Be brave! Share your research! Explorathon Researchers’ Night 2016

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Chatting during PhD in an hour session at Explorathon 2014, Photo: Beltane Public Engagement Network

Post graduate researchers are always in short of time. Three years is a very short time but PhD students always have more on their dishes. This often can keep them away from going in public, take the courage to share their research. Many of us might think that we need to focus only on our research, therefore, not become interested in sharing research to lay audience or researchers working in different disciplines. But as a PhD researcher, I have benefited a lot from such events, talking in terms of a non-expert lay audience can give clarity to out thoughts, make us think in a way which we are unable to do being so closely attached to our own research.

I shared my research in PhD in an hour event in the first explorathon extravaganza in 2014. I talked about what I wanted to do and how I am going to do this for an hour in an informal setting, sitting in Hemma bar. I always enjoy sharing my research, the questions I am asked during such occasions help me making my arguments clear not only to the audience but also to myself. Sometimes we need to look at our research from other people’s viewpoints which can show us points that we might not find being too close to our research.

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Table set for fun research activities on 30 September 2016 on the eve of Explorathon Researchers’ Night

I have finished my field work, analysed the data and now working on my 2nd draft. Now it’s time to share some of the findings with researchers from related disciplines,  lay audience, policy makers and designers. While presenting in conferences can take our research to other researchers, sharing research in a fun way in organised events like Explorathon Researchers’ Night can take our research to people inside and outside academia. I explored sharing my research in a fun way asking the participants to design a school ground that can accommodate children’s formal teaching in the Curiosity Forest. While the participants were discussing in groups what they can provide to teach force, motion and speed I used the opportunity to share what I found from my PhD research.

“I had a PhD bachelor years back from the University. However, the things I remember still are the ones we have learnt through hands on activities.”- one participant shared while making a pyramid using modelling clay which can be used to teach structure to children. One school teacher joined us and brainstormed what can be there in the school ground to teach children History. Her realisation was they should use the outdoors more, the message I wanted to give through all these fun activities.

Children can make forts with crates and recreate battles to learn history – A school teacher while designing school ground

I also shared the research with children and family as part of Fun Palaces Scotland . Kids enjoyed making tiny pool, merry go round, slides, climbing frames and trees, their parents became interested in the poster presenting the findings from the research. I have to agree that I could not attract policy makers and educationalists to the event which was completely my fault. I was so overwhelmed with the thesis writing and few other deadlines that I could not manage time to contact people beforehand. I regret that. Therefore I do have some suggestions for new and present PhD students of all years on how they can best use the opportunity for their own benefit.

  1. PhD, 1st year – You can share your research plans, what you want to do and how you are planning to do. You can use the feedback to develop your instruments, rethink the methods and moreover and learn from other presenters. Try to make the event short and interactive, a poster or display of your works can helpful to attract people’s attention.
  2. PhD, 2nd year – You might have finished your data collection and some bits of your analysis. Planning the fun event can give clarity to your analysis process if you can utilise the opportunity properly.
  3. PhD, 3rd year- Its time to share some of your findings. All the discussions can contribute to writing your discussion and results chapter.

Children and parents co-designing school grounds using different materials

But the success of all these depends on audience. Don’t hesitate to invite people, invite all people of your acquaintance. This is an opportunity to tell your friends, colleagues and acquaintances what you are working on in a legible and fun way. Invite the policy makers you want to reach for the fun weekend event. Plan earlier, share some glimpses of your plans with the people you are inviting. Write that email as soon as you can, people have plans, let them have time to accommodate your event in their calendar, also don’t forget to send some reminders!

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Handle with care! 🙂

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