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.

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.

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 apply@thebrilliantclub.org.

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 apply@researchersinschools.org or visit www.researchersinschools.org.

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 

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

RDP online course: How to edit your own writing

Every researcher needs to edit, whether you’re working on your final thesis, a chapter, or a journal article. We have therefore worked to give you the tools and support for getting your writing into shape.

Instead of a one-off session, this course will provide you with on-going access to materials and guidance from the facilitator, Dr Catherine Pope. Through activities and tutorials you will cover:

  • How much time do you need for editing?
  • Improving your structure
  • Signposting your argument
  • Maintaining consistency, clarity and connections
  • Wrangling with grammar and style
  • Proofreading your own work
  • Soliciting and implementing feedback

Visit Sussex Direct for more info and to sign up. We will change the date for the course regularly in order to keep it on our Events page. If the course is fully booked, sign up to the waiting list and we will contact you.

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.

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 researcher-development@sussex.ac.uk if you have questions or need advice on any aspect of your application.