Innovative ways of working with researchers

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Workshop delivered by Graduate Studies team at Vitae Researcher Development Conference 6 September 2010

Workshop delivered by Graduate Studies team at Vitae Researcher Development Conference 6 September 2010

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  • Introduction and aims of workshop: talking about some of the strategies that we have used to engage the diverse researcher community at Salford, with a particular emphasis on online technologies. Fiona – own narrative: moving from large Russell group university to Salford, and some of the freedom that this enabled
  • Background on Salford Research Community: Not Russell or ’92: Alliance University, Business-facing. 20, students. Around 500 PG researchers, and 130 contract research staff Research split into three ‘colleges’. Illustrates something of diversity of PhD population and needs (no ‘typical’ phd researcher @ Salford): Large share in Built Environment, including split site and distance; Research Council funding (EPSRC) concentrated in Built Environment and materials, with some in arts; Health includes many staff who are engaged in prof docs or PhD by published works; also practice-based PhDs in media and art and design. Across all these colleges: COLLABORATION WITH INDUSTRY/nonHE INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS (new intake, 110 students, 38 UK and EU, rest international) Strong record for community engagement Lots of mature students
  • Small amount of Roberts funding (less than 40k). This has been used to help develop a small team within Research & Graduate College and Student Life who liaise between various professional services and work within the schools. These include an Educational developer (offering T&L support to those on the teaching assistantship scholarship); two careers consultants who cover PGR and research staff; a research skills coordinator and a research technologies officer. Built up over the last 3-4 years. Now got quite a comprehensive programme of face to face training, events, and one-to-one advice/support in place for the PGR community (eg. GTA training programme; Annual Research Conference; annual careers events ‘PhD Futures’; comprehensive research skills training programme that maps onto RDS and fully utilises in-house expertise (almost 100 sessions). Central provision aims to complement support offered at school/research centre level. Small size of community and flexibility of team: experimentation with various events and piloting training. However, target group that we’re reaching tends to be full-time researchers in their first and second years. We wanted to consider how we could reach some of the other researchers, and also how we could get PGRs more actively involved in some sort of community that was sustained between these various events in the academic calendar….key to doing this has been use of ONLINE TECHNOLOGIES
  • Over the last three (?) years, experimented/built up a number of online technologies in an attempt to encourage PGRs to ‘Stay Connected’: both with us and with one another. Will consider a few examples….
  • What are we using online technologies to try and achieve? Raising awareness of events, services and resources. Letting community know we are here, and signposting other resources, events etc that may be useful (Blogs; Twitter Feed; Diigo social bookmarking – research methods and technologies; regular online newsletter). This is also a way of increasing transparency and our availability . Reducing professional anonymity of support staff and services. Developing the long term usefulness of one-off events: reaching those who cannot attend, also encouraging interaction and networking to continue after the event: events becomes useful resources (Vimeo – phd futures embedded videos with panel speakers; power points from careers events and SPARC made available through Slideshare and embedded/linked to on website and blogs; making the conference proceedings free to download online – open access (LuLu); FLickr account Enhancing training delivery: Eluminate, compued and Skype – delivering training sessions online. Supporting supervisors and PhD students in using skype. Today our research technologist is providing support for a PGR led online conference on translation, all taking place ‘virtually’, using elluminate Active engagement: our aim is to try and encourage active and reflective engagement with researcher/self-development, rather than simply providing static resources for consumption: our blogs are reflective and encourage comments from students. Leading by example. We also offer support to PGRs (and staff) to set up their own blogs and chart their own reflections and research journeys (photography blogs, Research associate blog on homelessness, Jim Newell’s blog (established academic; mentor role). Support in form of hands-on workshops and lots of one-to-one support Visibility of research and researchers: in a very literal sense – photos on Flickr document various events visually; PGR website: slideshow of PGR researchers on homepage (with stories); LinkedIN profiles; SPARC proceedings available online for authors to link to (retain copyright). LitSciMed – films of student presentations available online; Alumni profiles Community: as above: Linked IN – discussion groups? Social space as part of LitSci Med project (AHRC doctoral training across various universities)
  • Jaye’s case study about an attempt to start a discussion group and some of the reasons it failed/dwindled after a few months: learning to come out of this Video – David Roberts talking about the support he has received and the benefits of using social media/online technologies in his 1) teaching practice 2) PhD research 3) benefits feels from a community perspective. Context: first year PhD researcher in business. Mentions welcome event that was introduced various online tools to new PGRs this time last year. Careers blog – Fiona and Tahira to talk about
  • Social media – part of university identity and active research. Research Centre on Information Systems in Organisations and Society – strengths in web 2.0 and digital culture Media City UK helping to add to buzz around this Relatively new Vice Chancellor who is very supportive of Open Access and Open Content and vocal about it. Big on blogging. Also support of Director of Graduate Studies We have tried lots of things out, some not worked…. Having an enthusiast and Open Media champion who works in a collaborative way has been the most essential enabler. Still needs other to be open to using these technologies and willing to experiment with them thus…. Collaboration – good team effort!


  • 1. Innovative ways of working with researchers Fiona Christie and Tahira Majothi: Careers Consultants Victoria Sheppard: Research Skills Coordinator Vitae Conference, 6 - 7 September 2010
  • 2. PGR community at Salford Science & Technology (Built Env; Computing Science & Engineering) Arts & Social Science Health & Social Care RC-Funded Split-site & Distance Learners Professional Doctorates PhD by Published works Practice-based PhDs
  • 3. Researcher Development Careers & Employability Research Skills Research Technologies Teaching & learning
  • 4. Online Technologies Staying Connected
  • 5. Careers Blog Skills & Technologies blog Online newsletter Reflective practice Researcher blogs Online profiles Raising awareness ‘ post-event’ presence Training Delivery Visibility of research & researchers Community Active engagement
  • 6.  
  • 7. A closer look at some examples….
    • “The GTA Corner” – an early attempt to create an online community
    • 2009-10: PhD Student perspective
    • Careers blog
  • 8. Careers blog
    • Practical solution
    • Inspired by good practice elsewhere
    • Finding a voice and building an audience
    • Transparency of professional staff
    • Part of a blog family
    • Is it worth it?
  • 9. Careers blog – some stats
  • 10. Enablers
    • Credibility of social media as research within University
    • Buy-in from senior staff
    • Experimentation: trial and error
    • Research technologist
    • Collaboration
  • 11. Limitations/challenges
    • Recognition that still resource-intensive
    • IT Infrastructure and support
    • Overload of options!
    • Measuring impact
  • 12. Next Steps
    • ‘Virtual Doctoral School’ as space that brings everything together
    • Getting researchers more actively involved….
    • …and their supervisors!
  • 13. Links
    • Salford PGR website:
    • PGR Blogs : careers
    • Skills Training & research technologies:
    • Twitter :
    • Flickr:
    • Diigo social bookmarking:
    • Slideshare :
    • Online conference proceedings:
    • Vimeo: