The Postgraduate Network is recruiting PGR Ambassadors, apply now

A group of men and women standing in bright sunshine and smiling at one another.

The Network is a postgraduate community organised by the Students’ Union at Sussex, an initiative for all postgraduates, research and taught, to get together.

Weekly Network events will be held online from September, providing a safe informal space for postgraduates to connect with their peers, and with scope for in-person events depending on government and university guidelines.

They’re currently recruiting Network Ambassadors and it would be fantastic to have some PhD representation to ensure events and activities cater to the doctoral community.

The role involves organising, promoting and hosting online events, becoming the ‘face’ of the Postgraduate Network and raising awareness in your School and across campus. See the Students’ Union volunteering opportunities page for further details and how to apply.

The Students’ Union have also created a feed-in form to gather ideas of what the postgraduate community wants to see from the Network, and from the Buddy Up scheme. Give your views online and help USSU develop a truly great offering for doctoral researchers.

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

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.

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.’

Sussex Sustainability Research webinar: How might the pandemic impact climate change? (14 July)

A Tale of Two Crises: The Pandemic and Climate Change, Tuesday 14th July, 11.00

Logo for the Sussex Sustainability Research Programme.

Over the past few months the world has rightly focused on the tragedy of the Covid-19 pandemic. But what about the other global crisis, climate change? Is there a connection between the two?

Join the discussion in this Sussex Sustainability Research Programme (SSRP) webinar, featuring short talks followed by a Q&A with two climate experts: Dr Melissa Lazenby (Global Studies), whose research focuses on climate projections over Southern Africa; and Prof Benjamin Sovacool (SPRU), whose research focuses on energy policy, energy security, climate change mitigation and adaptation.

The webinar will be moderated by Prof Joseph Alcamo, director of SSRP and a professor of environmental systems science. He previously served as the first Chief Scientist of UNEP, and play a strategic role in the international climate negotiations leading up to the Paris Agreement.

For more information and to register, see the webinar sign-up page on Zoom.

RLIs: This weekend, zoom in on some pure nostalgia at the Way-Back Weekender

Poster for the Way-Back Weekender: Zooming in on Nostalgia, supported by the Researcher Development Programme. The main image shows a cassette tape, the tape spooled out into the shape of a heart.

Given the uncertainty that haunts our everyday right now (hello Covid-19), why not give in to the pull of nostalgia just for a weekend?

Sign up (it’s free!) for a movie night, music evening, and more. The schedule is as follows.

Friday, 3rd July: (Throw)back to the Future

This Friday evening, pick a film of your preferred culture/language that makes you feel nostalgic and watch it with your family or lockdown company. The idea is for all participants to watch a film that reminds them of a bittersweet, feel-good time, before we all come together at 20.30 BST on Zoom. We then have a relaxed evening chat over popcorn (and your choice of beverage) about what film we saw, how it made us feel, why it made us feel that way, and more.

Movie suggestions (but not restricted to): Jurassic Park, Harry Potter, When Harry Met Sally, Lord of the Rings, E.T, Lion King, Forrest Gump, and of course, Back to the Future.

Saturday, 4th July: The Recollection Collection

For 19.30, dress up (or don’t!) in your choice of themed costume (80s bandanas, fun disco sunglasses, Britney-inspired outfit, etc.) and get on a Zoom call with the others to listen to the music that takes you way, way back. Here is a collaborative Spotify playlist to which you can add the songs that make you feel most nostalgic and you can view other participants’ songs as well. Wine, pets and succulents are encouraged to be a part of this little party. Feel free to accompany the listening with activities that typically make you feel nostalgic too — knitting, painting, doing a puzzle?

Those who are still in the mood can join us for a short chat at 20.30 to talk about their choice of music, era, that particular beat that really tugs at your nostalgic chord, and more.

Sunday, 5th July

11.00 – 12.00: Lattes and Literature

Why is it that we are drawn to certain kind of books from our past? Or why is it that we avoid certain books from our childhood? Over a nice cup of tea or coffee, we’ll have a laid-back and relaxed Sunday morning chat about the books that make us feel nostalgic.

18.00: Short talk by Dr. Pamela Thurschwell (University of Sussex)

Dr. Thurschwell writes about music, TV shows and lots more, and is currently working on her book on adolescence. She is a reader in the School of English at Sussex and her full bio can be found on the university website.

Will she speak about Watchmen? BoJack Horseman? Music? Come find out!

Festival round-up: Three Minute Thesis 2020 Final

The Three Minute Thesis (3MT) returned to Sussex a few weeks ago for the Festival of Doctoral Research 2020. It was, however, different to previous years as the proceedings took place entirely online! The 3MT event usually takes centre stage at the Festival, and we were determined not to let a global pandemic and national lockdown get in the way.

