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.

A note from the Doctoral School – PGR experiences during the Covid-19 pandemic

On Thursday 16th April the Hive Scholars and the Doctoral School co-hosted an online session for PhD researchers to share their experiences of the Covid-19 pandemic. The online session was complemented by the Scholars’ Padlet Wall, where experiences could be documented anonymously. Thank you to everyone who attended the session or left a comment, we value your contributions.

The aim was to create a space for researchers to give their views on how Covid-19 is affecting their lives and their work, to provide an opportunity for discussion, and to give a voice to the shared issues of the PhD community.

From the session, it was clear that many of you are facing difficulties, from disruption to research and family responsibilities to uncertainty around funding, visas and tutoring. The key message from the forum was that all PhD researchers are being impacted at the moment, whatever your financial or personal situation. The stress of living through a public health crisis is affecting everyone.

For many researchers, there are uncertainties surrounding finances. This is a complex area, which is subject to review as the impact of Covid-19 is understood. Finances and scholarship issues will also vary depending on how your studies are funded. As this was a key question from the online session we want to be clear that at the current time there is no provision for Sussex-funded scholarship extensions or for PhD fee waivers. If you are experiencing financial difficulties, the university’s Hardship Fund is open to doctoral researchers (if the fund is new to you, the Scholars have published an introduction on their blog).

Albertus Schoeman, the PGR Rep in the Social Sciences, kindly summarised the views expressed in the session and reported these to the Doctoral Studies Committee on Friday 17th April. His report details how Covid-19 is impacting research and wider life in six main areas:

  1. Research disruption
  2. Childcare and family responsibilities
  3. Issues for international PGRs
  4. Funding and scholarships
  5. Self-funding PGRs
  6. Financial guidelines and doctoral teaching

The Doctoral Studies Committee supported the points raised in this summary, and is committed to the promotion of PGR issues within the university. As an outcome of the meeting, there will be a survey led by the elected PGR representatives in your area, to gauge the potential need for extensions across all PhD researchers.

In addition to this survey, we would like to draw your attention to the national Vitae/SMaRteN survey looking at how Covid-19 is affecting researchers, which we encourage all PGRs to complete. The Vitae survey closes on Sunday 3rd May.

Lastly, at the session we discussed a list of useful resources and campus services that you can access at this time. Please share with friends and colleagues as needed:

With best wishes,

Prof George Kemenes (Director of the Doctoral School)
Miles Willey (Head of the Doctoral School / Research Student Admin Office)

RDP Remote: six new workshops from UEA Online Training Series (May and June)

We are pleased to add six workshops covering qualitative research issues, publishing, and looking beyond the PhD to research proposals and your first academic posting to our Researcher Development Programme.

The workshops are part of the University of East Anglia’s Online Training Series delivered by Dr Simon Watts, and will be exclusively available to University of Sussex doctoral researchers.

Academic Publishing
This session will introduce and discuss the practicalities of academic journal publishing. Various means for choosing a target journal will be considered, as will the mechanics of writing an effective paper (including a summary of the aims of each section of an academic report).
Sussex Direct booking link

A Comparison of Qualitative Methods
This session will compare and contrast the aims, data collection preferences, analytic style, limitations and appropriate usage of four different qualitative methods – grounded theory, thematic analysis, interpretative phenomenological analysis and narrative analysis – in order to identify the types of research questions that suit each method.
Sussex Direct booking link

Qualitative Interviewing
This session will consider three different types of interviewing (structured, semi-structured and unstructured), but with a particular focus on semi-structured or ‘qualitative’ interviewing. Other issues covered will include the nature of interview questions, the design and structure of an effective interview schedule and the mechanics of conducting a successful interview (with different people and to deliver on our research aims). 
Sussex Direct booking link

Analysing Qualitative Data
This session will consider and discuss a range of issues relative to the micro-analysis of qualitative data, including the analyst’s perspective (the aims and nature of their engagement with the data), coding systems, how to choose extracts for analysis in a systematic fashion, the meaning and importance of interpretation, generalising from qualitative findings and various write-up issues, including the relationship between the analysis and discussion sections of a qualitative report and the creation of impact.
Sussex Direct booking link

On the Job: Securing a First Academic Post
This session will focus on a number of relevant issues, including the need to establish an academic identity, how to recognise a ‘gettable’ post, and particularly the generation of effective and job-tailored application paperwork (including CVs, personal statements, and covering letters).
Sussex Direct booking link

Preparing Impactful Research Proposals and Grant Applications
This session will consider the writing of effective research proposals and the best ways to create a compelling ‘case for support’. Coverage will include the generation of a clear rationale, the statement of a defined and delimited set of research aims and questions, the proposal of a study (or series of studies) – as well as appropriate methods and analyses – that will clearly deliver on the stated research aims.
Sussex Direct booking link

Last call for applications to the Researcher-Led Initiative Fund (deadline 30th April)

You have one more week to apply for up to £750 from the Researcher-Led Initiative Fund, to support an activity that enhances your research development or brings your fellow researchers together.

These are trying times, and applications that address any aspect of remote working, online training, or researcher wellbeing and connection are strongly encouraged.

