Looking for volunteering opportunities? Join the Language Café or Buddy mentoring scheme

A promotional image for the Buddy Scheme. The text reads, "Make connections, build your network and create new friendships, become a buddy."

The Students’ Union are recruiting PGR volunteers for their Buddy Scheme and Language Cafés this autumn.

The Buddy Scheme is a peer-to-peer mentoring scheme that helps new students and researchers settle into life at Sussex by matching them with current students or PGRs (Buddy Volunteers). They’re looking for current researchers to become Buddy Volunteers and provide new PGRs with informal support by regularly communicating with them and sharing their experiences and tips.

Volunteering with the Buddy Scheme can be one of the most rewarding opportunities on campus, making new connections, acting as a mentor, and truly making a difference to someone arriving in a new place and setting out on their own PhD journey. It’s also a great way to look after your own wellbeing and mental health, reduce isolation, and improve your confidence, communication and leadership skills.

If you’re starting your PhD at Sussex this autumn you can also join the Buddy Scheme to be connected to a current researcher and learn from their experiences.

Signing up is quick and easy on the Buddy Scheme website.

Two young women sit on a bench and talk to each other.

The Language Café takes place online weekly during term time and provides a social space for language learners to practice their chosen language, meet other students and exchange cultural information.

You can become a Language Café volunteer and facilitate language learning by delivering activities and games in small groups in different language rooms. At the moment, virtual Language Cafés are taking place weekly over Zoom.

For further details of the role and to sign up, see the Students’ Union volunteering webpage.

Call for papers: (Re)Connect, Excursions Journal issue 11.1

The logo for the call for papers for the journal Excursions 11.1 titled (Re)Connect.

To connect is an integral part of the human experience. We are social, connected, beings. The unparalleled events of 2020 have made this even more evident — they have forced us to disconnect from life as we knew it and to (re)connect to history, nature, people, ourselves, and forgotten practices. This has weakened and strengthened our established bonds, while creating new ones. Ultimately, it revealed how dependent we are on our connections.

For their next issue, Excursions Journal invites researchers from all disciplines to (re)connect to the complex relationships between society, nature, things, science, and being human. They seek to assemble a collection of articles that aim to (re)connect, whether as part of a natural phenomenon in an objective reality or a socially-constructed subjective phenomenon. Topics of interest include, but are not limited to:

  • Theories that explore (re)connections
  • Processes that (re)connect the biological, physical and social world
  • Popular culture and political discourse that examines (re)connection
  • Developments that incite personal or social changes through (re)connecting
  • Research methodology and reflections focusing on (re)connections

Alongside traditional academic articles, Excursions also consider alternative ways of communicating research, such as videos, photo essays, posters, and verse (please contact the editorial staff prior to submission via enquiries@excursions-journal.org.uk).

The deadline for extended abstract submission is 1st October 2020. For further details, including author guidelines and how to submit your work, see the Excursions Journal website.

LPS doctoral researchers discuss professional development at ‘virtual away day’

This post was originally published on the LPS news pages.

Every June and July for the past seven years, PhD students in the School of Law, Politics and Sociology (LPS) have taken part in an annual away day sponsored by the Sussex Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) doctoral training centre. In previous years, away days were held at Stanmer House and the Brighton and Hove Albion stadium, as well as the University’s own Bramber House conference centre.

This year’s away day was due to be held at the end of June at the Brighthelm Centre but unfortunately had to be cancelled due to government lockdown restrictions. However, the School decided that it would hold a ‘virtual’ away day instead, with three online professional development workshops focusing on the themes selected by doctoral researchers themselves for the original in-person event: getting published, careers, and improving the PhD experience. In total, more than 40 PhD researchers participated in the July ‘virtual’ away day sessions.

The first workshop was on the perennial topic of ‘Getting published’. Sociology lecturer Dr Kathryn Telling gave a presentation on how to get articles published in academic journals, while Law lecturer Dr Helen Dancer providing tips on turning a PhD thesis into a monograph. Dr Telling talked about the importance of holding discussions as soon as possible in the doctoral research process with supervisors on how sections of a thesis could be turned into journal articles. Dr Dancer, on the other hand, said that, while trying to find a publisher at the same time as completing the PhD was certainly an option, this needed to be balanced against prioritising getting sections of the thesis published as journal articles. She said that she actually waited until after her viva and then modified the thesis make it more ‘publisher-friendly’. Finally, Politics lecturer Dr Sam Power drew on his own extensive experience of very successful public engagement in the field of corruption studies to provide some excellent tips on how to communicate research to non-academic audiences, particularly through online publications such as blogs.

