In this episode I talk to Victoria Christodoulides, a PGR at the University of Bath and the University of the West of England about organising, attending and submitting abstracts to conferences. Victoria and I are both on the committee oif the Research Ethics Conference 2021, which currently has a call for papers out. You can find out more on the conference website.

 

Music credit: Happy Boy Theme Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) 
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License 
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/ 

 

Podcast transcript

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Hello and welcome to R, D and The Inbetweena.

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I'm your host, Kelly Preece, and every fortnight I talk to a different guest about researches, development and everything in between.

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Hello and welcome to this episode of R,D and the In Betweens. Today, I'm going to be talking to Victoria Christodoulides

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who is working with me on the conference committee for a new conference on Research Ethics.

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It's gonna be taking place at the University of Exeter next June. During this episode,

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we're going to talk about the ethics conference we're involved in and how we kind of

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got interested in having those wider critical discussions about research ethics,

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but also attending and submitting an abstract to your first conference. And some top tips.

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So if you're new to attending conferences, this will be a really, really good insight into what the experience is like.

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So, Victoria, are you happy to introduce yourself? My name is Victoria Christodoulides and I am based in the University of Bath,

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but I work in an interdisciplinary PhD project with UWE as well.

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So yes, in my second nearly third year.

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Now of doing doing that. Yeah.

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Can you tell me a little bit about the project project. So my my project itself is looking at childhood trauma, recovery, literacy.

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So the kind of discourses,

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narratives that are surround childhood trauma and the recovery practises and really trying to through kind of participatory action research framework,

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work with survivors to reimagine what recovery and practising recovery could be and how recovery could be understood,

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perhaps differently to what it currently is.

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As it's predominately dominated by what we would classify as the biomedical framework to looking at the psychotherapeutic or medicinal practises,

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that sounds really fascinating and perhaps unsurprising then that you've become involved with the Research Ethics Conference.

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Given that, I imagine you're encountering some really deeply complex ethical issues through the course of your research.

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Yes. So I did an MRes course, prior to starting my PhD, and that's kind of really when the can of worms opened up for me and ethics.

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I haven't had any of the kind of I supppose.

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The bio medicinal ethical challenges that some people might get.

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But I do get and have had quite a lot of.

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Complexity in the the ethics proposals that I have, one being.

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That's quite it, because it's quite complex projects, because it's an emergent design, participatory action research.

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I'm going to call it PAR because it's much, much shorter.

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But the PAR is quite complex framework. So the ethical procedures are quite important.

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They're more than you know, obviously, they need to be thorough, but they a quite lengthy.

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Because. Because it's emergent. You have to talk about things that you might include.

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That might happen. And and that can be quite challenging.

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But also, there are the challenges around working with what would be classified as a vulnerable population.

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So you have those kind of ethical challenges as well.

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And I suppose even more recently, that the things that I'm looking at.

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And really in the thick of at the moment, because I'm not quite. Haven't quite done my data collection yet.

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But how to do participatory research in COVID times is quite, quite challenging.

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So that's obviously some of the challenges involved in your particular research.

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Yes. Kind of got you. Interested in ethics or considering ethics more broadly in the kind of field of

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research and therefore wanting to be involved in the research ethics conference.

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So I think I would probably say that my experiences of ethics and possibly because the the approach I've taken to the projects

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that I've been involved in have been maybe a little bit more abstract dealing with vulnerable groups in ways that perhaps

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added a little bit more complexity really opened up to me when I was going through the process in it for my ethics applications

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just felt like there wasn't a huge amount of guidance or information around around ethics that I felt were fit for purpose.

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And talking with other students, staff from, you know, not just our university, but, you know, wherever it seemed to go.

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Even I was in a conference in Barcelona having the same conversations with senior professors who were going,

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yeah, no, it's the same with our university, actually.

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We are, you know, there there's there's all this talk about we need to be providing ethical research.

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But actually, what does that actually mean? And when I thought about how well, you know, with my introduction to ethics,

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I can remember one seminar and I appreciate every university may be different,

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but I remember having one seminar talking about just kind of what we need to think for and having a few things online to go through as a course.

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And that was pretty much it. But it's so much more complex and I think.

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Wanted to be involved in the conference was one I.

