ESRC Final Year Student Conference

ESRC Final Year Student Conference, Oxford, 17th April 2015

Report by Kate Wicker (Sociology Pathway, University of Leeds)

Oxf-uni-mus-nhTargeted at final year students, this one day conference was held at the University of Oxford. It is an annual event that focuses on the topics of careers, applying for research funding, and research communication. A drinks reception was held the night before at Oxford’s Natural History Museum. Following introductions, the conference started with a talk from Professor Danny Dorling who demonstrated the use of data visualisation in his research on inequality.

Participants attended two workshops during the day. One was on career strategies, and included presentations from people in diverse professions including the private sector (e.g. Google), the public sector (e.g. the Department for Transport) and university administration as well as academia. The workshop highlighted the range of skills gained from doing a PhD including problem solving, policy relevance and dissemination. The second workshop was on a choice of topics including communicating research, using longitudinal data and researcher development. The workshop on communicating research for example explored and advised on the multiple ways by which PhD researchers can achieve impact. It also discussed tips for communicating effectively: for example the importance, when dealing with the media, of delivering key messages and achieving relevance within tight time constraints.

Part of the day focused on the topic of research funding. This included a presentation from the ESRC that outlined current funding priorities, including the synthesis of existing research and the use of administrative data and well as tips for successful research applications, including knowing your funding source and discussing applications with ‘critical friends’. This presentation was followed by a workshop in which participants took on the role of grants reviewers and made mock funding decisions.

The day was dotted with breaks during which participants were able to meet other students, talk with presenters and view each others’ posters. In addition, there were exhibits from organisations including the National Centre for Research Methods, the UK Data Service and the Centre for Longitudinal Studies. The day closed with a drinks reception.