A banner for 3MT Three Minute Thesis, Founded by the University of Queensland

After getting the all clear to host the event virtually from the 3MT founders, University of Queensland, and UK organisers, Vitae, we set about organising the logistics and moving everything online. It seemed that the Sussex doctoral community was equally determined not to let lockdown prevent them from taking part, as we received plenty of applications to participate. After holding 3MT training sessions with facilitator Dr Sarah Robins-Hobden, and a peer practice session to hone their skills, this year’s presenters took to the remote stage in front of judges and a Zoom audience!

Pro Vice Chancellor Stephen Shute opened the show and after the judging panel of Dr Katy Petherick (Public Engagement Coordinator at the School of Life Sciences), Dr Mahmoud Maina (Research Fellow and People’s Choice Winner 2016), and Dr Andrew Fleming (Regional Manager of The Brilliant Club) introduced themselves, the participants got going.

Anyone in the audience is sure to agree that the calibre of presentations this year was extremely high. After everyone had delivered their presentations, the judges deliberated in their break-out room and the participants had a well-deserved break, while the audience voted for their People’s Choice winner. Due to such high quality presentations, the judges had an extremely difficult decision to make and needed all of their allotted time to come to a conclusion.

Upon returning for the prize-giving ceremony, the results were announced, and we are delighted to confirm the winners below. Congratulations to you all, and also to everyone who participated, as all the presentations were inspirational and delivered in a unique and entertaining way. You can read all of the presenters’ abstracts on the 3MT 2020 webpage.

Stay tuned to Doctoral Connections as we will be adding more Festival posts and catching up with event winners in the coming weeks.

First place – £500 towards research and a place in the UK quarter finals: Melina Galdos Frisancho (University of Sussex Business School)

A woman delivering a presentation.
Making sense of Inclusive Innovation: Institutional Drivers for Knowledge Production and Organisational Learning in Peru

3MT Winner Melina’s research explores how universities approach developing ingenious alternatives to conventional ways of delivering basic services. She questions what drives research teams to respond basic services challenges and how their actions are shaped by the context in which they operate, and investigates how researchers’ sense-making shape their understandings, actions, and the different ways in which they come together to create enabling environments for developing socially inclusive innovations.

Second place – £250 towards research: Sushri Sangita Puhan (Education and Social Work)

A woman delivering a presentation.
Why and how people think, talk and practice adoption in India

Sushri’s research looks into the experience of adoptive family life in India, where adoption is an emerging practice in recent years. Since adopted children and adoptive parents have no access to the birth family information, it has been traditionally a confidential practice in the country. However, recently there is a transition in the legal process to promote adoption. Sushri’s research on adoptive family lives in India aims to understand how and why people think, talk, and practice adoption in their everyday lives in an environment where adoption is largely unspoken.

People’s Choice award – £250 towards research: Judy Aslett (Media, Film and Music)

A woman delivering a presentation.
Making a TV documentary to support the #ENDFGM campaign in The Gambia

Despite having internet connection issues, we arranged for Judy’s presentation to be shown with a pre-recorded video. Judy’s research investigates Female Genital Mutilation in The Gambia, where most girls endure the practice as children, without anaesthetic. Her thesis involves making the factual documentary “My FGM Story”, in collaboration with presenter Halimatou Ceesay, and assessing the impact of the film on men and women in The Gambia. It is the first time a documentary about FGM has been shown on TV in The Gambia, with Halimatou interviewing her family, Imams, health professionals and President Adama Barrow as she campaigns to end FGM in a generation.

Festival Daily Check-Ins: Games and Hobbies (Tuesday)

For Tuesday’s Festival Daily Check-Ins and Lockdown Tips, we chatted to Abigail Rieley, who co-organises the PhD Games Night

1.What games/hobbies have you got (back) into throughout lockdown?

I’ve been crocheting loads, I’ve taken up embroidery for the first time since I was a kid, and games have been a huge part of it as well. We have regular games nights with friends of ours which usually consists of us playing Trivial Pursuit as it’s the one game both households have. I’ve been after a copy of the game Gloom for ages and we used lockdown as an excuse to get one. It’s like Happy Families but you have to have the most miserable family and make sure everyone dies a suitably mournful death. An odd choice for a pandemic perhaps but there’s a lot of story-telling as part of the game and it’s actually very funny.

I’ve also been exploring the world of journalism board games (I used to be a journalist). Yes, it is a thing. So far I’ve got a 1950s set of Scoop and a 1970s set of Newsdesk. Lockdown is not going stop being geeky, in fact it’s made me worse!