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I feel very strongly with my experiences in completing ethics forms and being involved in research that there is

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so much more to the process of ethics and how our research can be ethically grounded than it is currently.

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And I think it is often an afterthought. It is often a checklist and it would be great.

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And through this conference and I can see that being a really strong catalyst for it being

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a starting point to kind of extend these conversations and dialogues and going well look

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you know. Okay, people are getting ethical approval and completing their research.

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But how can we make that better?

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How can we make the researchers more ethically grounded from start to finish of their projects and even before completing it?

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But also understanding the process is a bit more what it is that they need to complete.

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What what you need to think about in terms of provision of information, the information sheets,

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that you get all sorts of things, but that it can be quite complex and difficult to follow.

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And I think, you know, as I said, you know, speaking to those people just think it's currently not quite fit for purpose.

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And I think something like the ethics conference has got so many moving parts that can support that.

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I think I think that that really excites me to be part of something like.

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Yeah, absolutely. And I I mean, I feel the same. It's becoming a very different perspective in terms of thinking about the the training

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side of that and how we put the support structures in place and where the knowledge sits.

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So. We're here to talk really about about conferences and perhaps sort of.

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Submitting a abstract to a  conference or attending a conference for the first

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time to help people thinking about attending the research ethics conference,

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but also who might be at the start of their research journey and kind of feeling a bit mystified by these magical things called conferences.

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So can you tell me a little bit about the first time you attended a conference?

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Oh, the first time in attendance at the conference. Yes, it was during my time as an MRes students.

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And I didn't submit an abstract to that one, but I did.

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For the next one. But  attending the conference. That first time funnily enought felt quite nerve racking.

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And I think a lot of things were going through my mind.

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One was. You know.

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I'm going to be the one that really looks stupid coming to this conference,

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all these great speakers and professors and people who are more expert in their line of enquiry than I am.

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And it kind of initially put me off going.

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And, you know, I'm glad I pushed through that nervousness,

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because when I when I have then subsequently gone on to and I think there's always a little bit of that.

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When you when you come to conferences sometimes is some actually it doesn't really matter.

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And these conferences really provide a fantastic space, not just for learning, but also networking and being able to ask questions.

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That's something you can't you can't necessarily do.

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If you're just watching a video or just reading a paper, you you get to maybe ask questions around your own research projects.

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And, you know, I've had some great opportunities, when I've gone to conferences to speak with people who are more knowledgeable than I am and kind of go

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Can I borrow five minutes of your time? Most of the time. People are really happy to.

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And, you know, they're very interested listening to your know your project and kind of go look you know this is the problem I've got.

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I'm not you know, I was thinking about what you were saying. You know, I'm not quite sure.

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And I actually so many times, it gives you great ideas and sometimes even problems.

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It's a link about that you haven't thought about before.

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But they are just such a great space for me to be able to move your ideas and project forwards, whatever that might might be.

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Yeah. And I think that that kind of sort of imposter syndrome that you have is is really, really common, but also.

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Sort of against the nature of sort of what conferences are, which is, you know,

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conferences generally aren't places where you find concrete answers, that they're the places where we.

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Discuss the complex ideas and try to grapple with them.

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And, you know, certainly in terms of presenting at conferences,

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people aren't necessarily expecting you to have sort of a formal finished product, you know?

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Yes. Is and conference presentations are a great place to. Explore your ideas and explore how you're collating your ideas and analysing data.

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And it's not necessarily about kind of having the finished product,

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but about the opportunity to enter into dialogue about where your thinking is at that moment in time.

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Absolutely. Yeah, I think you're dead. Right. And you know

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That's the the the beauty really of conferences, I think is my thoughts around going to conferences is that as long as there's a general

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link or even more of a specific general to specific link to your to your project.

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And in this case, ethics kind of applies to everybody. The conference that we're going to be holding.

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You know, everyone can come. But generally speaking, you know,

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there'll be conferences which might be a bit more aligned to what you're researching or very specific to an area of work that you're focussing on.

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But the real beauty about it, as you were saying, is that, you know, there aren't necessarily concrete finished projects.

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You can actually come with your idea. And I've done that when I when I delivered a presentation.

