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July 23, 2013 / Kirsty Pitkin

AHRC Chat: Research Careers and Training Advisory Group

AHRC Chat: Research Careers and Training Advisory Group

A summary of the key themes explored within the AHRC’s recent Twitter chat on training and support for PhD and ECRs in the arts and humanities, in association with the Research Careers and Training Advisory Group (RCTAG).

  1. Background

    On Friday 19th July 2013 we welcomed guest speakers Caroline Starkey and Claire Irvine from the Research Careers and Training Advisory Group (RCTAG) to engage with other PhD students and Early Career Researchers within the arts and humanities in an interactive Twitter chat about the support and training issues that affect them.

    RCTAG advises the AHRC on postgraduate and researcher development matters from existing or developing schemes, highlights development needs in discipline areas within and outside academia, and alerts the AHRC to issues and developments within the university sector.

    This chat was designed to attract feedback and ideas from PhD students and ECRs to better understand the current training provision within the arts and humanities, as well as the career aspirations and anxieties of early career researchers in order to inform the work of the RCTAG.  The chat was open to all Arts and Humanities PhD/early career researchers.

  2. Guest Speaker Introductions

    We began the discussion with introductions from our two guest speakers, who shared a little of their own experiences and aspirations for the chat:
  3. Hi everyone, I’m a 2nd year PhD student at Newcastle University #AHRCchat
  4. I’m a member of the advisory group, because I think it reallu important the AHRc gets to hear student views #ahrcchat
  5. Which is where you guys come in, so do let us know your thoughts and experiences #ahrcchat
  6. Next, we welcome @Caro_Starkey who will also give us a few opening comments #ahrcchat
  7. Hi all, I’m Caroline, final year, part time PhD student at the Uni of Leeds….#ahrcchat
  8. Looking forward to hearing all the views on training and career dev’t! #ahrcchat
  9. Chat Participant Introductions

    We welcomed a total of 21 active participants within the course of the chat.  Those who joined us at the beginning formally introduced themselves and described their own position within the debate.  Here are the introductions from just some of those who took part:
  10. @caro_starkey @Claire_C_Irving Hi! I’m starting a practice-led AHRC-funded CDP at Tate/RCA in autumn… 1/2 #ahrcchat
  11. Hi @caro_starkey @ahrcpress #ahrcchat. I recently completed a CDA PhD at Leeds Uni examining religious transmission. Am now an ECR at Leeds
  12. @Claire_C_Irving @CarinaWestling I’m ECR, and agree about dissemination. I also find the website too full of jargon & confusing #ahrcchat
  13. @ahrcpress I am a first year PhD student, researching early-modern history, particularly the administration of Sir Robert Walpole #ahrcchat
  14. #ahrcchat I’m an academic, started teaching 5 years ago and finished my PhD in 2011. Very much interested in applying for early career grant
  15. @ahrcpress Hello – I’m a lecturer at Hull now, and was AHRC funded for my PhD and postdoc. I’m also part of RCTAG #ahrcchat
  16. #ahrcchat I’m an academic, started teaching 5 years ago and finished my PhD in 2011. Very much interested in applying for early career grant
  17. Initial Thoughts

    Chat participants were keen to share some of their burning issues with us, particularly regarding the need for greater dissemination of information about AHRC initiatives and issues associated with the AHRC website.
  18. @Claire_C_Irving Certainly at Sussex (PhD student there), information about AHRC initiatives lack sufficient dissemination to students.
  19. @Claire_C_Irving We get c 2 emails/year about AHRC funding opportunities – more information about AHRC activitites wld be gd #ahrcchat
  20. @Claire_C_Irving @CarinaWestling I’m ECR, and agree about dissemination. I also find the website too full of jargon & confusing #ahrcchat
  21. @LASwiftClassics @Claire_C_Irving I find the website nightmarish (I am a digital media profess., very capable at processing text) #ahrcchat
  22. @CarinaWestling @LASwiftClassics There is a survey about the website, your views & ideas are v. welcome! #ahrcchat
  23. @Claire_C_Irving Sorry, just did the survey! Reviewing website tone to reflect purpose and intended target audience wld be great #ahrcchat
  24. Questions

    Caroline and Claire had prepared several questions to guide the conversation.  Here we summarise the main strands of the discussion surrounding each question.
  25. Question 1: Are
    you satisfied by the training and opportunities you have received
    during your PhD studies?

