Doctoral School awards funding for nine exciting Researcher-Led Initiatives

A photograph of people's hands stacked one on top of the other, over a wooden table.

We are pleased to announce that nine Researcher-Led Initiatives, with a real potential for meaningful impact, have been awarded funding following review by a panel including Dr Katy Petherick (public engagement coordinator), Prof Jeremy Niven (graduate student mental health and wellbeing champion) and Katy Stoddard (Doctoral School).

The themes this year covered mental health and wellbeing, training and development, and public engagement, and each of the applicants impressed us with their well-considered projects, as well as their resourcefulness in adapting to the ongoing uncertainty around Covid-19.

Congratulations to all of the researchers who put together a successful bid. In these difficult times it is a real boost to see such innovative projects coming from our doctoral community, and that the Doctoral School is able to fund such important work is something we are very proud of.

Read on for details of each of the RLI projects, and keep an eye out for more details on how you can get involved in the coming months.

deCOALonise Europe! Tracing the supply chain of coal and anti-coal resistance
Andrea Brock (Global Studies)

A collaboration with the activist group deCOALonize Europe, Andrea’s publication will explore the impact of coal extraction on indigenous and marginalised communities, and the historical connection between coal and colonialism that is reproduced in today’s trade relationships. By drawing the legacy of colonialism into the climate debate, the aim is to inform and inspire people to action.

Tea and Talk in the Time of Covid-19
Devyn Glass (Psychology), Louise Elali (MFM) & Aanchal Vij (English)
The Hive Scholars are sending wellbeing care packages to doctoral researchers who may be feeling isolated during the lockdown, accompanied by a virtual Tea & Talk session to connect researchers on 24th June. If you’d like to get involved you can sign up for a care package.

Teaching Problem Solving and Analytical Thinking Through Coding and Programming
Julia Jackiewicz (MPS)

Inspired by Sussex’s outreach programme, Julia will run a coding club with primary schools in her local area in Poland, targeting children at a crucial age for interest in STEM subjects, and hoping to engage and inspire them with hands-on activities and creative thinking.

BAME Role Models in Science
Kamillia Kasbi (Life Sciences)

Kamillia’s initiative tackles the lack of BAME representation in the sciences, and academia in general. By creating profiles and portraits to highlight BAME scientists and their varied career pathways, the project will motivate and engage BAME students, and create a connected support network for BAME PhD researchers at Sussex.

Unsilencing Pakistan’s #metoo Survivors: A Delayed Coming Out
Saba Karim Khan (Global Studies)

Aiming to uncover the narratives of women in Pakistan who have experienced abuse, Saba’s documentary film, based on firsthand testimony, will raise awareness of the harassment women face, look at the social and cultural barriers that prevent them speaking up, and consider whether western #metoo strategies may need to be adapted in the global south.

Media, Arts & Humanities PhD Creative Outlets
Kate Meakin, Manuela Salazar & Katharina Hendrickx (MFM)

Kate, Manuela and Katharina build on their MFM Peer Support Group RLI last year to encourage wellbeing and community among PhD students in the new MAH School, by providing a space for researchers to relax and engage in creative practice, encouraging them to take a break from study, and facilitating discussions on the broader PhD experience.

MPS One-Day PGR Conference
Fabrizio Trovato, Hannah Wood & James van Yperen (MPS)

The MPS PGR Conference will showcase and celebrate the research of the School’s PhD researchers, promote networking and collaboration between the Mathematics and Physics communities, and offer a learning experience for new researchers, Masters and undergraduate students alike.

Zoom(ing) In on Nostalgia: Wayback Weekender
Aanchal Vij (English)

Aiming to foster community and a sense of belonging among distanced PhD researchers at Sussex and beyond, Aanchal will curate a weekend of shared indulgence in nostalgic popular culture – including films, music and literature – and provide a space for PGRs to come together for informal discussions and connection.

Chinese Acupressure Massage for Sedentary Researchers
Violet Wei (English)

Violet’s project will build a platform for doctoral researchers to learn about the potential benefits of acupressure massage from a qualified practitioner, promote relaxation, and raise self-awareness of health and wellbeing, at a time when many of us are more sedentary than ever.