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I kind of was talking about what it is that I wanted to do. And based on some of the work did in my MRes

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Right. You know. And so it doesn't it, you know, things that have to be finished.

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And what's great about that is that there are so many different takes that you can be exposed to and how to approach work.

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No, in theories in methodology is all sorts of different things that you can have a look

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at that you don't necessarily get access to as easily as you may have done before.

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And I think what's really important about that for or our learning is if we if we only travel down the routes of reading, watching,

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engaging with one specific school of thought and one area of work, we actually don't, we actually inhibit our ability to argue our own standpoint.

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And I believe quite strongly that if we engage with these different perspectives,

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which you do get at conferences, which is why that's a fantastic really, you get the opportunity to go.

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I never thought of that. You know, I could argue my point more strongly because of this or actually that's really made me question my perspective.

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I need to think about strengthening my own argument based on what this person says.

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Well, that's a great example for me to pull on and use within my my work and make it relevant to what I'm talking about.

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So, yeah, I'm a strong advocate. Absolutely.

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And, you know, we're we're talking about doing something at the conference, which is which is very much kind of about not having answers.

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So it's a discussion panel about how ethical training isn't fit for purpose and  and how

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we and a kind of exploration by a number of panelists and with the people attending.

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About what? You know, what we think that.

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We actually need in terms of training and skills and support to underpin ethical research, practise and, you know,

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we're not going with the answers about what we think that training should be, but rather with the open question of going.

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We know that what we have is an. Isn't doing the job it needs to.

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So let's have a conversation. You know, let's start the conversation now.

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and not necessarily find the answers, but at least. Kind of.

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Propel the. Conversation forward.

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Yes, exactly. Absolutely, yeah.

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And I think, you know, again, great place for a conference is to be able to kind of it's not just about people talking at you.

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And I think the ethics conference that we're putting together, we've got workshops, you know, supporting 
 with training.

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We've got a good cooperation with different organisations and businesses as well as, you know, students.

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And I think, you know, if you take the panel in that we're talking about there around the fit for purpose ethical training,

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I think, you know, that's a really good example of,

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you know, we're not here just talking at people saying this is what we think should change because, you know, we really value being from other people.

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And, you know, what would be great is we have the same range of people talking on the panel,

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but having a range of perspectives from the audience to kind of go, hey, that this is my experience, you know?

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And, you know, how how can we utilise these experiences to better our processes?

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And I think the beauty of ethics and as I mentioned at the beginning of this conversation,

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is there's been so many people that are expected to from all walks of life.

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Who just say the same thing that it's not fit for purpose

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This could be something that I think should transcend across universities, across the education system for research.

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And it could be so easily done if we can come together and say easily rolling their eyes.

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Not easily. I appreciate it. But there is definitely, I think, a route here.

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That could be made easier. Yeah, because collectively we have the knowledge.

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It's just it's sitting in us with so many things that sitting in individual pockets right now.

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And yet, you know, the the discussion we're having is about bringing those people together.

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And on the broader concerns as well about, you know,

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working with different groups and businesses and charities and education organisations outside of higher education.

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You know, again, it's bringing that breadth of knowledge and understanding together.

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And, you know, that is a lot of what research is doing now is about.

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Absolutely. Interdisciplinary is about connections to industry and practise and bringing together different forms

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of knowledge or different kinds of knowledge to give us that sense that something richer.

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Absolutely, and I think the great thing about this conference is that that we can do that.

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I think the the bringing the best practises is exactly what I'd love to see happen is I'm sure you know,

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I know different universities have difficult ethical, different ethical processes as the same departments.

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I think it's we need to extend those dialogues and conversations to kind of see where is the best practise in a way,

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where can we pull on that improve that across across the board.

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So I agree Yeah. So. Thinking about.

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Abstracts and kind of submitting abstracts to a conference. What was that like?

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The first time you did it? Oh, so the first time I did it, I, I had basically just started my my p h.

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D. So it finished my MRes and just started my PhD

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And I'd been off to talk because of.

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They are at her empathy conference regarding empathy in research, and I have been asked to talk because the work that I was doing,

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interlinks with concepts of empathy and some of the practises we were doing.

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And I felt very, very, very out of my depth because, as we mentioned, you know, even though it didn't matter to me,

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I feel I should be coming to this conversation with these great speakers with, you know, full blown.

