Welcome to the nineteenth edition of the White Rose Social Sciences DTC newsletter; “DTC Matters”.
The White Rose Doctoral Training Centre was launched in November 2011. Read more
This newsletter is issued quarterly and includes NEWS AND EVENTS, TRAINING AND DEVELOPMENT OPPORTUNITIES, PATHWAY NEWS, ESRC NEWS and FEEDBACK ON FEEDBACK. If you would like to submit an article for a future edition of DTC Matters or provide feedback on any of the featured articles, go to ‘News’ and click ‘New Article +’ button
WRDTC 6th Annual Conference, 29 June 2017, University of Sheffield
The sixth Annual Conference of the White Rose DTC took place on 29th June 2017 at University of Sheffield. The theme of the conference was ‘Interdisciplinarity in a changing world: methods, challenges and opportunities’.
The conference was attended by nearly 150 PhD students from the universities of Sheffield, Leeds and York. Attendees from Leeds and York travelled on coaches to reach the venue and join their Sheffield-based colleagues for the day.
It was a packed programme of talks as well as an opportunity for delegates to meet the new White Rose Doctoral Training Partnership (WRDTP) Pathway Directors at one of the 7 Interdisciplinary Themed Pathway sessions.
The White Rose Doctoral Training Partnership Pathway Transition Exercise
We would like to thank all our ESRC current students for participating in the ESRC WRDTC/WRDTP Pathway Transition Exercise.
The new White Rose Doctoral Training Partnership (WRDTP) builds on the success of the existing White Rose Doctoral Training Centre (Universities of Sheffield, York and Leeds) by bringing in the social sciences research excellence of the Universities of Hull, Sheffield Hallam, Bradford and Manchester Metropolitan.
The new WRDTP offers doctoral training in 7 interdisciplinary themed pathways, that enables doctoral researchers to articulate how their PhDs contribute to wider societal challenges through the following training opportunities:
- Annual Easter school – bringing you together with other doctoral researchers for intense methods training and cohort building activities
- Staff/student-led seminar series – introducing you to cutting-edge research in your Pathway from leading academics in your field with speakers invited from within and beyond the DTP
- Four annual cohort engagement events tailored to suite your training needs (workshops, seminars, reading groups etc)
TrainERGY News: Training in Italy
Five staff and students from Sheffield had the opportunity to take part in a trans-European training (with mixed participants from universities and industry) on energy efficient operations organized by the University of Naples Federico II in Naples, Italy during 15-19 May 2017. This training comes under the framework of the ERASMUS+ funded project (TrainERGY) for which Prof Lenny Koh is PI for the University of Sheffield.
Morag TL T Rose
Sheffield PhD student, Morag Rose, recently won the national 2017 Charles Mayer Living Streets Award.Details here.
York Graduate wins research impact prize
Former student Dr Harriet Thompson has been awarded the Outstanding Early Career Impact prize from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) for her research into fuel poverty. She carried out the research while studying for her PhD in York’s Department of Social Policy and Social Work. Find out more about her research here.
York Student wins 3 Minute Thesis
Third year ESRC student, Jet Sanders (Psychology), won the University of York internal 3 Minute Thesis competition earlier this month and will be going on to participate in the national semi-final in mid-July.
The University of York’s 3-Minute Thesis competition is one of the University’s best events. Ten PhD students from different disciplines, receive training to present their work clearly and concisely to a non-specialist audience.
Jet said: “I loved taking part in York Falling Walls Lab. It pushed me to become a better speaker through the University’s support and inspiration that other amazing speakers in the competition provided. I am truly honoured to have been given the opportunity to represented the University of York at the international finals.”
WRDTC Socio-legal and Legal PGR Conference 2017: ‘Law and justice in a post-truth society’ University of Sheffield
The 2nd annual WRDTC PGR Legal and Socio-legal conference was held on 20th April. This year it was hosted by the School of Law at the University of Sheffield. The conference was held for the first time last year at the University of Leeds and the idea to hold a PGR conference across the White Rose Doctoral Training centres was masterminded by first year students(now second year students) at the WRDTC PGR induction day held at Sheffield United’s home ground. A cohort of socio-legal PHD students felt that beside the induction day there would be limited opportunities for the PGR’s across the White Rose DTC’s. The aim of the establishing a WRDTC post-grad conference was to ensure the fostering of academic research and knowledge exchange across the universities (Leeds, Sheffield and York) whilst providing an excellent chance for PGR’s to present in a constructive and supportive environment.
