Review of Autumn term BGRS training opportunities
This brief review highlights BGRS training and development opportunities organised in the 2017/18 Autumn term. These opportunities are part of a wider landscape of training and development resources available to PhD students at Birkbeck and which are summarised on the BGRS Moodle site. Birkbeck is in the process of establishing Training Needs Analysis for PhD researchers to identify their training priorities and navigate their way through the wide range of opportunities which are available at Birkbeck and beyond.
Autumn term highlights
- PhD students who began recently were invited to attend a workshop titled ‘Making a success of your doctorate’. This all day event led by Professor John Wakeford of the Missenden Centre, provided expert advice and hints covering the organisation and management of PhD research and how best to complete PhD studies.
- Students who were already underway with their PhDs were able to attend a ‘Surviving your Viva, and Beyond’ workshop led by Dr Jennifer Fraser, formerly from the Centre for Transformative Practice in Learning and Teaching at Birkbeck. This interactive workshop helped prepare students for their PhD viva and decisions about what to do afterwards.
Several new sessions have been organised for postgraduate research students.
- Birkbeck’s Equality and Diversity Lead, Ammara Khan, ran the first Unconscious Bias Training session for postgraduate research students exploring the concept of unconscious bias and how it could impact on life as a PhD student.
- An Introduction to Public Engagement for Research Students, led by Birkbeck Public Engagement Officer Mary-Clare Hallsworth, provided the tools students need to begin engaging the public with their research.
- In order to supplement existing resources for all Birkbeck researchers a Research Integrity and Ethics Session specifically for PhD students was held by Dr Sarah Lee, Head of Research Strategy Support, in order to provide a better understanding of personal, pragmatic and policy factors and to help attendees apply this in their PhD.
- The Birkbeck Library ran a new Library Support for Researchers workshop highlighting support available to PhD students throughout their research journey.
Drawing on departmental expertise a range of BGRS events were delivered through the College’s generic skills funding awards including:
- A series of sessions led by Dr Lily Ford on the theme of Fair Dealing relating to: use of images in research; film; and art history and culminating in a fair dealing conference.
- Dr Dermot Hodson organised a workshop titled No Trespassing: The Risks and Rewards of Interdisciplinary Research. Antonella Paterri, a Birkbeck MPhil student from the Department of Politics has described some of the benefits of this session on the BGRS blog.
- Other workshops provided training for: impact and communication skills; for how to make calls for papers at academic conferences; good prose writing for PhD Students; and an historical methodological masterclass with Professor Julian Swann.
The BGRS Moodle site will be used to establish digital objects (e.g. handouts or lecture capture) for those who wish to re-visit course material or who were unable to attend on the day. We have begun to make such resources available and will continue to develop this over the coming year.
Opportunities for Birkbeck PhD students to meet
During the Autumn term there have been two opportunities for the wider community of PhD students to gather and meet. The BGRS induction session welcomed new PhD students to Birkbeck and invited returning students to meet at the start of term, with around 70 attendees. Later in the Autumn term the BGRS Winter party provided another opportunity for students to meet with around 50 postgraduate researchers attending.
Shut up and write
We have continued to organise Shut Up and Write sessions, with more than 220 registrations to attend since we began running them in July/ August. During the Autumn term we organised 2 to 3 session every 2 weeks. Attendees have continued to give positive feedback about these writing sessions which provide opportunities to concentrate on writing alongside other PhD researchers and to build connections with those who take part. The BGRS intends to continue these shut up and write sessions throughout the year and registrations are now open for the Spring Term. During the Spring Term we hope to offer a concentrated all day writing event based on the same format as these sessions – this will be announced in due course and listed on the BGRS Eventbrite page.
On the 4th of November 2017 Birkbeck’s Graduate Research School hosted ‘No Trespassing: The Risks and Rewards of Interdisciplinary Research’, a half-day workshop organised by Dr Dermot Hodson from the Department of Politics. Inspired by Albert O. Hirschman’s concept of trespassing, this workshop, primarily taught by members of staff from across the School of Social Sciences, History and Philosophy (SSHP), brought together a wide range of expertise and personal perspectives on the intellectual benefits and dangers of interdisciplinarity. Understood as studies that deploy methods and insights from several traditional fields with the aim of integrating and combining multiple forms of knowledge, interdisciplinary research aims to make connections between concepts and to reassemble them in a circular way. Recognising the value of interdisciplinarity, the workshop stressed that interdisciplinary training should be integrated into academic careers. At the same time, it warned about the risks of superficiality associated with interdisciplinary research and the dangers of being excluded by disciplinary politics. In this sense, collaborating across disciplines involves a serious and careful rethinking of well-established academic borders that give meaning to specific fields of knowledge. Taking research beyond its comfort zone involves a creative crossing of a range of subject boundaries. Even though not all research should be interdisciplinary, the increasing complexity of issues with which we are faced as scholars compels us to look beyond single subject areas by stepping over the borders that contain our academic reality.
