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!

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

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)

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 researcher-development@sussex.ac.uk.

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

Record your Covid-19 diary for the Mass Observation Archive

The Mass Observation Archive, housed at The Keep as part of the university’s Special Collections, is a unique archive of material telling the stories of everyday life in Britain.

Now, they are looking for writers to submit reflections or keep daily journals about their experience of life during the Covid-19 pandemic, to create a lasting record of these extraordinary times.

For more information on making a contribution see the Mass Observation website.

The Education Awards (closing 3rd March)

Nominations for the second annual Education Awards are now open to staff and students, and you can make your nominations here.

The awards, which were launched last year, are an opportunity for staff and students to recognise members of staff – both academics and those in professional services – who truly embody the spirit and values of the University.

There are five awards in total and more than 300 nominations were submitted in 2019. The winners in each category were announced at a ceremony held in the Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts and hosted by Sussex alumnus and BBC journalist Clive Myrie. View the video from the night.

Nominations will close on Tuesday 3rd March at 5pm. All nominees will be invited to an awards ceremony on 21st April, where the winners will be announced.

You can make your nominations on the Education Awards page.