Four go (research) mad at a Festival in Bath

Ellen Hedstrom is an SCDTP-funded student doing a PhD in Psychology at the University of Southampton, and is part of the Population Change, Health and Wellbeing Thematic Cluster Pathway. Her PhD will examine resilience and vulnerability in displaced children, with a focus on parenting. Other research interest include neuropsychiatric disorders in children. Ellen is one of the editors of the SCDTP blog.

On the 4th July 2018, a mix of academics, professionals and students descended on Bath University to take part in the 8th NCRM Research Methods Festival (RMF) – a three day event offering a range of seminars on both qualitative and quantitative research methods.  While the word festival might be a slight misnomer, each of the seminars offered short, snappy presentations with lots of time for lively debate and extra-curricular activities offered attendees time to explore the city of Bath while networking with colleagues.

For first-time attendees and SCDTP-funded postgraduate students, it offered an insight into how research methods can be applied not only in academia, but also to other areas such as banking.

As a first-year PhD student who has just finished a grounded theory-led qualitative study, I was pleased at the selection of lectures discussing reflexivity in qualitative research. In addition, as an avid user of Twitter in a professional capacity, the ability to create networks and follow research that can be of use to me was great.

The festival was equally appreciated by other members of the SCDTP who share their experiences:

“Have I just blown your tiny little mind?” – Dr Helen Kara. Yes Helen, yes you have. As a quantitative researcher, creative methods could not feel more foreign to me; rather like a distant artistic dream. Oh how the tables that embody my perspective have turned. The sheer possibility that I could disseminate my research through poems, plays or even comics astounded me. Creative methods uphold a powerful nature, which can capture us, engage our minds and deepen our understanding. And so, I was sold. These qualities will not only help me reach wider audiences but could also be a personal therapeutic tool which releases me from the realm of objectivity. My quantitative roots strongly remain, but the experience has certainly planted an innovative seed.  Alice Oliver, 1+3 student

Echoing Alice’s excitement about the use of creative methods, I thought it was great to see how accepting mainstream academia is of these innovations in research methods and dissemination techniques. Following an interesting session from Dr Daniel McCulloch of the Open University, I am encouraged to develop my use of photo-elicitation techniques for my masters dissertation in order to ‘give voice’ to participants. I also intend to try out other creative methods to generate knowledge during my PhD. One such method I saw at the festival uses theatre. In the most affecting presentation for me, a report on a project using Participatory Action Research involving theatre showed how this technique can generate new knowledge and insight into social exclusion of marginalised groups. This technique, coupled with the transformative agenda of the research team, that of trying to change policy around ‘No Recourse to Public Funds’ for migrant communities, showed me what a powerful tool research can be for social change. You can learn more about the project here Ben Thomas, 1+3 student


Professor Donna Mertens’ keynote talk on the second day was a particular highlight as ‘wicked problems’ were the central theme – a concept that has fascinated me since I first heard of it less than a year ago when I had assumed they must have something to do with specific world leaders! Wicked problems “cannot be solved, only managed”, and include climate change, biodiversity loss, global poverty, rising numbers of refugees and more – so specific world leaders do have a part to play after all. Throughout the talk, Professor Mertens ensured the information was accessible by discussing transformative epistemology, axiology, ontology, the role of courage and the various power relationships at play, which often feature between the researcher and the participant. Overall, it was refreshing to hear how compassion has shaped and played such a huge part in her research. Ruth Buckley-Salmon, PhD student

It seems as if the RMF had something to offer everyone and even avid football fans did not have to miss out as the World Cup was being played both during the reception dinner on the first night as well as in the campus bar. Leaving the festival I feel like I have definitely added a few very useful additions to my toolkit and can’t wait to attend the next RMF.

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