Yesterday I had the great pleasure of not only presenting at our Health and Life Sciences  student-led conference, but also of being part of the organising committee. I was invited to join the committee as a representative of the social sciences and non-laboratory health sciences students within our faculty, to ensure that the content of the conference would be appropriate for all students. The theme for this year’s conference was ‘the impact of PhD research’.

I was given a number of responsibilities, including recruiting reviewers for social sciences abstracts, finding a suitable keynote speaker for the social sciences strand of the conference, chairing the social sciences strand of the conference and performing housekeeping announcements alongside my fellow organisers. Having no prior experience of this sort of responsibility, I wasn’t sure where to begin. I chose to start by searching Twitter and the internet more widely for academics with experience of both research impact and the social sciences disciplines and was very lucky to come across Dr Claire Donovan.

Claire is a Reader in Science and Technology studies at Brunel University. She has conducted pioneering work in cross-disciplinary research on research evaluation, policy and the wider impact of research on society. Of particular note is her work as Chair of the Australian Government’s Technical Working Group on Research Impact – this work would later go on to influence the ‘impact’ strand of the REF here in the UK. Claire’s session was an introductory workshop on impact, and was so popular that all students attended, not just the social sciences. Claire’s session was really interesting and very practically useful – you can take a look at her prezi here. It really made me contemplate how my research will have impact (something that I am currently building a separate blog post for!).

One of the biggest takeaways for me personally, was the wonderful variety of topics covered within our faculty. In the social sciences strand alone we explored:

  • The social and psychological effects of HIV diagnosis (Christos Daramilas)
  • The impact of ethical and legal responsibility in emergency nursing (Alfonso Rubio Navarro)
  • The impact of a Clinical Leadership Programme (Susan Sloan)

This diverse mix of PhD topics, along with the experience of working with other students across the faculty to organise the conference itself, has shown me that there can be great value in working across disciplines. It creates opportunities for finding the commonalities, differences and learning from one another.

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