The second workshop was on ‘’Careers for postgraduate researchers in difficult times’. Helen Gorman from the Sussex Careers and Employability Centre explained how her colleagues continued to provide support for PhDs during the lockdown, and outlined how doctoral researchers can market their research and organisational skills when applying for non-academic jobs. Politics lecturer Dr Neil Dooley and Dr Ben Fincham, a reader in Sociology, then drew upon their own personal experiences as, respectively, a relatively early career researcher and more experienced scholar to provide many helpful tips about how doctoral researchers can improve their chances of finding employment in the increasingly competitive academic jobs market. The over-arching theme was that, although competition for jobs was particularly tough at the moment, securing a first lectureship appointment was always the most challenging part of an academic career. All the professional development tasks that they needed to undertake anyway – securing publications, acquiring teaching experience, being flexible and willing to take on new challenges (and sometimes volunteer for less exciting teaching and administrative responsibilities!) – still applied. They also stressed the importance of ‘doing homework’ on the University and department they were applying to.

The third workshop focused on the theme of ‘Improving the PhD experience’ and was led off by Sociology PGR convenor Dr Aneira Edmunds, Head of the Politics Department Prof Dan Hough and Law PGR convenor Prof Nuno Ferreira. With a wealth of experience in both doctoral supervision and overseeing PGR matters within their departments the three scholars shared personal reflections and tips on best practice covering a very wide range of issues relating to the PhD journey. They focused particularly on how doctoral researchers could manage relations with their supervisors more effectively by, for example: being open and honest, managing mutual expectations, and, where appropriate, ‘taking back control’ of the supervision process. Prof Ferreira also discussed a range of issues and concerns raised by Law PGRs in the recent progression review process. One of these was the importance of PhD students networking and being embedded within broader research communities both at Sussex and beyond, something that all three speakers stressed. This was recognised as a particular challenge at a time when nearly all academic research events were taking place online rather than in-person.

Summing up the workshops, LPS Director of Doctoral Studies and Professor of Politics Aleks Szczerbiak said:

‘It was a great shame that our in-person away day had to be cancelled and there is obviously no substitute for the face-to-face discussions and invaluable side-conversations that take place at such events (not to mention the food!). But I am delighted that both LPS faculty and doctoral researchers, and colleagues from other parts of the University, were so willing to come forward and make the online workshops such a success. One up-side was that several PhD researchers who would not have been able to make it down to Brighton for an in-person away day could attend. We will certainly continue with these kind of online professional development events, alongside normal in-person ones, in the future.

‘Two key themes that emerged from the sessions were ‘start early’ and ‘get help’. It is important to start all of these professional development tasks as soon as possible in order for doctoral researchers to make themselves as employable as possible in what is a very tough academic and non-academic jobs market. In LPS and at Sussex more broadly we put a lot of effort into helping our PhDs prepare to meet these challenges. We are also very fortunate that there are plenty of resources to help our doctoral researchers in all of these areas from faculty, fellow PhDs, and other colleagues within the University working in services such as the Careers and Employability Centre and the Doctoral School.’

Work placements: Policy Internship Scheme for UKRI-funded PhD researchers

Are you a UKRI-funded doctoral researcher? The Policy Internships Scheme provides the opportunity for research council-funded PGRs to work for three months with one of a select group of highly influential policy organisations.

The student will be expected to produce at least one briefing paper, participate in a policy inquiry and/or organise a policy event, or equivalent piece of work.

Internships are available with a number of parliamentary departments, government departments and non-governmental bodies, learned societies and other organisations.

The host partners for the 2020/21 competition round include the Committee on Climate Change, the Department for Education, HM Courts & Tribunals Services, the Royal Society, the National Archives, and Public Health England.

The current call for applications closes on 10th September 2020. See the Policy Internships Scheme website for more information, including a full list of participating organisations and eligibility criteria.

Festival round-up: Why editing Wikipedia matters to you!

A typewriter with the words rewrite... edit... rewrite... edit... rewrite typed onto a white sheet of paper.

Wikipedia is an online free-content encyclopaedia project aimed at helping to create a community where anyone can share in the result of knowledge.

So how do we become part of this community?
Through editing Wikipedia!           

Wikipedia is often the starting point for people wanting to understand a particular topic, whether that be finding out about a band, a person, a political regime or something theoretical such as string theory. However, for it to be of any use it has to be accurate, and the references cited need to be trusted to give it validity.  Researchers need others to be able to find their work by having it cited and thus found and read more easily throughout the world.

