Getting Your Voice Heard. Our Challenge to You!

Written by Dr Kathy Barrett, University Lead for Research Staff Development 

Is there anyone out there who does not want to be heard?  As an academic finding a way to engage others with your work is vital.  When we sit in a research seminar listening to an eloquent and illuminating speaker we typically enjoy the experience so much more than we do with those who haven’t quite mastered the art.  When we read a beautifully crafted description of research, be it a paper, monograph or book, we derive almost as much pleasure from the writing as we do from the content.  My experience of such papers, and yes, even as a scientist I have read some like this, is that I have instantly wanted to meet the author. How many of us wish that we could be that speaker or writer!

The Research Staff Event 2017 is all about finding the secret to effective communication, with fellow academics about your research, with others within the university setting about how we work together and with the wider world about the work we do and the benefits of that work to society.  There will be workshops at the event addressing a wide variety of areas and modes of communication.  There will be something to suit all, and also to explore new methods that could be your key to unlocking the door to more effective communication and new audiences.

To add an extra challenge and enhance your opportunity to put your learning into practice we are including a competition for the best communication produced on the day.  The challenge is to produce an example of communication that gets the message across succinctly and effectively.  In the afternoon workshops we invite you to work towards producing this example.  It could be a series of tweets, a blog, a film, a written text, a busk, a public address, a film or anything else that can be submitted and viewed in two minutes or less.

The criteria for judging your competition entries are that your communication piece be engaging, informative and compulsive.  Judging will happen at the event by our panel of experts and prizes awarded to the winning team.  After the event we will upload all competition entries onto the event website so you can all view them.  We may even run a people’s choice version!

Workshop places are limited.  To ensure that you are able to submit an entry in your preferred medium, register for the Research Staff Event and your choice of workshop now!  Deadline for registration is 10am on Wednesday 23rd August.

After the event we will be offering up to £2,000 through our King’s Community Fund for projects aimed at getting your voice as research staff heard within King’s.  This could be, for example but not limited to, research into how we communicate, events or policy making.  More information about the fund and a workshop on internal communication that will be held before the application deadline will be posted after the Research Staff Event on our website and in our newsletter.

The King’s Collaborator Locator (KoLo) – Summer Roundup

Written by Dr K. Faith Lawrence, Departments of Digital Humanities & Liberal Arts, Dr Arna van Engelen, Department of Biomedical Engineering & Dr Alan Brailsford, Department of Pharmacy and Forensic Science

The KoLo project envisioned the creation of a lightweight site which King’s staff could use to find others with similar research or professional interests, supporting knowledge exchange and collaboration. This was an ambitious aim, especially given the commercial development costs of these types of applications.

For all of us involved in this project it has been a learning experience, one that we have relished and which is not over yet. When we submitted our application after the first Research Staff event, we were just three people from three different departments who had just happened to be in the same event session and had ended up gathered around the same post-it note. While all of us had experience working collaboratively on projects, none of us had experience leading a project of this type. We learned to things very quickly – you need to be inventive (and lucky) with the budgeting and your timetable will get thrown off by events that you can’t control.

We were able to put in a successful bid because of the support that we received from outside our immediate team: the King’s Digital Lab, who we planned to work with on the hosting and backend development, were interested enough in our project that they were willing to put some of their own resources into the development, covering the difference between their normal quote and the amount that we had available, and the Department of Digital Humanities and the Faculty of Arts and Humanities who both offered funding for the project, which allowed us to lower the amount that we were applying for from the King’s Community Fund.

One of the principles of the Community Fund was that you needed to minimise the effect on your normal daily work. The King’s Digital Lab was able to take on the back-end development and hosting but we couldn’t afford for them to also take on the front-end development. This meant trying to work out ways to get more people involved without increasing our budget. Our answer came in the form of some really great student interns, to whom we are very grateful for all their hard work: MA students from the Department of Digital Humanities: Silvia Corbara, who lead on front-end design and workflow, Meizhi Wei and Jiachen Cui, who were involved with design and headed the front-end development, and our KURF research Fellow Phillip Sakellarios, a BA Geography student, who is working on HTML development and data analytics.

Where are we now? We have the basic data model and webpage designs that we will use for the prototype, we received our ethics approval (Ref: LRS-16/17-4992) which means that we can use real data, we have a back-end system based on the datamodel waiting for the front-end to be ready, we ran a small workshop for our developers going over how to use JavaScript so they create the connection between the front and back ends and we have started creating the pages based on the designs. We have also had expressions of interest from our project from people across the university who have expressed interest in the project, some of whom have been collecting data with similar idea in mind.

The project, or at least this stage, will be over soon and, for some of us in the project team, the end of our time at King’s as well. We hope, before we go, to leave the seed to something bigger which will be of use to research staff, academics, professional services staff and all the people at the university who might find something great when chance meetings happen to throw them together around a (digital) post-it.