The conference is a free full-day event open to all PGRs, Masters students and academics alike. First years are especially encouraged to submit an abstract, but all PGRs are welcome to present (and several do). The conference is open to all postgraduate research students from the, regardless of funding.
This year’s event was organised by a committee formed of one PGR committee member from last year and new members from across the PGR cohort at the Law school in Sheffield and was very successful.
The day started with an introductory talk by Prof Robert Burrell who welcomed the participants and discussed academic research in a post-truth society and the importance that academic research reaches beyond the confines of university towers. In total ten presenters from across the universities presented their papers over the course of the day. There were three panels, entitled: Terrorism and International Crime; Human Rights and Themes in International Law and; Victimisation and Vulnerability. We had some really stimulating first year papers which included: ‘The Postcolonial queer: Analysing Race, Sexuality and Gender in International Human Rights Law’; ‘Eradicating terrorist exploitation of cyberspace through the principle of due diligence’; ‘Diversity or Disorder? Promoting neurodiversity through police partnership’ and; ‘Hidden Victims; An Exploration of Male Same-Sex Domestic Abuse’. Attendees were also treated to an interesting and engaging paper ‘Offenders and victims: what do they see as good justice?’ by the University of Sheffield’s Edward Bramley Professor of Criminal Justice Joanna Shapland.
There were numerous opportunities throughout the course of the day to converse and discuss participants and attendees research and exchange ideas and advice. The day concluded with a well-deserved wine reception.
Next year it is the University of York’s turn to host the conference!
AREC Event in Brussels
On the 27th of June 2017 AREC and WRB organized a very successful event entitled “PATHWAY TO GLOBAL POLICY, INDUSTRY AND SOCIETAL IMPACT ON RESOURCE EFFICIENCY AND SUSTAINABILITY ” which was hosted by John Procter (MEP) at the European Parliament, Brussels, Belgium. Read more
SUMMER (Sheffield University Mixed Methods Education & Research) Event at SUMS (Sheffield University Management School), 15th June 2017.
Researchers are good at gap-spotting and that’s just what a group of Doctoral Researchers did recently at Sheffield University Management School when they founded the SUMMER (Sheffield University Mixed Methods Education & Research) network. As part of the network, the project team successfully gained funds from the Sheffield Methods Institute to run a one day event to fill the gap existing currently in mixed methods training at postgraduate level.
The event took place on 15th June 2017 at Sheffield University Management School – in fact the event had to move to a bigger venue due to overwhelming demand from PhD students across the White Rose Consortium desperate to attend!
The event was divided into three parts:
1) Philosophical debates around using mixed methods (Dr. Sanjay Lanka – University of Sheffield and Prof. Sven Modell-The University of Manchester).
2) Research design and best practice in data collection using mixed methods (Prof. Jane Seymour – University of Sheffield and Dr. Pallavi Singh- Sheffield Hallam University).
3) Integration of findings, analysis and interpretation issues with mixed methods research (Prof. Victoria Wells – University of Sheffield and Prof. Alicia O’Cathain- University of Sheffield).
Feedback from attendees was overwhelmingly positive e.g. “this is one of the best workshops of its kind I have attended”; “a great mix between theoretical aspects and those relevant for implementation into practice”; “very useful and interesting. Lots to consider! Lots of practical advice for my PhD and for writing up a research paper I am working on”. Participants noted that this workshop was unique across the White Rose Consortium. More events on mixed methods were called for in order to better support the PGR committee where mixed methods usage for research projects is becoming more popular. Future events could also include more interactive sessions for participants to be able to work with examples from their own research as well as more detailed elaboration on philosophical and integration issues.
As a result of the popularity of the event, the SUMMER team have set up a network comprising a mailing list, Facebook and LinkedIn group (search for “mixed methods research network” under ‘groups’). Anyone who is currently undertaking mixed methods research in their PhD or thinking about it and wanting to discuss issues with community members, please join!
If you would like to get in touch about the SUMMER event or network, please feel free to contact Emma Parry (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Sheffield Postgraduate Research, Kirsten Ward, attending the ESRC Postgraduate Conference in Bloomsbury.
