wanted to go beyond that and seize this opportunity to take the Festival properly virtual, using online platforms to provide activities and community spaces where researchers could share their experiences, connect and chat.

Thanks to some enthusiastic PhDers and our lovely colleagues over at the Library we did just that, bringing you daily wellbeing check-ins, celebrating PGR publications and online vivas, and gaming, quizzing and crafting together, while the Hive Scholars collected your quarantine images to build a collage of PhD life during lockdown.

Catch up on some of the virtual events below.

Daily Check-Ins and Lockdown Tips
As a way of starting each Festival day and encouraging conversations around lockdown and mental health, we interviewed a PhD researcher on the blog and hosted a Twitter chat around a theme: working at home, exercise and physical activities, games and hobbies, entertainment and creativity. We’ve pulled the interviews and resources together on the Check-Ins webpage so if you’re looking for ways to switch off and boost your wellbeing it’s a good place to start.

I Am the Doctor: Viva Survivor Soundtrack
Alice Corble from the Library created a Viva Survivor playlist on Spotify in honour of all Sussex PhD graduates and candidates who have recently defended or are about to defend their thesis online, crowd-sourcing tracks from recently graduated researchers. Taking your viva is a huge achievement and deserves to be celebrated! If you’re approaching a distant viva the university has issued guidelines to help you prepare, and Dr Fiona Scott wrote about her own online viva experience for the Research Hive blog.

Promoting PGR Publications
The Library used the Festival to highlight some of the work published by Sussex doctoral researchers over the past 12 months, sharing articles on a Twitter thread @SussexLibrary. If you want to get published but you’re not sure where to start, this Library publishing resource can help. It includes recordings of seminars on book proposals, open access and publication strategies, tips on choosing where to publish, as well as advice on getting your work noticed and information on PhD by Publication.

#QuaranTimeCapsule collage
To highlight the impact of Covid-19 on doctoral researchers, the Hive Scholars put a call out for your #QuaranTimeCapsule images on Twitter and Instagram, and created a virtual photo collage illustrating the experiences and challenges researchers at Sussex have faced in lockdown. As they say in their blog round-up, “Everyone’s experience during this pandemic has been unique, but one thing connects us: we have shown grit and resilience to manage the challenges of the pandemic. Whether that is pushing on and adapting our research and workspaces, juggling a multitude of responsibilities, or taking the time to look after ourselves and others.”

A collage of photographs of doctoral researchers' work spaces at home, including laptops, sofas, gardens and small children. One image reads, "lockdown life".
Doctoral researchers’ #QuaranTimeCapsule collage. Image: Hive Scholars