The fund is open to doctoral and early career researchers at the University of Sussex, to organise an initiative focusing on:

  • mental health, wellbeing and community among researchers
  • public engagement
  • researcher training and development

Whether you want to host an online symposium, curate a virtual exhibition, set up a weekly film streaming club or get into podcasting, we want to empower you to turn your ideas into reality.

The deadline for applications is Thursday 30th April 2020.

See the RLI Fund website for more information and to apply, and contact us if you have questions or need advice on any aspect of your application.

Tell us how Covid-19 is affecting you and your PhD research

Collating PGR Experiences During the Covid-19 Pandemic
Thursday 16th April (12:00 – 13:30), Online (Zoom)

The Doctoral School is hosting an online session for PhD researchers to share experiences of the Covid-19 pandemic. We want to hear your views on how it is impacting your research, and how we are responding to this fast-moving situation.

This is a space for voicing how Covid-19 is affecting you, a chance to talk with us and your fellow PGRs and to make sure the PhD community is heard at university level. Your anonymised responses will be presented to the Doctoral Studies Committee on 17th.

The aim is for us to listen, not to answer individual questions, but we will collate all the issues raised and seek responses. If you want to comment anonymously, or cannot attend but would like to have your say, please use the Hive Scholars’ Padlet Wall (no sign-up is required, just click the pink + icon in the bottom right and start typing – note: the text box may appear in a different location on the page).

The panel will consist of George Kemenes (Doctoral School Director), Miles Willey (Head of Doctoral School), Albertus Schoeman (PGR Rep), and Devyn Glass (Research Hive Scholar).

Follow this link to Sussex Direct for more info and to book a place. If you have any queries contact

Please note: All attendees will be sent a link via email to join this online session before it takes place.

Employment Opportunity: Freelance Research Associate (deadline 3rd April)

Cumberland Lodge, the educational charity based in Windsor Great Park, is currently recruiting for a freelance Research Associate to support their forthcoming series of events on Climate Futures: Youth Perspectives.

The salary is £3,000 inclusive of VAT (paid in five equal instalments), and the deadline to apply is 3rd April 2020. Full details about the role and how to apply can be found on the Cumberland Lodge website.

Part of their 2020-21 series on ‘Youth & the Future: Democracy, Citizenship & Shared Values’, the programme explores how young people conceptualise the intersection of environmentalism, stewardship of the natural world, grassroots activism, and the limits or possibilities of representative democracy and international collaboration with regards to the future of the planet.

This role will involve researching and writing a briefing document and a report for a public audience, as well as participating in a residential conference and evening consultation in Windsor Great Park and a central London report launch.

Adam Weiler Doctoral Impact Award: Nominations now open

Recognising and celebrating outstanding academic impact

The Doctoral School are pleased to announce that nominations for the Adam Weiler Doctoral Impact Award are now open until Friday 15th May 2020.

The award is available to exceptional researchers currently registered for a doctoral degree at Sussex who have demonstrated the potential to achieve outstanding academic impact in their field.

One award of £1,000 (to go towards the winner’s research) is available each year, the result of a generous donation in memory of Adam Weiler, who studied International Relations at Sussex. Doctoral researchers can be nominated by their supervisor or the Director of Doctoral Studies in their School.

Find out more about the award, including guidance notes and the selection process, on the Adam Weiler Doctoral Impact Award page.

You can read an interview with Swastee Ranjan, last year’s winner, on the Doctoral Connections blog. The University’s Research Impact Officer, Christina Miariti, also gave her insights into what research impact is on the Hive Scholars’ blog last year.

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.

Research Student Week, 20th – 24th April

The Doctoral School is excited to share details of the USSU’s Research Student Week taking place in April. There will be daily panel discussions on themes related to PhD life, followed by a Q&A session, buffet lunch, and an opportunity to socialise / network with fellow researchers.

The week’s schedule is as follows:

  • Day 1 (20th April): Theme – Supervisor / Supervisee Relationship
    12-3pm @ The Debating Chamber, Falmer House
  • Day 2 (21st April): Theme – Mental Health & Wellbeing
    12-3pm @ Meeting Room 2, Falmer House
  • Day 3 (22nd April): Theme – International Student Experience
    12-3pm @ The Debating Chamber, Falmer House
  • Day 4 (23rd April): Theme – Professional Development
    3:30-5:30pm @ Meeting Room 2, Falmer House
  • Day 5 (24th April): Theme – Funding
    12-3pm @ The Debating Chamber, Falmer House

To book a free ticket and for more information about these and other postgraduate events, scan the QR code below or visit the USSU’s Postgraduate Events listings.

Spring 2020 Researcher-Led Initiative Fund now open

Do you have a bright idea for an activity to enhance your professional skills and benefit your research community?

Open to doctoral and early career researchers at the University of Sussex, the RLI Fund gives you greater input into your support and development needs.

Apply for up to £750 to organise an initiative focusing on:

  • mental health, wellbeing and community among researchers
  • public engagement
  • researcher training and development

Whether you want to host a symposium, set up a journal club, start a social activity or get into podcasting, we want to empower you to turn your ideas into reality.

The deadline for applications is Monday 30th March 2020.

See the RLI Fund website for more information and to apply, and contact us if you have questions or need advice on any aspect of your application.