The Brilliant Club – Tutoring recruitment webinar (Wednesday 27th May)

The Brilliant Club is hosting a recruitment webinar on Wednesday 27th May, designed for doctoral and post-doctoral researchers to find out more about their Scholars Programme. Through the scheme, researchers are recruited and trained to deliver programmes of university-style teaching to pupils in schools that serve under-represented communities.

Why Become a Scholars Programme PhD Tutor?

  • Support local pupils from under-represented backgrounds to access university
  • Get expert training and real experience to develop your teaching and other transferable skills
  • Earn £500 per placement plus an additional £100 for designing a new course, and travel expenses
  • Disseminate your research to small groups of school pupils
  • Join a nationwide community of like-minded researchers making a huge impact on university access

Tutors are supported by a training programme, including sessions on tutorial pedagogy, assessment and designing a course handbook. Each Scholars Programme placement then begins with tutors accompanying their pupils on a university trip, followed by six further tutorials in their school. At the end of the programme pupils submit an assignment which is marked by their tutor.

You can find out more about The Brilliant Club and the tutoring opportunity and sign up for an information webinar on their website. To apply to work as a PhD tutor complete the application form. Successful applicants can select which terms they would like to work as a tutor in, and whether they would like to deliver multiple placements.

If you have any queries you can email The Brilliant Club at

Looking for a full-time position?

If you’re keen on working with young people and feel passionate about our charity’s aims, you can apply to our sister programme, Researchers in Schools. RIS is a full-time route into teaching for PhDs that incorporates elements from The Scholars Programme, along with a host of other features designed to get the most from your research skill set.

For more information on RIS, including funding and benefits, contact us on or visit

Responsible authorship and getting feedback in publishing – Wiley workshop

The Library, in partnership with the Brighton & Sussex Research Integrity Series, have organised an interactive online workshop with international publishers Wiley. It’s open to all but will be of particular interest to doctoral and early career researchers.

Authorship is becoming an increasingly important issue in scholarly communications. Experts from Wiley will discuss how responsible authorship can enable transparency and openness with contributor roles, making sure that you get the credit you deserve for your research. The workshop will also explore the benefits to researchers of adopting open practices with feedback.

Usually, we would be holding our seminars in the Library – in our rather airless top floor meeting space – and providing you with lunch and time to chat. Sadly, there will be no refreshments on offer with this one but Wiley have produced a glossy pdf on ‘Top tips for getting published’ which they will distribute to all attendees.

We are hoping that the online workshop format will provide opportunities for you to see some new and familiar faces and to take advantage of having expert publishers on hand to answer your questions. Please go to our Eventbrite page to book your place.

Suzanne Tatham, Associate Director, University of Sussex Library

SPRU PhD Forum (Thursday 14th & Friday 15th May 2020)

The 26th annual SPRU PhD Forum is going online this year, with presentations live streamed on YouTube over two days. You can access the full schedule below:

Thursday May 14th – live on YouTube: SPRU PhD Forum Day 1
Friday May 15th – live on YouTube: SPRU PhD Forum Day 2

Two further sessions will take place on Zoom – on Thursday afternoon, a workshop on researcher wellness during Covid-19, provided by Sussex Doctoral School; and on Friday afternoon, a panel on academic career development from the ST Global Consortium. If you would like to join, email for Zoom links.

Join the LinkedIn group and follow on Twitter for regular updates, and contact for further details.

Write for Wellbeing with a Mass Observation diary on 12th May

Woman sitting on a lawn and writing in a notebook

By Suzanne Rose, Education & Outreach Officer at the Mass Observation Archive

[This post was originally published on the University of Sussex Library Staff Blog.]

“Writing is an incredibly powerful tool, because if you can be yourself when writing, then you have what might be a rare space in your life for completely genuine self-expression and self-reflection. Who you are is important – and finding and expressing that is important to Mass Observation, as well as to other people” – Kim Sherwood, Writer.

12th May is Mass Observation’s national diary day and we welcome day diaries from people across the country recording their everyday lives. The more ordinary the better. Of course, we are currently living in extraordinary times and so we are expecting this year’s crop of 12th May diaries to be anything but ordinary.

If, like me, you’ve been juggling home schooling, home working and looking after your own health and well being and that of your family, I would recommend sitting down and writing. You could even download and print off a diary template from the MO website, so your kids can join in too. We welcome drawings as well as written diaries and everyone is invited to take part.

