Festival of Doctoral Research, 15th – 19th June 2020

The Festival of Doctoral Research is back! Just because we are not able to meet in person isn’t going to stop us from our annual celebration of doctoral research at Sussex.

Taking place over five days (Monday 15th – Friday 19th June), the doctoral community will come together for a range of events, workshops, and competitions, with plenty of opportunities to get involved. We will be providing updates and adding more events over the next few weeks, so stay tuned to the Festival Homepage and on Twitter #SussexDocFest.

Here’s a round up of what’s on offer throughout the festival so far.


The Three Minute Thesis event takes centre stage on Wednesday 17th June when doctoral researchers will take to the (remote) stage to present their research in just three minutes! This year’s participants are from varied fields, and will be vying to win the first-place £500 towards research and a place in the Vitae UK semi-finalsSign up to the event to tune in remotely, to learn about the amazing richness and breadth of doctoral research at Sussex, and to vote for your favourite for the People’s Choice Award!

While you’re waiting for the 3MT final check out a summary of the 2019 competition and also an interview with Noora Nevala, last year’s winner, who shares her 3MT journey. She discusses what she learned from training and preparing for the final, the skills she developed, and her top tips for this year’s participants.

A black woman wearing a Pride t-shirt sits on the street in Cuba. She has a pride rainbow in the shape of Cuba painted on her neck and is looking directly at the camera. Research Image Competition 2019 winning photograph, by Evie Browne.
Photograph by Evie Browne – 1st Prize, Research Image Competition 2019

We are excited to take a deeper look into Sussex research through the Research Image and Research Poster competitions. Doctoral researchers from all years and disciplines are invited to submit an image or poster to offer a visual perspective on their research.

Entering is quick and easy, so get your Image or Poster applications in by Friday 5th June to take part! You can look through the 2018 and 2019 shortlisted entries for any needed inspiration. All 2020 shortlisted entries will be showcased throughout the festival for people to view and to vote for their favourite, and the winners will be announced on Wednesday afternoon as part of the prize-giving ceremony alongside 3MT.

On Tuesday 16th, we will be holding our first ever panel discussions on Finishing the Doctorate, one each for Arts and Humanities, Sciences, and Social Sciences. Raise your queries and engage in discussion with Directors of Doctoral Studies and late-stage/finished researchers from your field, who will provide insights into what to expect and how they dealt with issues such as conducting field research, undertaking data analysis, and the Viva process.

There will be a variety of webinars and workshops for you to engage with and learn from. The sessions cover topics on mental health and wellbeing, networking, preparing research proposals, and much more:

The Library team is bringing a brand new event to the Festival in the shape of the Wikipedia Edit-a-thon. This event is for anyone who is interested in learning how to improve diversity on Wikipedia by developing pages on notable women, LGBTQ+ and BAME professionals and underrepresented issues missing from the free and open encyclopedia. Book your place to contribute to the creation and dissemination of open knowledge, and help to address under-representation and bias. If you’d like to find out more, you can check out what’s involved in an Edit-a-thon, and read about the value of being a Wiki scientist and why we need more women in Wikipedia.

Poster for Sussex Research Hive Doctoral Researchers' Quaran-Time Capsule project.

There will be plenty of fun taking place on Twitter under the hashtag #SussexDocFest, including the Research Hive’s #QuaranTimeCapsule which invites you to share the photos which have represented your lockdown PhD experiences.

Poster for the Sussex Research Hive Quiz Evening on Thursday 18th June.

On Thursday 18th June, put your general knowledge to the test and be in with a chance of winning vouchers at the Hive Scholars’ Quiz Evening.

And for even more light-hearted amusement, book your place for Games Night on Tuesday 16th. There will be fun, laughter, and, of course, Cards against Humanity.

Poster for the PhD Game Night on Tuesday 16th June. A dice with arms, legs and a superhero cape points at a laptop screen and says, 'Go Play!'.

Remember to stay tuned to the Festival homepage and on Twitter #SussexDocFest for more fun and updates over the next few weeks!

Free Places on Digital Course Collection: 3 short online courses for researchers

Electv Training is offering 20 free places for Sussex doctoral researchers on their online Digital course collection. The three courses in the collection are complementary but distinct from each other, and can be completed in any order. After you complete each course, you will receive a downloadable course completion certificate. 

Digital course collection:
1) Your professional profile & networking (reflective)               
2) Build your own website in a day (software)               
3) Intellectual property essentials (information) 

If you would like to benefit from three online courses for free, please email researcher-development@sussex.ac.uk with the subject: “Digital Course Collection”. The first 20 researchers to email will be sent the access code for the course.

