The Vitae Conference was at the start of last week, and I was in attendance to promote Non-Zero-Sum to as many people as possible. Given that the project doesn’t have a definite output yet (since it has only just been announced) it was surprising to see how many people wanted to talk about it, and how many people were really interested and offered their advice and input. It was also really good to make some contacts for when it comes to playtesting the resources early in the New Year.
From everything that I’ve been describing thus far, you might be forgiven for thinking that the Vitae Conference was put on purely to give me a chance to network! There is more to it than that though, I assure you!
Primarily, the conference is there to report on developments in the community of people engaged in supporting research in UK HEIs, and also to offer a chance for people to share best practice. There are huge developments and rumblings of what’s going to happen now that the Roberts money is being discontinued; with the Roberts agenda still seen as essential for developing research talent, the big question on everyone’s lips is “what do we do when the money runs out?” At times there was a bit of a resigned atmosphere about all of this, that the only way through it all was going to be hard choices (without spelling out what those choices would be).
There was optimism though: since the Roberts agenda has been so successful, and the results of that have thus far been so fruitful, it seems only right that researchers continue to be engaged with great and innovative tools. Two of the workshops that I went to on the second day emphasised some great ways to tap into that. The first was an impact session on enterprise schools, and what they have been doing for researchers; the enterprise schools look to be an interesting evolution of the more traditional GRADschool models, and for researchers who are interested in those kinds of activities they can be a valuable thing to engage with.
The second was a demonstration session on something that I’ve been hearing about for a while now, but not seen in action: Pecha kucha. The first thing I learned about these five minute, twenty slide talks is that the concept is not pronounced the way that you think! The second thing I learned is that they could be a really valuable presentation method to offer up to researchers. Far from being a novelty, they could be a blessing, especially in terms of public engagement activities – a five minute talk, using picture heavy slides, presented well could be amazing for talking about one’s research. I think there is also a place for them in general within the research environment: quarterly seminar sessions by all of the members of a research group, outlining reports to meetings – if everyone (from highest ranking professor to newest first year PhD) is working within the same constraints for presenting then all can be opened up to both creativity and presenting their material in an accessible way.
I’m looking for opportunities to use pecha kucha in work, and also looking around to see if there are any events near where I live so I can see them in action. That’s the main thing about conferences and events like the Vitae Conference: it’s great to meet people, see what they do, tell them what you do, and then just talk and see what happens.
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