 

People in this Country have had enough of Experts

Written by Dr Amy Birch, Research Staff Development Consultant 

Whatever you think of this quote, it’s undeniable that public scorn of ‘facts’ has had a major influence in policy and voting over the last few years. And yet, more academics are engaging with policymakers and MPs than ever before. We’re part of the initial discussion but never make it to the final argument and decision-making process. This, in part, has to do with the significant differences in communication in the academic field and political sphere – often we perceive that ‘selling something’ is a way of lying or manipulating facts whereas policy-makers are frustrated by academics relying on facts and data rather than giving their opinion. But persuasive arguments and good oratory need to appeal to both our rational and emotional side.

Learning how to debate can teach you skills that you may not be able to learn anywhere else – not just how to construct an argument, but how to think on your feet (and change your argument on the hoof), respect your audience, gauge emotion, and how to be persuasive and amiable (but not patronising). It will improve your public speaking skills and your ability to answer questions under pressure – something all academics have experience of! Not only that, but it encourages you to see the both sides of each argument as you can often be debating for a position that you personally oppose.

In the Research Staff Event on 5th September, you will get a unique opportunity to learn and practise your debating skills on a topic that can have a valid and significant impact on your life at King’s. We have chosen the topic ‘This house believes that King’s listens to its research staff’ to give you the opportunity to voice a reasoned argument about what you believe King’s are doing well to support research staff and also present arguments about what King’s can do to improve their support of research staff. This will be a debate amongst your peers – but we encourage you to use this opportunity to be open about your experiences and give constructive, reasoned opinions about what we can do better. Over the last year, the Centre for Research Staff Development have worked hard to support you with your professional development at King’s – by taking part in this debate you can let us know how we’re doing and what more we can do.

Participating in this debate will help you see the power of using rational, reasoned arguments and compelling evidence. It can instil a sense of poise and confidence and learn the skills of researching, organising, and presenting information in a compelling fashion. It will help you develop effective speech composition and delivery, and is an excellent skill to gain as a future leader.

For more information, please check out our Research Staff Event website and register to take part!

What to Expect at the Research Staff Event 2017

Written by Nudrat Siddiqui, Research Staff Development Officer

Getting your voice heard and understood is a fundamental part of life for most of us. As a research staff member, it couldn’t be more essential as your ideas, views, and the research you are undertaking will not only leave an imprint on King’s, but also on communities and societies across the UK and beyond. The Centre for Research Staff Development is delighted to welcome you to the Research Staff Event 2017, an event dedicated to inspire you to express your views and expertise creatively and effectively in a broad range of contexts.

What can you expect at the Event?

  • Keynote talks on various topics including historical contributions that researchers at King’s have made to society and how their voices were successfully and less successfully heard and how experts and universities are responding to the current post-truth climate in which individuals and groups that are most effective at misleading are often the ones to come out triumphant.
  • Workshops that will encourage you to consider different areas that you can apply your voice in, including ensuring that research staff are represented in communications across King’s, public engagement, consultancies and entrepreneurship, building your academic profile, and debates.
  • Workshops that will help you grasp novel skills to express your views and knowledge in a variety of ways, including using social media, writing for non-expert audiences, film, public speaking, and creative channels, such as competitions, fairs, festivals and busking.
  • At the core of the event will be a debate on the motion: This House Believes that King’s Listens to its Research Staff.  One team will debate for the motion, while another team will debate against it. If you don’t sign up to participate in the debate, you will still have the opportunity to view the debate as a member of the audience and ask the debating teams questions.
  • Working with colleagues from across disciplines to test your newfound communication skills gained in workshops to create an entry for the Event competition and enter the running for the competition prizes.

Why should you attend the Event?

  • It will offer you novel perspectives on areas you can promote your voice in using tools and communication streams you might not have considered before.
  • It will allow you to learn ways to amplify the collective voice of you and your colleagues as King’s research staff community.
  • It will hone your existing skills and allow you to gain new transferable, communication skills that you’ll be able to apply to whatever career path you pursue.
  • You will have the opportunity to build your network by meeting colleagues from different disciplines and engaging with professional services staff from various departments at King’s to find out how they can support you.
  • To break up your day-to-day routine and have fun! With the chance to mingle with new friends and potential future collaborators over lunch, participate in (or observe) an exciting debate, and challenge your skills in the competition, this event will offer something of value for everyone, no matter what your strengths or interests may be.

Learn more about the event and register here. The deadline to register is 10am on 23rd August. Workshops will be filled on a first come, first serve basis so you are encouraged to register early to get a place in your choice of workshops.

In case you need additional incentive to attend, here are some highlights from last year’s event to give you a taste of the enjoyable and stimulating day that we have lined up for you.