CREST and GuildHE played host to PhD candidates and Early Career Researchers from across the CREST network at the first CREST Summer School. Developed by the CREST Research Leads, the event focused on how – and why – researchers engage with audiences beyond the academy. 27 research students and staff with leadership potential spent the three days learning how to design collaborative projects (spurred on by Paul Manners from the NCCPE); discussing research projects with potential collaborators (including the Crafts and Design Councils, UnLtd and the Young Foundation); thinking about how to better disseminate research (with representatives from Taylor & Francis and Routledge); and reflecting on research skills (with Vitae).
Participants also visited the British Library to talk about their current HE initiatives and collections, and spent an afternoon at the Wellcome Trust and Collections learning about their various funding programmes, and designing potential collaborative projects that were then pitched to Wellcome staff. Dr Brian Lobel from the University of Chichester, who is currently a Wellcome Trust Public Engagement Fellow, spoke at the Summer School dinner, offering advice – both practical and inspirational – on what is possible when you think creatively about the different audiences for research.
The response to the Summer School has been extremely positive and constructive, from all parties. The Wellcome Trust were extremely impressed with the ideas generated for collaborative projects focusing on the medical humanities, society and ethics and public engagement: they wrote to say that they ‘weren’t quite sure how things would play out, but we came out on a high!…Thanks very much for bringing such an engaged and interesting group.’ The British Library wrote that ‘Diversity in the research landscape is really important and we would love to be part of any such events and conversations.’ As for the participants, one student offered the following insight:
Those two days were full of innovative ideas that made me rethink the way in which I approach my research and understand it. It also opened up new horizons of thinking productively beyond the PhD itself, and more into public engagement, which I personally found a vital issue to conduct.
Another wrote to say:
I took something valuable from each session – I’ve just created an action list for myself from my notes! – but most of all I am very grateful to have had the chance to present my work in this context, to hear of others’ interests and to discuss common research concerns and strategies in this informal and welcoming interdisciplinary setting. I have come away with new colleagues to keep in touch with; new resources to use; and new ideas about the way I approach my work.
A number of initiatives are currently under discussion following on from the Summer School, including Policy Internships at the British Library and Wellcome Trust for CREST member PhD students, and a number of collaborative projects, research seminars and networks are now under development. The CREST Network Coordinator and the Research, Communications and Events Officer are currently writing a blog about the event and the benefits of researchers thinking – and working – collaboratively. This will also include references to the abstracts created by participants, showing the wide range of disciplines represented at the Summer School…so do watch this space!