On 15th June, I made the all-expenses paid trip from Sheffield to London to attend the ESRC 2017 Postgraduate Conference. The two-day event was coordinated by University College London and Bloomsbury Doctoral Training Centre, and was hosted in the bright and airy Friends House in Euston.
As a second year PhD student, I had only previously attended one other academic conference, so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I also had some trepidations given the multi-disciplinary nature of the event and whether I would find it relevant to my interests. I needn’t have worried.
The conference provided a balanced mix of knowledge dissemination and skills building, with plenty of networking opportunities thrown in. The event was opened by Professor Jane Elliott, Chief Executive of the ESRC, followed by a keynote speech presented by Professor Alissa Goodman.
Prof. Goodman provided an interesting overview of her work at the Centre for Longitudinal Studies, including the use of birth cohort studies for tracing the links between various social, economic and environmental factors, and generational development. It was these National Child Development Studies that first identified a link between smoking during pregnancy and impact on children’s health. Data from these studies is available via the UK Data Service.
The remainder of the conference was then divided into a series of parallel workshops. I attended useful sessions that provided practical advice on how to build peer networks using ‘action learning’ techniques, how to make the most of conferences, and how to write grant proposals – the latter of which I found particularly informative. These sessions were led by experienced academics who were able to add their own unique viewpoints and answered questions from delegates. Unlike other conferences, being surrounded by peers meant that there was no fear in asking even the most basic of questions.
The conference closed with a session on ‘Careers Planning’, which provided an interesting insight into the varied career paths of a panel of academics and researchers, and the nature of their current work. One of the key ‘take-home’ messages was that post-doc career opportunities are wide ranging, and if you are interested in a career in academia, it is worth bearing in mind that there are increasing numbers of teaching fellowships or teaching-only lectureships available – if that’s where your interests lie.
On the whole, the conference was a fantastic opportunity for me to meet fellow researchers, share our experiences and develop some essential skills and knowledge that will help me as I progress through the PhD process. If you get a chance to attend this conference in the future, I would highly recommend it. The conference was free to attend and open to all ESCR-funded students, with priority given to those who haven’t previously attended an ESRC DTC conference. So, if you haven’t been before, keep an eye out for details of next year’s event.
Re-thinking accounting at Sheffield
A stereotypical view of accounting as a dry and limited to numbers subjects undoubtedly prevails. The reaction of surprise with a little snigger upon a mention of a PhD study in accounting is somewhat standard from members of public and fellow students alike. Many find it hard to associate accounting discipline with progressive social and ecological thinking.
It is true that in its current application accounting information is mainly associated and used as a form of organisational control. What is not appreciated is the power of accounting to influence the societal decision-making process because of its central role in any organisation. Many accounting researchers warn against the narrow focus on economic measurements in design and application of traditional accounting tools. Such narrowness leads to evident destructive accounting powers observed in practice when profit maximisation and cost cutting placed as the ultimate objectives of accounting for organisation performance.
What is less known and appreciated is that in the UK as well as across the world there is a growing community of critical accounting scholars. The researchers approach the accounting from different angles and work with the problems posed by the limitation of its traditional forms. Critical perspectives academics work to expand the understanding and the practical application of accounting beyond the realm of limited economic interests.
What more, is that Accounting and Finance Division at the Sheffield Management School is the cradle of the critical accounting research. Supported by the overall mission and vision of the Sheffield Management School, the critical accounting research tradition is very much alive and pursued by the current academics as well as the growing number of the PhD students. In the heart of the division is the Centre for Research into Accounting and Finance in Context (CRAFiC).
Notably, CARFiC’s annual Away Day is becoming an international event. Research presented at this year event included a range of contributions from the prominent scholar in the field. Prof. J. Atkins (SUMS) presented her latest research on accounting for extinct species in which she points out the limitation of the existing accounting system with regards to accounting for the dying out species. Dr S. Smith (SUMS) talked about his work concerning recent housing associations developments. He highlighted the dangerous consequences of what is seen as the move away from the social foundation of these organisations towards more for-profit like models. Prof. J. Haslam (SUMS) reflected on his writings in the area concerned with the emancipatory powers of accounting, which can be applied for the greater social good. Dr S Killian and Dr P O’Regan (Kemmy Business School, University of Limerick) outlined their work on the notion of common good in accounting theories. The research presented by DR S Lanka drew attention to short terministic approaches supported by the current accounting practices in the use of genetically modified (GM) crops.
