SWDTP Conference 2017- Research in a Changing World: Critical Encounters

‘Research in a Changing World: Critical Approaches’

Wednesday November 8th 2017

The SWDTP Conference 2017 was a resounding success. Congratulations to the Conference Committee for the engaging, challenging and well-run day that they provided! The free conference, with keynote addresses by Dr Nikki Hayfield, Dr Jon Fox and Professor Jane Elliott, was held at the University of Bath and welcomed over 100 visitors.

A final word from SWDTP Conference 2017 Committee Chair- Louise Hatherall:

Another year, another SWDTP conference complete! Planning for the conference started in March and began with an aim to represent the breadth of research and experience in the SWDTP. We also wanted to recognise the transition from ‘Centre’ to ‘Partnership’ and welcome our new colleagues from the University of West of England and University of Plymouth. With the invaluable help of the committee and SWDTP staff, the conference- held on 8th November at the University of Bath- was a wonderful day filled with engaging keynotes, inspirational workshops and fascinating student presentations.

Our first meeting began by recognising that times ‘they are a’changing’ for doctoral students. Higher Education is facing calls for overhaul, and there is a resistance to the concept of ‘experts’. Additionally, the world is shifting and changing, which makes keeping our research ‘up-to-date’ an increasing challenge. With this in mind we selected our Conference theme: Research in a Changing World: Critical Encounters. From this we developed our themes – ‘Closing The Borders?, ‘Critical Encounters: The PhD Landscape’ and ‘Trust and Impact’. We kept our descriptions intentionally vague and broad: the conference was about how the presenters interpreted the theme. We were open to ‘out there’ ideas!

Our student presenters did not disappoint, with lots of feedback highlighting the exceptional quality of the presentations given. From Social Worker Roles to Tasty Pizza, the presentations gave a small glimpse into the amazing and important work being undertaken by the SWDTP. This year’s conference also had the highest number of poster submissions and our judges, Professor Jane Elliott and Dr Jon Fox, were incredibly impressed.

Given the quality of submissions it was decided that two prizes would be awarded this year. Second place went to Emma Ranger, with First place being awarded to Hannah West and her poster on her experiences transitioning from a military engineer to a social science researcher. A huge congratulation to you both, and to all those who submitted posters.

Given our theme we decided to run workshops which would assist PhD researchers in a changing world. Dr Albert Sanchez Graells, (University of Bristol), gave a fascinating workshop on becoming a digital scholar, using his own experiences from blogging and twitter to show how valuable a digital presence can be for researchers. Lynn Linsdale and Dr Judy Ryde deftly and experientially tackled researcher resilience, focusing specifically on taking care of your own emotional health whilst doing a PhD. Our publishing workshop aimed to tackle the road to publication slightly differently. Experience from Dr Richard Watermeyer (University of Bath) Dr Alexandra Allen (University of Exeter) and PhD student Lydia Medland (University of Bristol) made this panel an invaluable session, and gave the delegates lots to think about going forward. Finally, despite some last-minute hiccups, Dr Harry Pitts and Professor Jane Elliott gave an engaging and frank plenary session about life after the PhD (it does exist!).

Throughout the day we also had three insightful keynotes. Dr Nikki Hayfield (UWE) opened the conference by speaking about her experiences of insider and outsider identities in qualitative research. Dr Jon Fox (University of Bristol) opened our afternoon session with a keynote on the ‘left behind’ of participatory research on Brexit. Finally, Professor Jane Elliott (University of Exeter) closed the conference with her keynote on the higher education ecosystem, discussing current changes and drawing on her experience as outgoing Executive Director of the ESRC. These keynotes drew on various aspects of the conference, and received outstanding feedback from the delegates. They also sparked debate and conversation, which we will hope will continue.

Overall, the conference was a fantastic day, filled with inspiring research from students and academics. As such, I would like to extend a warm and hearty ‘thank-you’ to all the student speakers, delegates, academics and staff who made the day. The conference could not have happened without the immense effort of a team of people. Thanks must therefore be extended to Clare Stevens, Thomas Sealy, Gabriela Julio Medel, Tristan Hotham and Sam Stone, who constituted this year’s committee. Immense gratitude must also be given to the SWDTP staff who guided and assisted the committee: your support, cheerleading and willingness to let us order mulled wine unseasonably early made the conference a pleasure to organise.

I look forward to seeing you all at next year’s SWDTP Conference.

Louise Hatherall

Want to know more about the day’s itinerary? Download the Welcome Booklet PDF!