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Here's my project take. My answers, you know, here's the the outcome and what I'm going to do with it.

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Hurrah! That was very much. This is just my ideas for my PhD

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I did base it on some of the work that I'd done within my MRes because how I utilised the MRes for my PhD.

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So I completed the abstract, I think was.

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It always seems more daunting than that we really need it, but it really needs to be energy.

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You pointed out the imposter syndrome really does for me it does raise its ugly head.

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But I think when you've got a good structure to follow for the abstract,

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I think we've got some tips and advice on how to structure that as well as we've got workshops as well,

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which I've been really looking forward to to to listen to that's helped people.

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But I think when you've got those things and I didn't have any access to that, it makes it a lot easier.

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But I think when you send it off, I think it's always good to get other people to to check it over, see what they think.

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Know you got the right idea in how to structure it.

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Maybe ask your supervisor to have a quick glance if you got any advice or anybody else, you know,

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who is who who completed abstracts before and after and stuff on kind of, you know, very quickly got a, you know

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Yes, this sounds great. We would like to have your presentation.

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And it was then quite a straightforward process for me.

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I appreciate is different depending on what the conference it is.

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But I believe ours is is quite simple for submitting abstracts.

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But yes, there's always that slight nervousness of submitting something to know because you want you want to be accepted and approached for it.

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But I would say I think, you know, even the process of writing an abstract.

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Even if you don't get chosen and there could be a plethora of reasons why you may not be.

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But even if you're not, the the whole process of working through writing an abstract actually can help you with your own project.

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And, you know, it is really useful to do because you've got to be succinct.

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And it's great, especially even early,

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early stages of your project to be able to kind of maybe conceptiualise and more concisely what it is that you're doing.

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And then even further down the line, you've always got some more information that you could pull on.

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But again, even doing it kind of mid to end of your project or beyond if you're not a PhD student but a fully fledged academic.

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But if you if you know, it's great to be able just to utilise, as I said, conceptualise your ideas clearly

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So, again, I'd really welcome anyone at all stages to to engage in that process.

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Yeah. And I think that thing that you're saying is really key about actually forcing you to hone in

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on or crystallise some of your ideas on some of those kind of overarching aims or arguments,

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because so much of what we do in academia is about long form writing.

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You know, I know that a journal article doesn't necessarily feel like long form writing, but to a lot of people, you know, 6000 words.

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It's quite a lot.

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You know, it's about having the time to kind of develop argument and to kind of build on ideas, or is actually that the real challenge is,

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is it okay, how can I describe this really succinctly in a way that communicates why it matters as well?

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Absolutely.

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It's a really important skill and one that, you know, we forget when we are in the throes of writing reams and reams and reams of words, you know.

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Ninety thousand one hundred thousand words. It seems a few a few hundred

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It doesn't seem very much, but it's really important skill that I think, you know, when you do nothing but long writing, you can easily forget it.

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And it's one that you will absolutely carry forward with within your career, whatever career you go in to as well.

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You know, when you if you if you were going down the academic route, you'll be asked to submit abstracts in the future,

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you will be asked to submit journals which are shorter, you know, and you have to really tease out your your your key points.

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As you said, it needs to be crystallised and really clear with what you're doing.

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If you're not staying with academia, there are so many times working in business and in sales myself.

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There's been so many times I might have to be really concise with what I was saying.

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And I'm a waffle-r people listening to this or they can tell about it.

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It is a real skill, but that's. Absolutely.

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Anybody can benefit from. Obviously abstracts get chosen depending on what they want to go down.

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You've got lots of options for how people might want to creatively discuss their work.

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Again, you've then got the opportunity to expand out and maybe do a poster, maybe do a panel, maybe do a presentation.

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And again, these are all skills that you really, really do need practise.

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And so, you know, this is a great opportunity for people to do that.

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Yeah, for sure. And, you know, those those skills of articulation and summarising and kind of being able to talk about your research or being able to.

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Kind of communicate your research in a fewer amount of words, shall we say, and is an important skill,

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not just in kind of communicating with a broader kind of academic and non-academic audience, but also, you know, when it comes to your writing,

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when it comes to writing up, you aren't going to need to, even though you've got your 80 to 100 thousand words or, you know,

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whatever it is that you're aiming for, depending on what kind of research programme you're on, you're still going to need to be able to do that.