Quaran-Time Tea & Talk with the Hive (24th June)

Join the Hive Scholars on 24th June for the first Tea & Talk session, an online space where you will be able to connect with fellow researchers over a hot beverage! The Scholars will then continue the sessions fortnightly until the reopening of campus, so you can have regular catch-ups during lockdown.

This great initiative is another example of how the Hive Scholars continue to support researchers and foster (online) doctoral community. They know the risk that social isolation brings for researchers, and have worked hard as a team this year to focus on wellbeing and support. Visit the Hive Scholars website for more PGR-related fun, or join their Slack channels for a chat.

Full details and booking link for the Tea & Talk event can be found on the Scholars’ Quaran-Time Tea & Talk with the Hive blogpost.

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: The Way-Back 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.

Ethics Applications issues during Covid-19: online drop-in sessions every Wednesday

This week, the Doctoral School caught up with Lauren and Tim from the Research Integrity, Ethics and Governance team to speak about some of the latest issues cropping up in their Ethics Drop-in Service, which runs online every Wednesday from 14.00 – 16.00.

It’s been a difficult time for doctoral researchers, especially where they have had to adapt their research plans to accommodate the university policy on no fieldwork. Both the Social Sciences/Arts/Humanities and the Science/Technology committees have been impressed with how students have creatively navigated these changes and looked for ways to ensure that their research is relevant and able to continue during these restrictions. 

For many research projects, these changes have included adjusting from face-to-face research to online questionnaires and interviews. Having the ethics drop-in has been really useful in terms of supporting researchers to think about the switch from in-person to online research and whether the nature of their research is suitable for online methods.  

Lauren and Tim have also been able to provide advice on practicalities such as using the right interview platform (Microsoft Teams!), data management, assuring confidentiality/GDPR compliance, and online consent processes. 

A recurring issue regarding information sheets and consent documents is that of participant withdrawal. A tip would be to make sure you clearly state the point at which participant withdrawal from the research is no longer possible, as this is often stated vaguely or overlooked. Telling participants the exact point up to which they can withdraw their data (such as a couple of weeks after an interview has taken place) will enable you to concentrate on writing up your research or collating your data without having to worry about subsequent requests for participant data to be withdrawn.

If you would like to discuss your ethics application with the team, the drop-in sessions run every Wednesday from 14.00 – 16.00. To book a slot email:

British Library Webinars (throughout May)

The British Library have a range of free webinars throughout this month focusing on research-related topics. The Introduction to EThOS session on 21st May might be of particular interest to doctoral researchers as it explores how to access unique research and download theses for your own doctorate.

Introduction to research data, data services and DataCite at the British Library (and beyond)
Thursday 14th May, 2.30-3.30pm
This webinar will provide an introduction to research data and how to use persistent identifiers such as DOIs to make research data and other digital outputs like theses and grey literature findable and citable online. This webinar will also provide an introduction to DataCite, an international non-profit organisation, which enables the ability to create DOIs for digital objects.
Follow this link to the British Library webpage for details and to sign-up

Introduction to EThOS: the British Library database of UK theses
Thursday 21st May, 2.30-3.30pm
The British Library service known as EThOS is effectively a shop window on the amazing doctoral research undertaken in UK universities. With half a million thesis titles listed, you can uncover unique research on every topic imaginable and often download the full thesis to use immediately for your own research. This webinar will offer a guided walk through the features and content of EThOS, and the research potential for making use of EThOS as a dataset.
Follow this link to the British Library webpage for details and to sign up

Project FREYA: How persistent identifiers can connect research together
Thursday 28th May, 2.30-3.30pm
This webinar will showcase the latest developments from the EC-funded FREYA project, including the PID Graph which provides a method to discover the relationships between different researchers and their organisations and find out the full impact of research outputs. It will also describe upcoming developments planned in the final year of the project such as a Common DOI Search. 
Follow this link to the British Library webpage for details and to sign up 

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 D.Wemyss@sussex.ac.uk for Zoom links.

Join the LinkedIn group and follow on Twitter for regular updates, and contact sprudoc@gmail.com 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:

http://www.massobs.org.uk/write-for-us/12th-may

https://twitter.com/MassObsArchive #12May20

RDP Remote: Ten new Library Research Support courses (May and June)

The Researcher Development Programme are pleased to add ten new courses from Library Research Support to the workshops and webinars available online. The Library sessions are running throughout May and June and cover a range of topics including reference management tools, open access publishing, and keeping up-to-date with the literature in your field.