  26. Dr Jasjit Singh from the University of Leeds shared his positive experiences of training delivered by external agencies:
  27. #ahrcchat – Q1 – yes although I found practical training to be more useful than stuff readily available online …
  28. #ahrcchat – Q1 – will never forget the course on presentations and on how to project your voice – run by an actress … Brilliant !
  29. #ahrcchat Q1 – and the media training courses were great aswell.
  30. .@DrJasjitSingh What types of practical things were good? #ahrcchat
  31. @caro_starkey #ahrcchat – presentation skills, media training. Also, at a conf we once had a session run by a journal editor …
  32. @caro_starkey #ahrcchat where he explained the whole process from submission to publication. Very useful.
  33. .@DrJasjitSingh Can you expand a bit – did they help you in career devt? #ahrcchat
  34. @caro_starkey #ahrcchat. Most certainly. I found myself on Radio 4 a month after media training. Everything they taught us came in handy!
  35. .@DrJasjitSingh Great, thanks Jas. so it’s helpful to get non-academics to do training? #ahrcchat
  36. Others had mixed experiences:
  37. Q1 – Anon: “No, I feel that the training isn’t appropriate for the current climate. Little consideration for transferable skills.” #ahrcchat
  38. @claire_c_irving #ahrcchat 1. I had good support from UofNott’s ArtsGradCentre inc. non-academic internship & help applying for AHRC funding
  39. Question 2: Have
    you received sufficient careers support?

    This question provoked a strong reaction from many chat participants, particularly with respect to the availability of training in the writing of grant applications. Caroline and Claire probed these issues with the chat participants in detail to get a broader picture of their experiences in this area:
  40. @ahrcpress #ahrcchat Queen Mary has been great for supporting academic career movement- perhaps less so for career moves outside of academia
  41. @sanamurrani #ahrcchat would be great if we can have examples of successful grant application made available on AHRC website!
  42. @sanamurrani #ahrcchat – good call. AHRC training in how to develop and apply for grants would be great.
  43. @richmondbridge @Claire_C_Irving @CarinaWestling my uni is really helpful, but would still value ‘from the horse’s mouth’ tips #ahrcchat
  44. .@CarinaWestling What about in-house training from your uni? #ahrcchat
  45. @Claire_C_Irving Would love to have that but it is non-existent. Tutors already bogged down with own projects and applications. #ahrcchat
  46. @CarinaWestling None? Would have thought there would be uni centralised/faculty training? If not directly from individ. tutors #ahrcchat
  47. @Claire_C_Irving @richmondbridge @sanamurrani Faculty staff time is already pressured, training would be fab, but needs resources #ahrcchat
  48. .@richmondbridge @CarinaWestling @sanamurrani Grant application training seems to be a biggie. I know I’d like some! #ahrcchat
  49. Likewise would love guidance on grant apps. Or a sample of some that have been successful so we know where to aim! #ahrcchat
  50. tbh have begged and pleaded for guidance in writing research proposals for grants/ECR positions to no avail! #ahrcchat
  51. @ahrcpress As tutor I try to stay as informed as can re ECRs’ funding climate,but I’m still not at sharp end. Briefings from AHRC? #ahrcchat
  52. @Claire_C_Irving @CarinaWestling Unis really vary WRT expertise in grant apps tho, esp as need 2 apply 2 greater range of orgs now #ahrcchat
  53. #ahrcchat In house training at Leeds is really good. I think the AHRC can add to this with specific Arts funding/engagement/impact training
  54. @Claire_C_Irving @richmondbridge @CarinaWestling #ahrcchat I know it is hard to achieve but support in the time required to put a grant app!
  55. @Claire_C_Irving Ok. Warwick have prog for helping new-qual PhDs: lib access, inst affiliation, etc. More places need to do this! #ahrcchat
  56. Question 3: What, in your view, do PhD students require in terms of training, development opportunities or careers support?