A child's handwritten Mass Observation Day Diary from 12th May 2013, with a drawing of flowers, bees, butterflies and a yellow sun.
Example of a child’s 12th May Day diary and drawing. Credit: Mass Observation Archive

The benefits of writing have long been documented. It’s true, sitting down and taking time to breathe, let alone write, can only be a good thing. Life can be incredibly busy and anxiety inducing at the best of times, and it’s fair to say, we are currently living through, if not the worst of times, then certainly the strangest.

To this end, MO has partnered with the Oxford Centre for Life Writing to support a project called Life-Writing of Immeasurable Events, which will provide opportunities for people to write their lives and encourage creative responses. Professor Brett Karr of the Tavistock Institute of Medical Psychology and Regent’s University London, offers his personal reflections on the psychological urgency of life writing in an essay written to launch the project.

Of course, you might not have the time to write endlessly, but do remember to keep a day diary on 12th May. I will be recording my day. Not just because it’s one way that MO can record the present for future generations, but for myself. So I can take a moment to breathe, reflect and think about the small things. Everyday life often feels mundane, a bit Groundhog Day, sometimes easily taken for granted.

I want to take a moment to be mindful. To be thankful and to notice all the little things that make up my day. Whether that be walking my dog in the sunshine and watching him gleefully play with a stick. Standing underneath a blossom tree and scooping the fallen petals into my pockets, like I used to do as a child, or curling up on the sofa with a G&T at the end of the day. After all, these are the days of our lives.

Cherry tree covered in pink blossom
My local blossom tree. Credit: Suzanne Rose

Further information on how to take part in 12th May can be found here: #12May20

Three Minute Thesis Interview: Noora Nevala (2019 Winner)

The Doctoral School recently caught up (virtually) with Noora Nevala, the winner of the 2019 Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition, to find out about her 3MT experience and her top tips for those interested in taking part in this year’s remote competition.

If you’re feeling up to the 3MT challenge, researchers are invited to apply for a chance to win £500 towards research and a place in the Vitae UK semi-finals, with two additional prizes of £250 for the runner up and people’s choice awards. 

Noora (left) receiving her certificate and cheque for £500 from Dr Ruth Sellers (Senior Lecturer and ESRC Future Research Leader Fellow)

Hi Noora, could you tell us briefly about what your 3MT journey was like?

Well, I firstly have to say that the whole process was extremely rewarding and taught me much more than I expected. I had been recommended the competition through a friend, and as I already knew that I enjoy public speaking, I was keen to take part. Although I’m confident with public speaking and did all the training, I started to doubt my abilities after meeting the other participants! Everyone had such interesting topics and great ways to explaining them that it felt quite a challenge to make my own topic to stand out. Fortunately, we got such good feedback from each other and the trainer that it was easy for me to notice which parts I should focus on to get more practice.

How did the training help you prepare?

It really made me think how important it is to make your talk “alive” through hand gestures, facial expressions and tone of your voice. This can have a huge difference on how the audience receives what you say. The Doctoral School provided all the participants with a training day and some pre-work to help make us to think about our topic outside the box. As I’m not very artistic and haven’t done any “free writing” for over a decade, the pre-work felt surprisingly challenging when I needed to draw a picture of my thesis or write it as a script for a children’s book! However, these tasks forced me to get more creative and really think about how to capture people’s attention.

What did you gain from the experience overall?

I learned a whole new set of ways how to make my presentations more engaging and how to use these depending on the target audience. Before 3MT, I used to always prepare for a talk in the same way, but now I spend more time on thinking about what I should do new this time. This has proven to be quite important, since giving the same talk in the same way repeatedly makes giving the presentation quite dull, and the audience can easily pick up on that feeling.

What advice would you give to someone taking part?

My advice is to really think about the main reason why your research matters and why people should care about that too. Make sure that your excitement for the topic translates through your talk as that’s another important way to get people interested. As researchers, we are mostly trained how to give a talk to other researchers and experts. Even if we are experienced and good at giving these talks, 3MT and public engagement is something completely different.

Thanks for taking the time to speak with us today Noora. Will you be tuning into this year’s competition?

Of course! I can’t wait to see the amazing research and presentations at this year’s event.

Are you up for the 3MT challenge and following in Noora’s footsteps?

Get involved in this year’s (remote) competition by completing the short online expression of interest form and visit our 3MT webpages for full eligibility criteria and further information.

The deadline to submit your entry is Friday 15th May.

Workshop: How can open practices help you to get published? (19th March)

A workshop with Wiley publishers in partnership with the UK Reproducibility Network

CEC Seminar Room, Library, Thursday 19th March 2020, 12.00-2.00pm

This interactive workshop with Wiley publishers and the UK Reproducibility Network is an exciting opportunity to explore three important topics for researchers: authorship, feedback, and your profile, showing how you can be successful when you adopt open research and publishing practices as part of what you do every day.

Attendees will be joined by Prof Pietro Ghezzi, RM Phillips Chair in Experimental Medicine, and Prof Rachel Thomson, Professor of Childhood & Youth Studies.

This workshop is perfect if you are an early career researcher or junior member of faculty who wants to learn more about open practices and publishing. Senior researchers and established mentors are also welcome.

A sandwich lunch will be provided. Numbers are limited so please book to reserve your place.

Click here to sign up and visit the Library event page for more information.

Policy Engagement Workshops (sign up by 14th March)

Policy engagement is one pathway to impact, but how can you get your research in front of the right policy actors, at the right time and in the right way?

These workshops are aimed academic staff and doctoral researchers undertaking policy-relevant research and embarking on their policy outreach journey, new to Sussex or just interested in finding out more. Each workshop is the same and follows a three-part format, with emphasis on discussion and practical exercises:

  • An overview of policymaking and the UK national policy environment and processes
  • Stakeholder mapping: who could be interested in (and has the power to use) your research?
  • How to pitch your research to policy (and other non-academic) audiences

The workshops are delivered by Charlotte Humma, Research Communications Manager in the Business School and Business Manager for the UK Trade Policy Observatory.


  • 17th March, 10.00-12:00, Freeman Building, Moot room
  • 25th March, 13:30-15:30, Pevensey 2D11
  • 27th March, 12:00-14.00, Arts C 333
  • 31st March 09.30-11.30, Fulton 203

If you want to attend one of these workshops, please sign up via this Google form before Friday 14th March.

Charlotte will then send you a Calendar invitation – please accept this to confirm your place in the workshop.

In order to make it worth everyone’s time and effort, each workshop will only run if a minimum of 12 people have registered for that date. Your acceptance of the calendar invitation is considered as your firm commitment to attend the workshop.

Event: Public engagement for your research and career (11th March)

Wednesday 11th March (10.00 – 16.30), University of Surrey Stag Hill Campus

Public engagement is becoming ever more important within academia, as researchers are expected to be accountable, approachable and relevant. It can be personally rewarding, expand your skills and confidence, and open up new avenues of publication, funding or employment.

The University of Surrey is running an entire day of training and expert discussion in collaboration with the university’s Community and Public Engagement team. Workshops will include working with external partners, media skills, planning public engagement into your research, REF impact case studies and much else. The panel discussion will give the views of experienced professionals and researchers at different career stages and from diverse organisations.

University of Sussex doctoral researchers are invited to attend for the full day or only select sessions (with lunch provided).

This is an opportunity to share best practice. Surrey staff and speakers from several external organisations will present on diverse aspects of public engagement – from getting started to planning research impact, making funding bids to teaching and writing for diverse audiences, community building to festivals.

For full details, including the event schedule and to book a free place, please visit the Public Engagement for your research and career event link.

Call for Papers: Being Here, Researching There: First Colloquium of International Postgraduate Educational Researchers (22nd May)

22nd May 2020 (9.30am – 5.30pm), EMS G18, University of Exeter, St. Luke’s campus

This research colloquium – a Researcher-Led Initiative funded by the University of Exeter Researcher Development and Research Culture team – aims to provide a safe and supportive space for international educational researchers to discuss how research conducted in their place of birth or overseas while pursuing a degree in the UK has contributed to the awareness raising, visibility and enhancement of local educational issues.

Follow these links for Call for papers and Registration.

Deadline to submit abstracts is 9th March 2020.

For more information, email

Applications are currently being invited for the University of Sussex Doctoral School’s own Research-Led Initiative (RLI) Fund to support short-term, well-defined initiatives under one of three strands. A maximum of £750 is available for any one project. Visit the RLI homepage for more information and to submit an application. The deadline is 30th March 2020.