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You know, you've got an abstract to write, an introduction, a conclusion. You're going to need to make your argument clear throughout.

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That's a skill that's going to carry you through the written thesis as well.

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It's not just in kind of conference space research communication that that's useful.

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Absolutely. And I think the great thing when we've got to conference,

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which is just so cross disciplinary and I mean it feeds in to all areas of any work, you know, whether it's academic or not.

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That's, you know, and I'm we're coming in.

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It's been a few years now, but I think it's really prevalently been pushed quite heavily by research councils and organisations and so on,

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that we need to be demonstrating collaboration, demonstrating impact.

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And, you know, when you need to do that and often you have to work with different audiences and work into discipline or in an interdisciplinary way.

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Yes, I was going to say a bigger word. Make it short in an extraordinary way.

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And when you do that, it's actually, you know, if you're not speaking, even though you may be speaking to another academic,

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you have to be aware that actually, you know, that there are different languages, you know, across disciplines that people won't understand.

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So, again, when you're having to engage in writing abstracts and doing it for audiences,

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that may not be yorr direct discipline or area of thought or out to the organisation for developing skills that will enable you to.

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Explain what you're doing to anyone.

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Yes, rather than just that specific niche, that area that youre situated in.

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And I think that's really important as a said You know, when when we're looking more and more to to, you know, looking at grants,

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for example, or looking at, you know, working with other organisations, you have to do that.

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And it's not easy. I'm working in a collaborative, an interdisciplinary field.

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And it's not an easy process. So we need to develop those skills.

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So, again, these conferences provide that and especially one with, as I said,

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which such as ethics, the topic is already in the cross disciplinary setting.

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I wanted to also reflects on being involved in the organisation of a conference

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as a PhD student and what that's like and what kind of what you're gaining on,

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what you're learning from being kind of involved in that behind the scenes rather than just attending.

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This is an interesting one actually. I have never been involved in a conference before, so I really didn't know what to expect.

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I am I'm quite a busy individual and I was a little bit worried about how much time I needed to devote to this.

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And I would be wrong if I said that, you know, you didn't have to put time aside for it.

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And, you know, I'm I'm aware that different members of our team have varied responsibilities.

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And there are some who have more than others.

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So, you know, I think it's bearing and being I think coming to it being I was being really honest about what I could and couldn't do

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And I've been able to kind of extend extend that, you know,

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as I've got one of the more confident with that being being involved in the conference itself.

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Has been quite illuminating. And. illuminating a number of ways.

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One, I think I've been really bowled over by just how much stuff one can do,

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and I think you can make it complex, more complex and not simply depending to what you want to incorporate.

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And again, that depends on your team and the skills, I think, for this particular project.

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We again. Possibly because of the context of what we're talking about.

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We've really been able to expand. What is on offer and who can you who you can bring,

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what's in to the possibility of of the project which is extended and I've seen

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it grow and change in shifted in what we what we are looking to provide,

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what we can provide. You know, I. Great ideas. And I think that's been felt for me.

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What's been so interesting is learning from from everybody and kind of going over, you know, although that's not my role.

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I've seen what somebody else has done. And so that's really interesting.

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I never knew you could do that. I even down to programming. And a Microsoft Forms, for example, with all these skills.

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I hadn't actually used myself that I was being encouraged to use.

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It has been very useful for me. I think that that's been, you know,

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the greatest part and obviously being part of something which I'm quite passionate about and turning off with others as well.

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You are passionate about, about ethics in different ways.

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So, yeah, it's been I've I thoroughly enjoyed it.

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Thank you, Victoria, for taking the time to talk to me about all things.

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Conferences. If you're interested in finding out more about the research ethics conference that Victoria and I are on the committee for,

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I'm going to add a link to the  conference website in the show notes.

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But I hope that even though our conversation has been quite specific to this project we're involved in,

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it's inspired you to to take the plunge and to attend your first conference or submit your first abstract.

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And that's it for this episode. Don't forget to like, rate and subscribe and join me.

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Next time we'll be talking to somebody else about researchers development and everything in between.

 

 

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