I attended the 2023 SCDTP final year conference – and what a conference it was!

Date: 18/04/2023

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Author: Holly Radford

Bio: Holly is a part-time Psychology PhD student at the University of Portsmouth, researching nonverbal communication in autistic people.  She is particularly interested in facial expression use, first impressions, the Double Empathy Problem, and cross-neurotype communication between autistic and non-autistic people. Holly is also an Equality, Diversity and Inclusion representative for the SCDTP, and an Autism Ambassador for Autism Hampshire.

On 3rd February 2023 the ESRC South Coast Doctoral Training Partnership hosted its annual Final Year Conference, showcasing research conducted by final year PhD students.  Held online by the SCDTP final year conference committee, this delightful and well-organised event was an inclusive and accessible celebration of research.

What a way to start the special gathering! Before presentations began, Clinical Psychologist Dr Andrew Merwood invited us to take part in a short mindfulness activity, which was a welcome opportunity to practise the art of resting and being present in the moment. Then the day’s the speeches got under way. We first heard a lively introduction from SCDTP Director, Professor Athina Vlachantoni, followed by inspiring talks from keynote speakers Professor Phil Haynes and Professor Nils Niederstrasser.

The morning and afternoon sessions were divided so that addresses from each of the four thematic pathways (Citizenship, Governance and Security; Population Change, Health and Wellbeing; Sustainability, Environment and Resilience; and Learning, Knowledge and Behaviour) ran concurrently, in order for attendees to be able to move between breakout rooms to see presentations across different pathways.

Personally, in my role as SCDTP Equality, Diversity and Inclusion champion, I was pleased to observe that a great amount of the research presented dealt with themes relating to social justice, equity, inequalities, participation, and inclusion, and spanned areas which were topical, such as sustainability, reproductive justice, energy justice, neurodivergence, disability, mental health and wellbeing, and LGBTQ inclusivity.  The recommendations made by the presenters, the applications suggested, and further directions for research inspired hope for positive progress and social change.

I’m pleased to say that I came away from 2023 SCDTP final year conference thinking about how some of these issues intersected with, and could contribute to my own PhD research, about how some of the methods described could be used for my own data collection, and with a greater insight into areas outside of my own of specialism.  I left feeling an overwhelming sense of pride; pride in the committee who did such an exceptional job of organising and hosting the event, pride in my fellow PhD colleagues who delivered such high-quality presentations, and pride in being part of such an encouraging, supportive, and aspirational cohort.


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