2. How have these helped you throughout lockdown/Covid-19?

Playing games has definitely helped with the domestic harmony. It gives us a focus and something to talk about that isn’t the world around us. Gloom, with its gallows humour might be a little too on the nose for some, but the dark tone has really suited our mood at times and it really is very funny. Playing with friends gives a much needed excuse to socialise and spend time with people, again without too much examination of what’s going on outside. They are a release and a refuge.

3. What would you recommend for people interested in finding out more about Games and Hobbies they can get into, and where can they access resources?

If you are living with housemates or family then you can play games the old fashioned way – face to face. Even a standard pack of cards can while away the hours and with Google at your fingertips there’s never going to be the problem of not everyone remembering the rules. Ebay is a good place to pick up copies of games and you can support small UK businesses while you’re doing so.

If you’re on your own or want to explore further afield then online is the place to go. Just doing a search for free multiplayer online games will throw up thousands of possibilities. The gaming community sometimes has a reputation for being very geeky and quite clannish but this isn’t the case with board games. When I asked for help bringing the games night online on Twitter I was getting advice and links from all over the world. 

  • Board Game Arena is a good place to start with loads of free games available.
  • If you want to try online games then downloading Steam is a good place to start. Steam is a games shop and playing environment that has loads of different options. You can get both computer games and virtual versions of board games there and the choice is vast.
  • The best option for board games is to download Tabletop Simulator. $20 gets you access to hundreds of board games even including old classics like Monopoly and four of you can play on the one $20 licence. We’ll be using Tabletop Simulator at the games night.
  • Cards Against Humanity is a perennial favourite and there are several great online versions. We’ve used this one at the game night and it worked brilliantly – it comes with all the add on decks and works almost like the physical game. You don’t even need a laptop to play games online.
  • Psych is a mobile app which allows you to play with a group of friends. The idea is that you try to bluff an answer to a question and fool your friends. It can be played on a smartphone or a computer and does need a good internet connection but it’s definitely worth a try.

We started the game night because we know from first-hand experience how isolating doing a PhD can be. You get tunnel-visioned and stressed about matching impossible ideals and it can be very hard to keep any kind of perspective. Sometimes you just need a night off to be silly and laugh for a while. That’s never been more important than in lockdown so join us tomorrow night!

VOTING NOW OPEN – Research Image and Poster Competitions (Festival of Doctoral Research 2020)

Cast your vote for the People’s Choice award by 17.00 tomorrow, Tuesday 16th June

A hand placing a vote into a ballot box.

The Research Image and Poster Competition 2020 entries are in! The entries are showcased on the Research Image and Research Poster webpages, and below (for the best viewing experience, open the Sway presentation in full screen and click to enlarge the entries).

Have your say in the People’s Choice award by voting for your favourite image/poster using the Research Image Voting and Research Poster Voting forms (one vote per person, duplicates will be voided). Voting is open to all Sussex students and staff, and closes on Tuesday 16th at 17.00.

The shortlisted images and posters will be exhibited on the webpages throughout the Festival of Doctoral Research this week. The competitions will be judged by a panel drawn from the University’s research community, and the winners will be announced at the prizegiving ceremony on Wednesday 17th June along with the 3MT and Adam Weiler Impact Award, so book your place to attend and find out who has won!

Research Image Competition 2020 Entries:

Research Poster Competition 2020 Entries:

Festival spotlight on… PGR community socialising

Colourful toy building blocks spell out the word PLAY.

The Festival of Doctoral Research is almost upon us, and after a hard day of Festival workshops and academic debate it’s important to relax and unwind with some evening socialising. Although we can’t enjoy the annual end-of-festival barbecue this year, we can bring the PhD community together virtually (sorry, you’ll have to provide your own snacks!).

Whether you’re feeling competitive or you’d rather relax and chat over something crafty, sign up to the social events below, and don’t forget to join us on Twitter at 9.30 each morning next week for a daily check-in to talk about lockdown and share what’s working for your wellbeing.

Online Game Night
Tuesday 16th June, 17.00 – 20.00 Book your place
The PhD Game Night team are hosting a special edition of their monthly meet-up for the Festival. They promise a relaxed, easy-going and open-ended night of chat, drinks and virtual board games. Sign up and they will send you a full list of games a couple of days before the event, so look out for an email. One thing’s for sure – Cards Against Humanity will be there and what more do you need under current circumstances!?

A woman gripping a pencil between her teeth and staring at a laptop.