Events like this are important to me as a PhD student whose work focuses on the limitation of the accounting education. It supports my views that in its current state accounting education socialises future professional into traditional accounting approach limited to economic values. And thus, fails to provide an expanded view of the accounting role and its potential power to change the discourse of societal development.
(Doctoral Student in Accounting and Finance, Sheffield University Management School)
Nothing About Us Without Us: York
Doctoral Researchers at the University of York, Gill Loomes (Department of Sociology) and Jed Meers (School of Law) hosted a half-day symposium at University of York Law School on Friday 26th May 2017.
The focus of the event was “Nothing about us without us: Exploring the ethical and methodological issues in researching with, and working co-productively with people whose disability/illness means they lack the capacity to ‘consent.’”. It was funded by a Postgraduate Interdisciplinary Award from the Research Centre for Social Sciences at the University of York, and featured 4 talks from academics and practitioners with experience and interest in the field of disability-related research involving adults who may lack the capacity to ‘consent’. These were:
• Gillian Loomes: Doctoral Researcher, University of York (Involving people in research who lack the capacity to ‘consent’ – A starting point.)
• Prof. Dan Goodley: Professor of Disability Studies, University of Sheffield (Disability Studies, consent, and capacity)
• Elaine James: Head of Adult Social Care Strategy and Policy & Rob Mitchell: Principle Social Worker, City of Bradford MDC (Voting is a Human Right).
• Julie Latchem: Doctoral Researcher, Cardiff University (Navigating the MCA: A hybrid ethnographer’s experience).
The event attracted participants from around England and Wales – including academic and practitioner-researchers, members of Research Ethics Committees and practitioners from a range of health and social-care backgrounds. A roundtable discussion at the end of the afternoon provided much engaged discussion and “food for thought” particularly around ways forward for developing skills and providing resources and support for researchers engaged in this challenging but vital area of research.
Each of the talks was professionally filmed, along with interviews with several participants, discussing key issues emerging from the topics discussed. These will be made available online, on a dedicated website, which will also host a summary of the roundtable discussion, and regular relevant blogs from academics and practitioners exploring key issues in researching with people who may lack the capacity to provide ‘consent.’ The website will be launched in early August and will be promoted on social media – particularly via the Twitter hashtag #NAUWUYork, which also links to live tweets and other coverage of the event itself.
The event also hosted the official launch of the York Policy Review Special Issue on Mental Capacity, which was guest-edited by Gill Loomes. The afternoon drew on issues covered in the Special Issue, which is available online here, or as a hard copy from Gill Loomes at email@example.com
People interested in receiving updates on online content following the event, or wishing to discuss the topic of mental capacity and (academic) research further, can contact Gill Loomes at firstname.lastname@example.org
We are grateful to the University of York Research Centre for Social Sciences for funding this engaging event, and providing an opportunity to bring together academic and non-academic stakeholders to discuss challenges and opportunities in this important area of research.
ESRC DTC PhD student international field trip to China
DTC student Hui Sun has recently returned from an ESRC-funded visit, via the Overseas Institution Visit scheme, to the Zhejiang University, China. Here she gives a report of her experience.
During the visit, meetings with my host – Professor Hongdong Guo at Centre for Agricultural and Rural Development (CARD), School of Management, Zhejiang University and other CARD Professors provided a valuable opportunity to discuss my current and future research ideas, as well as the field of agriculture supply chain more broadly. In these two months, I worked closely with the CARD research team, developing methodological frameworks for my research on resilient agriculture supply chain. I was also able to attend a series of roundtable research meetings within CARD. Research presentations given by speakers from across China, the US and Europe took place in a weekly seminar series held in the department. The talks on agriculture economics provided a useful agriculture knowledge foundation to my research area, especially in giving me a comprehensive introduction to the current Chinese food industry. I presented at one of the seminars and was pleased at the significant interest the audience showed. During this visit, I also attend two conferences and one supply chain research symposium. During the 3rd business, nature, value research group conference of sustainable business models on agriculture cooperatives, I met many other senior researchers from the US, Asia, Europe, Brazil and South Africa. The group of us together with expert in CARD were able to discuss at length our approaches towards research, swapping advice, and building a global network of contemporaries.
