In times of Pandemic

A BGRS Blog post by Nicola Clarke (PhD History)

I am a mature student, just beginning the second year of my PhD in Early Modern History, so I am currently preparing my first research chapter for my upgrade from MPhil to PhD. My research focuses on accuracy and the value of accuracy in seventeenth-century English news sources, with particular reference to the period between 1649 and 1685. It was always work that was going to have some resonance in the 21st century; “fake news” is very definitely not a modern invention.

One of my main topics looks at the 1665 Great Plague and the Fire of 1666. I am interested in whether both producers and consumers of news approached accuracy any differently when dealing with natural disaster as opposed to news about political, civil and military strife, of which there was a good deal in the seventeenth century. When I decided, with my supervisor (Dr Brodie Waddell), to make this my first research chapter, neither of us had any idea that I would be working on it during a 21st century pandemic and a national lockdown….. and that archive access might be a bit trickier than normal. So many thanks are due to Brodie for advice on how to deal with that and to all the archives and their staff that have re-opened in the past few months.

At the start of lockdown in March 2020 I decided to keep a “Covid journal” prompted by a number of academics I follow on twitter. I used to be a journalist and I am trying to be a social and cultural historian, so I figured that keeping a diary might give me some insight into those diary keepers, commonplace book authors and letter writers whose news consumption habits I was trying to understand.

Historians should be rightly cautious about making comparisons between the past and the present, so I am very careful about drawing direct comparisons.

However, despite the considerable advance in medical science and news technology in the last three hundred and fifty years, the search for reliable information and the debates about how to act on that information have a familiar ring.

People in seventeenth century London tracked the weekly Bills of Mortality, as we have all followed the graphs at the daily government news conferences. The efficacy of shutting people up in their houses once a case of plague was discovered was debated from the street to the medical journals. News came at the seventeenth century citizen from a huge range of sources, orally from neighbours, business partners, customers, from Authority – the King, Parliament and the City Authorities, from newspapers, which as well as editorial content, ran huge numbers of adverts for all sorts of plague cures and preventatives.

Those citizens of seventeenth century London, who remained in the city, had to juggle a lot of conflicting information, with the need to maintain daily life and work, and if I have learnt one thing in the last six months it is to have considerable respect for how they managed to do that.

Meg Kiseleva tells about founding the Birkbeck PhD Network

A blog post by Meg Kiseleva (PhD Organizational Psychology)

I joined Birkbeck as a PhD student in January 2019. Being one of the few people who started halfway through the traditional academic year, initially I found it quite a solitary experience. Luckily, the BGRS were very supportive when Alex Leggett and I decided to start the Birkbeck PhD Network within the Students’ Union to help PhD students meet, network, and find information and support.

For a typical Birkbeck student – busy, juggling many responsibilities, often in employment alongside their studies – finding ways to connect with others may be an overwhelming experience. While the BGRS training events are a great opportunity to meet other PhD students across College, the networking is usually done within the constrains of a workshop: you may chat with someone or even have a coffee together during the break but then usually just rush off to your next appointment.

Within the PhD Network, we are trying to provide an informal space for meeting others, socialising, discussing our experiences as PhD students, and supporting each other on the PhD journey. While we cannot physically meet while the COVID-19 restrictions are in place, we are trying to make up for it with our WhatsApp chat, which you can join by dropping us a line at SU-PhD-Network@bbk.ac.uk, and Facebook group.

Our aim is to bring together people from different departments, different backgrounds, and with different experiences to enable a deep multidisciplinary conversation. Besides, talking to people from other disciplines sometimes opens an unexpected perspective on your own research (and meetups with other PhD students provide an opportunity to practise your “elevator pitch”!). Serious talk aside, we also try to make sure everyone has a comfortable space just to discuss anything the PhD community can provide support with.

On top of that, the Network frequently acts as a point of contact between the PhD community and the BGRS since we can collect comments and queries and bring them up with the BGRS via email or at PGR reps meetings anonymously.

Please use the links above to get in touch and we look forward to welcoming you to our community.

Life as a first year PhD student and NHS Mental health worker

A BGRS Blog post by Ogechi Anokwuru (PhD Psychology)

Hi my name is Ogechi, I am currently a first year PhD psychology student at Birkbeck and an NHS Mental Health worker. My previous studies are Master of Public Health (MPH) and BSc (Hons) Biomedical Science.

My PhD journey has been great so far, acquiring new skills and knowledge in psychology. I have been very lucky to be a part of the Department of Psychological Sciences, and am grateful to my supervisor and mentor. My research is on medical help-seeking behaviours amongst the BME community which crosses over to my line of work in the NHS on a daily basis.