Quiz Evening
Thursday 18th June, 17.00 – 19.00 Book your place
Let your hair down and join the Hive Scholars for a virtual quiz night. Compete with PGRs in your School or lab, or make up a team with your family, friends, pets or plants — all isolation buddies welcome! Amazon vouchers to be won as prizes and we promise to bar the question, “how’s your research coming along?” for the duration of the evening!

PhD Crafternoon
Friday 19th June, 15.00 – 17.00 Book your place
Join Kate, Manuela and Katharina from MFM and spend time together doing any crafty activity you like – you can doodle, sketch, paint, sew, colour, or even collage if you have some scissors, old magazines and glue lying around. Take a creative break from your research and cultivate a space to delve into something immersive and relaxing.

Embroidery threads in multiple colours piled next to a cutting board and other sewing tools.

You could create something about how lockdown has been for you, something that represents or speaks to your research, or something completely unrelated. We’ll show some examples of what we’ve been getting up to at home (mainly collaging and sketching!) to give you some ideas, so feel free to bring anything creative that you’ve been working on that you might want to share. If you just want to come in and chat for a bit about how you’ve been doing and don’t necessarily want to do anything crafty, please feel free to drop in and you can leave whenever suits you.

This article is a stub: why we should all become Wikipedians

A cartoon drawing of three diverse women's arms upraised, each holding a mobile phone, below the words 'DEcolonize the Internet'.
Image source: Whose Knowledge?

First year medical students watch on in horror as my colleague casually edits an important looking number on the dosage section of Wikipedia’s entry on Insulin. She is a librarian teaching a class on information literacy, and making vital points about the value of using reliable sources and the need to think critically about knowledge. But this is only half the story. I check the page again on my way home that day and – reassuringly – the inaccurate dosage has been reverted to the original figure, complete with a clickable citation.

Of course, I don’t think we want our future doctors scrolling Wikipedia pages before writing out our prescriptions. But we do know that students use it. Researchers use it. Librarians use it. For me, it’s a starting point for so many fact-finding missions and curious explorations. Come to think of it, do you know anyone who doesn’t use Wikipedia?

The endlessly fascinating Wikipedia Statistics page tells us that in May 2020 there were 25 billion page views. I can’t quite fathom a number that high, but it is definitely a lot. The internet is a busy place filled with spaces for buying and selling, influencers and dubious pop ups, clickbait and social media likes.

Remarkable to think, then, that one of the most used websites in the world is an almost twenty-year-old platform for sharing free and open knowledge. And those pages that hold the knowledge we greedily consume every day, are created and edited by human people out there somewhere. Last month, Wikipedia editors made 54 million edits to this giant knowledge base, and the English Wikipedia averages 594 new articles per day.

A graphic from Art+Feminism in the style of an inspirational quote, with the words 'Making the internet less garbage, one edit at a time.'
Image source: Art+Feminism

It is a staggering feat of human achievement. And it’s the community of editors that make it: committed to sharing knowledge. With everyone. For free. Sounds like the stuff of our research dreams.

Librarians (always the coolest crowd at a party) are getting in on the act. Twice a year, the #1Lib1Ref initiative calls on librarians around the world to add missing references to articles on Wikipedia. Hooking readers up with reliable sources and accurate citations. The ‘academic win’ is twofold: students using Wikipedia will be ushered towards valuable research AND the cited researchers will find their work is more widely read (and cited).

Researchers can get involved too. Makes sense, right?

  • You are an expert on your topic.
  • You’ve actively chosen to dedicate your time to communicating information.
  • You have privileged access to world class resources (I’m talking Library content here… not all those journals we subscribe to are open access, but don’t get me started on that now).
  • You are an awesome person who wants to contribute to global knowledge.

 Ok, so I guessed the last one, but I think I’m selling it pretty well. As part of the Festival of Doctoral Research the Library is hosting a Wikipedia Edit-a-thon on Thursday 18th June at 10am. We’ll be meeting online to contribute to the creation and dissemination of open knowledge, and help to address under-representation and bias in knowledge.

If you are interested in learning how to improve diversity on Wikipedia by developing pages on notable women, LGBTQ+ and BAME professionals, and under-represented issues missing from the free and open encyclopedia, please join us. Absolutely no prior experience of web editing is required, and we’ll be there to share top tips and answer your questions.

Sign up! Hope to see you there.

Bethany Logan, Academic Services Librarian (Research & Scholarship)

Further reading / inspiration

Other Library events during the Festival

  • Viva Survivor Soundtrack, a collaborative Spotify playlist – read the Research Hive blogpost for more info and share your suggestions with #VivaSoundtrack @SussexResHive
  • PGR Publications, a @SussexLibrary Twitter thread of research articles from the past 12 months, shared throughout Festival week. Thinking about getting published? Check out the Library’s resources page for guidance.