Just take a look at some of the incredible statistics for Wikipedia: there are currently over 6 million English articles; in the last 12 months there have been over 263 billion page views worldwide, and 553 million edits; but only 126,000 active users worldwide are undertaking this work.

As a proud library professional I have been wanting to be part of the Wikipedia community for a number of years, and undertake the #1Lib1Ref initiative, but felt I didn’t have the skills, the knowledge or the courage to just jump in and have a go – mainly because I was petrified of breaking it!

When the email came round inviting us to be part of the Festival of Doctoral Research 2020, I scanned down it and to my surprise, saw Wikipedia Edit-a-thon. I was like, Yeah! Especially as it was focusing on notable women, LGBTQ+ and BAME professionals, an area I am involved in. I immediately signed up for the two-hour session on 18th June run by the Library’s Academic Services.

Wikipedia can provide extensive access to information, but it can also further weaken voices already marginalised. Users such as ourselves, through creating and editing Wikipedia, will help to inspire and involve people from all backgrounds – and if we don’t get involved it could help to perpetuate and enshrine entrenched prejudices. The creation and editing of Wikipedia articles about women, LGBTQ+ and BAME individuals is so important because it will help increase their visibility and help to change the perception others have of under-represented groups.

A woman edits code on a laptop

In our Wikipedia editing session, half a dozen of us were taught by Nick Heavey and Alice Corble via a virtual meeting platform. It was run on an informal basis, checking first who had any experience in editing, which it turns out was none! So we were taught how to register on Wikipedia, then log on to the Wikipedia dashboard created for this course, shown how to do basic edits and why we do them.

We each had our own sandbox, in which we could practice before it went live. Nick made editing easy to understand and not at all scary… well, maybe just a little bit! We were shown briefly how to create a page, but as we were all new at this, we mainly focused on editing.

I came away feeling I had achieved what I set out to do and that I would continue editing and possibly even creating a page or two! Thank you, Nick and Alice.

Sarah Beamish, Library Content Delivery (Inter Library Loans)

Useful links

  • Interesting article and Proper. Legitimate. Reference (because I am a librarian):  Lubbock, John. “Wikipedia and Libraries.” Alexandria 28, no. 1 (April 2018): 55-68. doi:10.1177/0955749018794968.

Find paid placements for social sciences PhD researchers with the Business Boost Sussex programme

Five people, some standing and some sitting, gather round a laptop.

The ESRC/IAA Business Boost programme at Sussex matches doctoral researchers who seek better business engagement skills with training and paid business placements. Researchers in the social sciences are encouraged to apply with placement ideas of their own design.

Meanwhile, several local businesses have expressed interest in working with PGRs this Autumn. Placements range in length from two weeks to a month. They include:

  • A company that is expanding into the education sector seeks development of a business plan, including target sectors and stakeholder mapping; interviews with consultants in the education sector; help with website and social media. The company is particularly interested in work around affect theory, mental health and international mobility post Covid-19. 
  • A search engine provider to the online retail sector has an opportunity for a PhD project to validate data in a search query type model.
  • A retail equipment company seeks help to develop a product configurator tool; to do market research on overhead detection systems; and to review the retail market for entrance gates.
  • A company that uses a biodegradable bio-plastic used for Nespresso coffee pods needs a study comparing the benefits of their coffee pods to current market offers. Would suit a student in the sustainability programme.
  • Brighton-based sustainability advocate Good City Circle is developing a products and services platform. They seek help creating a sustainability impact framework, platform development and digital marketing support.

Please contact Mary Harris, m.f.harris@sussex.ac.uk, for more information on these opportunities or the Business Boost programme generally, and follow the team on Twitter @BizBoostSussex for the latest placements.

New advice webpage for PhD researchers on approaching the Autumn term

The University has updated its advice for doctoral researchers and supervisors in light of coronavirus, incorporating it into a new area of the staff website covering plans for the Autumn term.

The new webpage includes the latest guidance on travel and fieldwork, remote supervision, online training and events, submission and the viva, options for intermission and studying outside of the UK, plus what to do if you become unwell.

The new webpages may also be useful for researchers working as doctoral tutors or based in Sussex, particularly the information on teaching (remotely and in the classroom), research grants, and the reopening of campus.

The coronavirus advice webpage will no longer be updated – please make sure you replace any bookmarked links you may have stored.