As well as registering my systematic review on Prospero, lecturing about what I do in work gave me a sense of joy to share the knowledge and attitude around how health psychology interventions are practised in NHS and NHS Mental Health settings. In these uncertain times, it can be quite challenging, but it is very important that everyone looks after their mental health during this time. 

Balancing work and studies can be quite challenging as a mature student, but I’m determined that this will bring more benefit to the world of research and the field I am heading towards. COVID-19 has brought the world to a standstill and has shown us the possibilities of adjusting to this potential new normal. It has also highlighted the health inequalities and disparities seen in the BME community which is in line with my research, medical help-seeking and the barriers experiences by this group making it very relevant to today’s climate. 

I hope the next time I write another blog post, it will be me sharing my published systematic review for all of you to share and read.

Stay tuned and stay safe!

Ogechi 

Ogechi Anokwuru, MPH, BSc (Hons)

1st Year PhD Psychology Student

Department of Psychological Sciences

Highlighted CHASE training opportunities and calls

The following events and opportunities are available via the AHRC funded CHASE Doctoral Training Programme. All of the opportunities below are open to all Arts and Humanities PhD students at Birkbeck, regardless of whether they are funded or self-funded. If I could also draw your attention to a couple of calls for papers/participation that are currently open.

Journal recruiting members for next Editorial Board

Brief Encounters is currently recruiting the next Editorial Board to oversee the creation of issue 5 – see below press release:

Seaside, Ruin and De-Industrialisation on the Cleveland Coast

Friday 10th to sunday 12th of January

Redcar/Cleveland

Following the critical excursion Beyond the Heartlands and building on themes of de-industrialisation, landscape and ruin, the ‘Space Place Time’ research collective are calling for participants for a two-day critical excursion to Redcar and Cleveland. Completed in 1846, the Middlesbrough and Redcar Railway hoped to attract tourism, but like much of the region, Redcar’s expansion came with the 1850 discovery of iron ore in the Eston area of the Cleveland Hills. The engine of Britain’s Industrial Revolution, Redcar was simultaneously home to a Victorian pleasure pier. The pier’s demolition in 1981 can be seen as an allegory of the decade’s slum, which saw the simultaneous decline of both industries.

Find out more here

The Frankfurt Exotic: broken objects and porous walls in Naples

Beginning of April (deadline to apply 15 Jan)

Naples, Italy

Following the critical excursion Re-mapping the Arcades Project in Glasgow, and building on the field engagement with the work and cities of Walter Benjamin, we are calling for participants in a critical excursion in Naples: The Frankfurt Exotic: broken objects and porous walls in Naples. This critical excursion will take place over 4 nights at the beginning of April 2020 and will involve a series of workshops, walking tours and screenings with the anticipated outcome of a publication recording conversations, presentations, works in progress, creative responses and translation work.

Find out more and apply here

Bookscapes

Friday 17th of January (from 12:00) – Norfolk Heritage Centre

Saturday 18th January – Blickling Estate

The second of the CHASE DTP-funded Bookscapes workshops, offering PhD students advanced training in palaeographical, codicological and bibliographical skills, will take place on 17th-18th January 2020, hosted by the University of East Anglia and led by Tom Roebuck and Sophie Butler. At the Norfolk Heritage Centre, on day one of the workshop, attending students will have the opportunity to engage with the collections of the original Norwich City Library (founded in 1618). The workshop will move to Blickling Estate on the second day, where the students will focus on the techniques and history of bookbinding and the history of the book. The second day’s workshop will be led by Nicholas Pickwoad, one of the leading experts on bookbinding and an adviser to the National Trust on book conservation.

Numbers for the workshops are strictly limited. We encourage all interested PhD students to contact bookscapes@kent.ac.uk as soon as possible. You can also follow us on twitter at https://twitter.com/bookscapes.

CHASE Essentials – Thesis Boot Camp

Saturday 1st and Sunday 2nd of February

University of Sussex

Are you a mid- or late-stage doctoral researcher, struggling to make progress with your thesis? Do you keep putting off your writing? If so, Thesis Boot Camp could be the solution. Deadline to apply – 17 January.

Find out more and register here

Aural Diversity

Various dates and venues, please see below

Aural Diversity is a series of lectures, workshops and in-situ training sessions seeking to encourage creative and critical attention towards aural diversity within the arts and humanities, with particular focus on an ecology of the ear, designed for all those researching within the Arts and Humanities, especially those with an interest in the creative, social and political dimensions of sound and listening.

