Discovering Open Practices

“Discovering open practices” is a one day conference and workshop for Postgraduate Research Students and Early Career Researchers and will take place on the 4th September 2014. It is co-hosted by King’s College London, LSE and Queen Mary University of London Libraries and will take place at the Strand Campus. The aim of this event is to introduce a practical knowledge of open access and open practices to postgraduate research students and early career researchers from across the three institutions.

The day will introduce concepts and themes around open research and the open agenda, provide practical help in engaging with open access to research information, and investigate some of the broader topics relating to open access that researchers need to consider.  We have some great speakers lined up, including Cameron Neylon and Caroline Edwards, as well as practical workshops on the themes of open access, research data sharing and enhancing impact via openness for early stage researchers. The event is funded by the EU FOSTER project, more details here:

We have 35 tickets for King’s postgraduate research students and early career researches for this free event. Book your place at

If you have any questions about this event, please contact Lynne Meehan ( ext. 1987)

Preparing for the Viva

As if the PhD itself wasn’t hard enough, once you’ve navigated the precarious road of relationships with your supervisor, experiments that don’t work as expected, reluctant interviewees and the despair of writing up, you have to face the viva.

What is the viva?

The viva voce (literally: live voice, or by the living voice) is an oral examination whereby your PhD work is examined by two examiners, usually specialists in the field selected by you and your supervisor.  You can, and are expected to, take your thesis into the examination with you (it is not a “closed book” exam in the traditional sense) and you engage in a debate with your examiners where they will try to establish some of the following:

  1. Firstly and most importantly, that it is your work and that you wrote the thesis.  This may sound obvious but until the viva, they have no hard evidence that your supervisor didn’t write the thesis for you.  You will be expected to show good knowledge of what you’ve written and your way around the thesis.
  2. The level of originality and whether this makes a PhD.
  3. Your knowledge of the literature – including whether anything has been published in the field recently.  So keeping up to date with the literature right up to the date of the viva is important.
  4. Why you chose to do the research in the way that you did.  You will need to be able to justify your research methods but also show that you considered other alternative approaches and why you dismissed them.
  5. Where the research could go in the future, and, if you were going to continue doing research, where you would like to take it and how.

The viva is seen as being an intimidating event.  In every university there are bad stories circulating about so-and-so’s viva which went on for 10 hours, was absolutely gruelling and then he / she was failed outright at the end.  The reality is that the majority of vivas are not anything like this but because they continue to happen behind closed doors, no-one is ever certain what they are really like.

What to expect

  • Most vivas last between 2 and 3 hours.  Mine took 2.5 hours (fairly average) but my best friend’s took 45 minutes (which is really unusual).
  • An academic debate.  If you have chosen your examiners carefully and in discussion with your supervisor then you should be able to have a robust and engaging academic debate.  Only if you chose your examiners badly and set yourself up with someone who feels threatened by you and your research will you be likely to end with a bad experience where you feel attacked.
  • Your supervisor will not be able to participate.  You can ask for your supervisor to attend the viva to watch but they are not allowed to participate or communicate during the viva in any way.  Some university regulations allow for an “independent chair” of the viva who’s key role is to ensure that the examiners follow the university’s procedures and rules.  In other universities, it is assumed that this role will be taken by the internal examiner.
  • You will have one internal examiner and one external examiner.  The colleges of the federal University of London specify that the internal examiner must come from another college and that the external examiner must be from an institution outside of the University of London.  So it does vary.  Check your institution’s requirements.
  • The examiners will tell you whether you have passed and degree of corrections required at the end of the viva.  You will also be told how long you have to do the corrections, whether a resubmission is required etc and this will then be followed up in writing.

Familiarise yourself with the university’s regulations on vivas and postgraduate research degrees so that you know more of what to expect – particularly in terms of the variety of outcomes from the viva.

Make sure you have discussed the viva with your supervisor.  S/he should have some thoughts on areas that are likely to come up and questions that your examiners might raise.

Find a training course to prepare you for the viva and ask your supervisor to organise a mock viva, with colleagues from your department.  Practicing the viva will help with nerves and give you an idea of questions that might come up.

You can also complete the Preparing for the Viva online course as part of the Graduate School’s Researcher Development Programme (access is through KEATS with a KCL username and password).

This is a guest post by Dr. Fiona Denney – Graduate School, King’s College London

Do you want to put science in the headlines?

If you do then the British Science Association Media Fellowships are for you.

Experience first-hand how science is reported by spending 3-6 weeks on a summer placement with a print, broadcast or online journalist such as the Guardian, The Times or BBC.

You will work with them to produce well informed, newsworthy pieces about developments in science. Come away better equipped to communicate your research to the media, public and your colleagues. You will develop communication skills that could help you produce concise and engaging articles and funding applications.

For details about the scheme, including eligibility and online application form, visit our webpage.

Application deadline: 16 March 2014

Training the Trainer

The Researcher Development Unit within the Graduate School would like to offer post-docs the opportunity to be trained to design and deliver training courses, leading to the possibility of being paid to deliver training courses for the Researcher Development Unit.

Previous participants on this programme have used the teaching experience gained through to work towards teaching qualifications and to gain lectureship positions, leading to this programme being shortlisted for the Times Higher Education Award for Outstanding Support for Early Career Researchers in November 2013.

Due to the popularity of this opportunity and the limited number of places that we can offer, places will be allocated through an application process (please see below for details).

Training the Trainers course
Thursday 6th March (full day) AND Thursday 20th March (half day) This interactive practice-based training course will provide participants with the teaching and presentation skills that they need to design and deliver their own training courses. This course is open to all post-docs, regardless of whether or not they would be interested in delivering training courses for the Researcher Development Unit.

Delivering Training Courses
Subject to successful completion of the Training the Trainers course, post-docs can apply to deliver training courses for the Researcher Development Unit. Post-doc trainers would be mentored by an experienced trainer throughout the process and would be paid £50 per hour of training delivery time.

Further information
Please contact Anna Price on or on ext. 3914 for further information on the Training the Trainers Course and/ or regarding delivering training courses.

Application Deadline: Friday 7th Feb

Click here to apply for a place on this course.

The 7 secrets of highly successful research students

Delivered by Hugh Kearns, Flinders University

What do research higher degree (RHD) students do to finish on time, to overcome isolation, doubt and writer’s block, and to enjoy the process? And just as importantly what do they do in order to spend guilt-free time with their family and friends and perhaps even have holidays? If this sounds appealing, then this session will be of particular use to you.
This workshop describes the key habits that our research and experience with thousands of students’ shows will make a difference to how quickly and easily you complete your RHD. Just as importantly, these habits can greatly reduce the stress and increase the pleasure involved in completing a RHD.

The workshop helps you to understand how to increase your effectiveness and outcomes in the following key areas:

  • How you deal with your supervisor
  • How you structure your study time
  • Your attitude (or lack thereof!) in relation to your research
  • Dealing with writer’s block or having difficulty writing
  • Getting the help you need when you are stuck
  • Juggling multiple commitments and never having enough time
  • Keeping going when the going gets tough

Who is it for? Research students at any point in their candidature.

Book via Skills Forge at: (the course code is PGR237).