On Thursday 9 April 2020 we held our inaugural virtual BISA event which took the form of a PGN meet up with around 20 participants. The meeting provided a check-in point for our PGN members where we could share experiences, concerns and tips with people in similar positions.
Our top tips
We started with top tips for working and researching from home, and looking after mental health. The top tips included:
- Map out your day with realistic targets
- Make lists
- Find something to look forward to each day
- Set up a daily meeting open to all postgraduate researchers in your dept so that everyone has a check in point
- Set up a virtual writing space
- Change your environment when you finish work or study e.g. mood lighting, scented candles
- Check in with your supervisor and other colleagues – they may be struggling too
- Try not to worry if you do have some unproductive time. We are in the middle of a global crisis after all!
- Listen to audible versions of journal articles - Taylor and Francis offer this as an example
- Remove yourself from situations where people are giving unhelpful advice
- Mental health websites
Conducting virtual research interviews
One participant was able to give some good advice on conducting research interviews virtually. It turns out this can actually be easier in terms of logistics – no travel or meeting space required, and slots can be arranged at short notice. However, when conducting virtual interviews it’s important to build rapport and empathise with your participants. Make sure to ask about the situation in their area. You’ll also need to think about how the current crisis might affect your results, for example people are generally more anxious.
It’s always reassuring when others share your concerns and can certainly make you feel less alone. Some of the main concerns from our PGN members were:
- Mixed messages from departments and university administration. For example, it can seem disingenuous if on the one hand your employer is saying take care and don’t worry, but actually they still expect the same level of productivity
- It seemed that many teaching assistants are receiving little help with the transition to online teaching
- There were concerns about funding and deadline extensions and a range of results when these had been asked for.
Finally, we had a brief discussion about the current crisis might affect the discipline going forward. Gender, security and border issues were all mentioned, but the biggest concern for our members was job prospects.