  57. Answers to this question ranged from specific requirements to case studies of the way institutions are currently handling the transition process for PhD students.  This provided useful evidence to inform RCTAG’s advice in this area.
  58. #ahrcchat would love to learn more about public engagement for those working in the arts and humanities
  59. Q3. #ahrcchat For PhDs I think it’s mainly about how to get your work out there. So presentation skills, blogs, media, articles etc
  60. Q3. #ahrcchat For ECRs it’s about how to build on this to get a job !
  61. @ahrcpress Training in practical aspects of academic career, i.e. impact &c. Some available through Res. Dev. at Ex. #ahrcchat
  62. #ahrcchat if phd is training for academia then academic skills esp. bid writing would be useful. Unable as student to access this.
  63. Sometimes I really value informal support from other PhDs as well as formal – what do you think? #ahrcchat
  64. @caro_starkey Yes! Shld there be more opp’ties for AHRC ‘cohorts’ to get to know each other -> informal mutual support follows? #ahrcchat
  65. @caro_starkey yes, benefited from informal support from PhDs &academics, e.g. letting me see their successful funding applications #ahrcchat
  66. @caro_starkey Phds from different depts sharing support, forming study and review groups and you meet people from diff schools too #ahrcchat
  67. @CarinaWestling #ahrcchat training often aimed at ECR not phd students tho’ 😦 so unprepared for taking bids/postdoc forward
  68. @clareravenwood Definitely true – and you need a runup to get your head around postdoc career. Training should start earlier! #ahrcchat
  69. @Claire_C_Irving Good to hear discussions abt much-needed help, but fear too few orgs/institutions actually _doing_ anything. #ahrcchat
  70. .@life_academic That’s what we’re trying to do, telling the AHRC is a starting point for change, all spec. ideas welcome #ahrcchat
  71. @Claire_C_Irving @richmondbridge Yup. My uni just chucked me out, post-PhD (2011): feeding on hourly paid teaching scraps since… #ahrcchat
  72. @Claire_C_Irving (Helped by few generous emails from ex-supervisor, but he was going out of his way: no institutional pressure.) #ahrcchat
  73. .@life_academic @richmondbridge P/T teaching too often the case for too long, I agree, but how does this change #shiftinattitudes #ahrcchat
  74. @Claire_C_Irving Change: institutions need to provide more awareness need to teach (& publish) during PhD, to prepare for career. #ahrcchat
  75. Closing Thoughts

    Before closing the chat, we invited participants to share any final thoughts with our guest speakers:
  76. @Claire_C_Irving @clareravenwood It is hugely helpful when you get clear, strategic information – saves valuable time and effort #ahrcchat
  77. @ahrcpress Maybe the AHRC could benefit from giving non Russell Group universities the ability to fund postgraduate research. #ahrcchat
  78. .@eurosceptical The AHRC funds a range of HEIs, wider than the Russell Group, about 80 total #ahrcchat
  79. @ahrcpress @Eurosceptical Yep, I am at a non Russell Group uni and I am a recipient of AHRC funding #ahrcchat
  80. @Claire_C_Irving …Institutions have obligation to help future academics! Not view PGs as tiresome/obstacles/whatever. #ahrcchat
  81. .@life_academic I agree, though this is not always the case, some departments v. supportive #ahrcchat
  82. More Information

    Caroline and Claire are keen to continue to discussions around the themes identified in this chat to help inform their work with RCTAG.  Please follow @Claire_C_Irving and @caro_starkey on Twitter to share your thoughts.
    A full archive of this #ahrcchat is available here.

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