Click on the Sussex Direct links next to each workshop to find out more and to book a place. All attendees will receive an email with a weblink and any necessary materials in advance of the date.

Literature searching with Scopus and Web of Science – With useful guidance from the Library Research Support team, this workshop will show you how to make the most of these two major resources and develop search techniques that you can transfer to other more subject-specific databases.
6th May, 12.00 – 13.30 Sussex Direct booking page
5th June, 10.30 – 12.00 Sussex Direct booking page

Finding theses and dissertations for your research – This session introduces several online tools that can be used to access dissertations and theses from academic institutions within the UK and beyond.
15th May, 14.00 – 15.00 Sussex Direct booking page

Using reference management tools – Reference management tools enable you to create a personal database of references relevant to your work. These tools can help you gather bibliographic data from a range of sources, organise and manage this data, cite references in your writing, and generate bibliographies. This course consists of a short video training session introducing three reference management tools – EndNote, Mendeley and Zotero – and a self-guided tutorial leading you through the main features of each, so that you can decide which tool suits your needs.
Sussex Direct booking page

The Using reference management tools course will be followed by three live Q&A discussions with the Library team. Explore the course materials, choose the tool that works for you then join the relevant discussion for help with any queries or issues:

Keeping up to date in your subject – this workshop will explore the tools and techniques available to keep you up to date with the research going on in your subject area.
11th June, 11.00 – 12.30 Sussex Direct booking page

Introduction to Open Access publishing (part of the Festival of Doctoral Research) – this session provides an introduction to Open Access publishing from both a researcher and publisher perspective.
16th June, 14.00 – 15.30 Sussex Direct booking page

Understanding publication metrics – this practical workshop will introduce you to some of the tools you can use to measure the research impact of authors, articles, and journals.
24th June, 11.00 – 12.30 Sussex Direct booking page

Looking after your mental health and wellbeing during the Covid-19 pandemic

As a doctoral researcher you will currently be facing a lot of uncertainty. You might be worried about your funding or visa status, juggling study with family or work, or dealing with disruptions to your research. That is to say nothing of the psychological impact the coronavirus pandemic is having on all of us.

If you are feeling anxious about any aspect of your personal or professional life, or you’re simply feeling overwhelmed, it is okay to ask for help; the services and resources below may be useful.

If you don’t know where to start or even how you are feeling, join our online workshops to discuss wellbeing and mental health knowledge and experience in a safe space. The Looking After Yourself during the Covid-19 Lockdown workshop on Wednesday 6th May will give you the tools to think about your own unique mental health needs, how you can help yourself concretely, and when you may need professional help. Book a place on Sussex Direct.

You may also be interested in these upcoming RDP workshops:

  • The Healthy Researcher: how to look after yourself and keep going (12th May)
  • The Productive Researcher: how to keep writing (14th May)
  • Stress, Resilience and Strengths: a digital workshop for researchers (4th June and 7th July)

University services are open, and operating virtually. The Student Life Centre are trained to help you if you’re struggling with anything from emotional, relationship or financial difficulties to health problems, self-motivation or university procedures. Get in touch with them on studentlifecentre@sussex.ac.uk. The Student Support Unit is available online for disability-related enquiries (this includes high levels of stress/anxiety lasting at least six months): email disabilitysupport@sussex.ac.uk.

Silvercloud is a free, interactive self-help app promoted by the counselling team – see their self-help webpage for details, and guidance on other common psychological issues.

The Doctoral School wellbeing website, developed by the Office for Students-funded U-DOC project, includes video interviews with PGRs, links to university services and tools for self-care. Our new suggested self-care strategies gif is available to download as a PDF poster, if you’d like to use it as a visual prompt in your work space.

The Wellbeing Thesis website was co-created by King’s College London, Derby University, PhD researchers and the Student Minds charity. The Managing Adversity topic may be particularly useful, alongside bitesize videos on breathing exercises, chair yoga and getting a good night’s sleep. See key themes on the homepage or use the menu to explore videos and downloadable resources.

If you’re seeking support for yourself or a friend the Student Minds website has a section on coronavirus, and one of their consultants, Dr Dominique Thompson, has blogged about coping with coronavirus anxiety. Follow her DomInSixtySeconds YouTube channel for more.

And if you are feeling isolated and want to connect with other PhD researchers we’ve pulled together some of the key platforms elsewhere on the blog. See the new Things To Do During Lockdown section on the Student Hub for ideas.