These sessions specifically address the need for further study and practice inspired by, and concerning, this specific turn in research and focus on a particular theme led by an academic/practitioner with invited guests selected to represent a range of approaches. 

Session #1 | Thursday 13 February | 1000-1800 | Goldsmiths, University of London – Register here

Session # 2 | Thursday 27 February | 1000-1800 | Room 264, Senate House, London – Register here

Session #3 | Thursday 12 March | 1000-1800 | Goldsmiths, University of London – Register here

Plenary | Thursday 26 March | 1500-1800 | Keynes Library, Birkbeck, University of London – Register here

Ethnography and Film. Exploring Labour, Technology and Mediation in the Egyptian Film Industry

19 Feb (14:00-20:30)

University of Kent

The workshop will offer participants advanced training in ethnography, applied to the context of the Egyptian Film industry. Dr El Khachab’s workshop will outline how researchers can successfully apply ethnographic methodologies, developed in Anthropology, to research issues about arts and media, especially film. Dr El Khachab will outline the strategies he developed during his PhD research to gather observations, interviews and documentary data from creatives and technicians working in the largest and most influential media industry in the Arab world. He will also provide participants an insight into how he adapted the presentation of his findings from his PhD thesis into his forthcoming monograph, The Egyptian Film Industry: Labor, Technology, Mediation.

Find out more and register here

Call for proposals | The Essay Film Festival: Research, Critique, Practice

As part of its new collaborative partnership with CHASE, the Essay Film Festival is inviting proposals from doctoral students for a student-led symposium exploring essayistic forms and their relationship to academic research, social critique and artistic practice.

The conference will combine research presentations and film screenings, including examples of practice-led researchers talking through, questioning and “essaying” their own work. This event will follow the sixth edition of the Essay Film Festival, which will take place at Birkbeck Cinema, ICA, Goethe-Institut and Institut Français, from 26 March to 4 April 2020.

The symposium will be held at Birkbeck Cinema in May 2020 (exact date to be confirmed), more than a month after the end of the festival. The idea of the conference is, therefore, to provide a space for critical reflection and debate, with a certain detachment from the EFF programme itself, as well as to propose and discuss new directions for the festival in the future.

Deadline – Friday 14 February

Full details here

Call for Papers | Critical Race Studies and the Premodern: Archive and Seminar

23rd to 24th March – University of East Anglia
8th to 9th June – University of Sussex

Universities of East Anglia and Sussex are hosting two postgraduate training workshops on critical race studies and the pre-modern. The first of these will be held at the University of East Anglia, 23-24 March 2020, and will focus on teaching and pedagogy; the second will be held at The University of Sussex, 8-9 June 2020, and will focus on research. Both events are designed to develop students’ professional skills. We invite expressions of interest from all postgraduates working in the Humanities (giving papers, designing and chairing sessions, attending).

Deadline – Friday 24 January

Find out more here

Birkbeck 3MT Winner Gabriella McGrogan talks about the 2019 competition

Gabriella McGrogan (Department of Criminology) was overall winner of the 2019 Birkbeck 3MT competition for her entry, “Against our Community Standards’- “Outsider” Witnessing of Atrocity and Social Media Censorship”.

Birkbeck doctoral researcher Gabriella McGrogan tells us about taking part in the 2019 Birkbeck 3 Minute Thesis Competition

Trying to figure out how to condense something you’ve been passionately thinking about and shaping over many months, into around the same amount of time you spend brushing your teeth before bed, seems beyond tricky. My supervisor suggested that the Three Minute Thesis competition would be a great opportunity to refine the key points of my project and give me a handy synopsis to roll out at conferences, meetings and in the pub. This seemed worthwhile, if only to avoid the baffled looks my poor friends give me when I’m trying to explain what I do now.

Developing skills

Having worked as a TA in secondary schools in London and Paris, I thought I might have had an advantage in the public speaking stakes. What could be more terrifying than getting 35 teenagers to first, be quiet, and second, listen to you? As it transpires, academic conferences are. Put on by famous institutions and renowned journals, full of ‘grown-up’ academics who have earned themselves the blue tick on Twitter, my first attempt earlier this year was nerve-wracking. The competition was such a brilliant opportunity to develop skills and alleviate imposter syndrome!

Speakers and members of the audience at the 3MT reception

Communicating research

Almost exactly three years ago, I submitted an application to study for Birkbeck’s MSc in Global Criminology. Up until then, I had completed two degrees in Literary and Cultural Studies, but realised that I wanted a change. It’s an understatement to say that the existence of Birkbeck has changed my life for the better. I think the competition, and ensuring my research is accessible and comprehensible to as many people as possible, is a great way to embrace and celebrate the ethos of the college. My research will benefit hugely from the interaction and input of those outside of my discipline and academia in general. Most importantly, I got to engage with students from other departments and learned some fascinating things from their presentations!