As Birkbeck students, we think that such boundaries are crossed in libraries, mediated exclusively on search engines and during formal academic meetings. What if we also attempt to trespass such delimiting lines of knowledge in other ways? While my first year as MPhil/PhD student in the Department of Politics was rewarding, I initially struggled to connect with many of my fellow students. Since last year I started organising monthly meetings with Politics PhD students and this year we have a WhatsApp group with more than 30 members. November’s workshop was also a fantastic opportunity to reflect upon our links with PhD students from different schools and departments at Birkbeck. At the event, we had the opportunity to discuss ways of increasing our interdisciplinary ambitions on a human level. Thanks to the efforts of Janice Lazarus, from the Department of Geography, PhD students from across the School of Social Sciences, History and Philosophy are now meeting weekly. This new intellectual network is helping us to step over our own disciplines by generating relevant ideas and arguments that go beyond departmental affiliations. Why is it working? Because it is an informal, real and direct way to avoid more ‘structured’ conversations that allow us to reflect upon personal experiences and projects with the potential to enrich our work.
Law, History, Geography, Politics, Art, Biology and Archaeology at times seem incommensurable but we are linking them through methods of analysis that are discursive in theory but practical in scope. By sharing research goals, we are becoming more aware of the fact that there are different paths of knowledge. Qualitative and quantitative methods, immersive fieldwork, archives and discourse analysis are being shared as a way to trespass rigid theorization. In so doing, generating new knowledge becomes a social activity of discovery that gets more and more exciting each week. Such meetings can also offer a possibility to ‘humanise’ the unpredictability of our research, both in premises and intentions. This is not necessarily something that can be grasped easily from our laughs, personal biographies or individual storytelling or from our most awkward and funny moments. Interdisciplinarity is not just a matter of addressing complex questions through a multiplicity of perspectives. Interdisciplinary research should be about reflexive rethinking and informal interaction that trespasses disciplinary boundaries.
ESRC PhD studentships at Birkbeck
Birkbeck is a member of the prestigious ESRC-funded UBEL Doctoral Training Partnership, which welcomed the first intake of students in October 2017.
Applications for entry in 2018/19 are currently open and prospective PhD students can apply for ESRC funding through any of the following UBEL Doctoral Training Partnership pathways. Studentships are offered on a full-time and part-basis, across a range of routes including opportunities to to complete attached Masters programmes.
- Archaeology and heritage studies
- Economic and social history
- Gender and sexuality
- Health and wellbeing
- Human geography
- Law and criminology
- Politics and international relations
- Psychosocial studies
Please note: The deadline for preliminary applications to the UBEL DTP is 9 January 2018, but some Birkbeck departments have internal deadlines earlier than this.
History and Theatre
The following training opportunity is open to all Arts and Humanities PhD students at Birkbeck.
This training programme will explore dramatising research, the use of fiction in research and the position of the playwright/author/composer in historical contexts.
If you attended the CHASE Encounters conference on Saturday 1st December, you will have heard course leader Dr Jeremy Krikler (University of Essex) introduce the themes to be explored in this training programme during his keynote lecture.
Arts and Humanities in the Digital Age
Various dates in 2018 starting with Winter School 15-17 January
at the Open University
The CHASE Arts and Humanities in the Digital Age programme will engage you with the concepts and practices that form the field of Digital Humanities, preparing you for the challenges of doing research in an increasingly digital world.
After completing the course, you will be able to analyse, understand and use digital data, to assess information technologies critically, and to integrate discipline-specific enquiry with digitally-driven methodologies and media to develop your own research. You will learn through workshops that combine methodological reflection with hands-on exercises and by developing a Digital Humanities project together with other students.
Deadline to apply – Wednesday 13 December