I’d strongly encourage any students considering taking part in future to do so. The tips I gained from the training alone were well worth the time spent and I’ve definitely noticed I can explain my project with ease in the aftermath!

Speakers and members of the audience at the 3MT reception

You can read more about the 2019 Birkbeck 3MT Competition here.

BPSN Bulletin

bpsn logo

The following bulletin is provided by the Bloomsbury Postgraduate Skills Network (BPSN) of which Birkbeck is a member. Our membership of the BPSN provides Birkbeck PhD students with an expanded range of training and development opportunities.

This Issue:

  • Opportunities – First Mondays: Networking for Entrepreneurs
  • Book now! May courses available
  • June courses

OPPORTUNITIES

First Mondays: Networking for Entrepreneurs
3 June 2019

Everyone is welcome at our monthly networking evenings. Be inspired by successful entrepreneurs and form lasting connections with peers that could help you start or grow your business.Visit UCL Innovation & Enterprise for more information: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/enterprise/events/2019/jun/first-mondays-networking-entrepreneurs-june

Places Still Available in May!

8 May 2019: Public Engagement: Developing Your Own Activity KCL
This half-day workshop will allow you to share your public engagement ideas and work with other participants to critique and improve them. Focus will be on the practicalities of public engagement.

8 May 2019: Format your Thesis UCL
Bring your own laptop or Mac to this hands-on session and learn the essential skills to format and edit your content in Word.

9 May 2019: Organising Successful Academic Events SAS
This session runs through the key areas of organising a successful academic event. We will discuss the different event types, public engagement, impact, timing, venues, audiences, speakers and finance.

15 May 2019: Ethical issues: The use of deception in research LSE *NEW*
Deception is a common feature of some social science research approaches yet absent or even forbidden by professional norms in other closely related social sciences. What is deception?

16 May 2019: Translation and Interpreting – IMLR Graduate Forum SAS
Forum members meet once a month during term-time to share and discuss their work in an informal setting, and invites students to present their research and host film screenings, reading groups and workshops.

16 May 2019: Manage Your PhD Research Data (Data series: 2 of 3) LSE *NEW*
In this practical workshop the LSE Research Data Librarian will give you essential tips for collecting and organising your PhD data so you can locate what you need with ease.

18 May 2019: IMLR Saturday Research Training Workshop: Researching Multilingually. Possibilities and Complexities SAS
The workshop aims to support developing researcher awareness with regard to practices of researching multilingually and in this way, work towards a more clearly articulated ‘researching multilingually’ methodology.

20 May 2019: Cross Purposes: Networking with ease UCL
The workshop is designed to be an event that leads a group though ideas, models and conversations resulting in a greater sense of rapport within a group.

28 May 2019: Specific Heat Capacity – Voice training UCL
Specific Heat Capacity is a three-hour voice workshop based on theatrical as well as practical experience, and aimed towards anyone wishing to develop their vocal ability.

30 May 2019: The PhD Viva in the Humanities and Social Sciences SAS
This session will look at a range of practical matters including choosing examiners, and the roles and strategies of the student, the examiners and the supervisor.

June courses

3 Jun 2019: Scientific classification and scientific realism – Key Concepts in Science and Technology Studies UCL
In this session we will take a look at an important and ongoing debate in contemporary philosophy of science: are we justified in accepting the most secure findings of scientists “at face value”?

3 Jun 2019: Publishing and Archiving Research Data (Data series: 3 of 3) LSE
This workshop will give an introduction to the current and quickly developing data publishing and archiving landscape and why it matters to researchers (including funder requirements).

3 Jun 2019: IMLR Saturday Research Training Workshop: Before, during and after the PhD SAS
This session covers publishing in the modern languages; the PhD viva, before, during and after; organising a conference and giving a conference paper; applying for an academic job, writing CVs, interviews.

12 Jun 2019: Critical Thinking and the Researcher: An Exploration UCL
Critical thinking is one of the higher abilities looked for in the research degree candidate. The greater understanding and application of critical thinking, the better the researcher.

13 Jun 2019: Your PhDilemmas: One-to-One Sessions for Research Students UCL
You are the manager of your PhD. If you want to explore ways of re-gaining control, come along and chat to Dr Louise Baron on a private and confidential one-to-one basis.