The PhD programme at CARD differs from the Sheffield programme in that there is a greater focus on empirical work throughout the years of study. As a result, I was able to join their PhD students and researchers’ fieldwork to develop my skills and understanding towards qualitative methods. I visited several vegetable and livestock farms. I had very wonderful experience to visit the distant community where I had never visited before. Through these visits, I developed practical insight towards Chinese Agriculture supply chain and get practical training in interviewing local pig farmers and producers which will be highly relevant to my research in the future. The practical interview training at CARD provided me practical and local knowledge which I cannot obtain in the UK. The first-hand data collection experience equipped me with more awareness regarding the potential local environmental hazard and ethical problems which I need to consider in my research.
Overall, During the visit I would also have the opportunity to not only enhance my professional development but to disseminate my research and gain constructive feedback from policy makers, practitioners, and academics working in the same field. I had very fruitful and enjoyable two months, for which I am grateful to the ESRC for funding.
Conference paper news:
Recently, Hui’s paper titled Resilience in Agricultural Supply Chain: An Evidence-Based Research with Bibliometrics Analysis has been accepted by 2 th International Annual EurOMA Conference taking place in Edinburgh, Scotland, 1 – 5 July, 2017. This paper is co-authored with Prof. Lenny Koh, Dr. Sonal Choudhary from University of Sheffield and Prof. Fu Jia from University of Bristol.
University of Leeds PhD student, Lauren Avery on her research internship and fieldwork
I have recently returned from a very busy but hugely enjoyable five months in Thailand, completing data collection as part of my current Masters by Research in Thai Studies and also undertaking a three-month internship at the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asiaa and the Pacific (UNESCAP) in Bangkok. Although not officially part of my Masters I chose to undertake the internship, not only because it was an opportunity to gain vital experience in a sector where I hope to eventually work, but also to lead me to information and contacts that could be useful for my research project.
The data collection aspect of my trip involved interviewing government, private sector and disability activists and academics in Bangkok, as my research looks at accessibility to public transport for disabled people. Although the internship was based in the Policy and Development section of the Transport Division and the work there wasn’t related to my research topic, I also got to meet with UNESCAP’s Disability department. It was a useful introduction as I was invited to observe the first meeting of the Working Group on the Asian and Pacific Decade of Persons with Disabilities, 2013-2022. This was an exciting opportunity to witness talks being initiated on aviation accessibility for the first time, which linked to some of the themes of my own research.
Another outcome of connections made during the internship was interviewing a blind Thai senator at the Thai parliament: a highlight of my data collection. Whilst this interview was conducted in English, the majority of my other interviews and focus groups were conducted in Thai. Although this was really challenging it ended up being a fantastic way to hone the language skills that I’d developed during my postgraduate studies and increase my confidence in spoken Thai.
In regards to the work I did during the internship itself, whilst it wasn’t directly related to my research project it enabled me to use the research skills I’ve gained in a professional setting for the first time. I was invited to write a conference paper on urban-rural transport connectivity that was published and presented at the Intergovernmental 10th Environmentally Sustainable Transport Forum in Asia, which was held in Laos during March. Writing on an unfamiliar topic for my first publication was slightly scary (!) but eventually rewarding to see it presented in front of 200 government and UN officials and researchers from countries across Asia. Attending the conference also revealed one of the ways in which research can have real impact when disseminated to the world outside of academia, which has helped me to motivate me on my return to the U.K.
Both the data-collection and internship experience in Thailand genuinely complemented my studies and have helped prepare me for future study for a PhD or work in the field of social development in Asia. Five months well spent!
Audrey Dugue-Nevers, University of Sheffield, fieldwork report Shanghai, China.
As a PhD candidate in Politics and International Studies focusing on East Asia, particularly China, I can be busy travelling to present my research at conferences in the United Kingdom and overseas. This is beneficial for my research, while enabling me to grow my network and build my academic experience.
This year, my fieldwork entailed a trip to Shanghai, China to collect data, followed by a paper presentation at the International Studies Association conference taking place at the University of Hong Kong, in the Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong.
From a professional perspective, this research trip was crucial for me to have a chance to discuss my research with experts, to receive feedback, and to have a grasp of the diversity of the debate. My academic host was Fudan University 复旦大学, one of China’s top universities in the field of international relations and foreign policy.
Although there was no formal institutional partnership with the University of Sheffield, it has provided me with an invaluable opportunity to meet professors and some students there. Such academic exchanges are a stimulating way of disseminating research and sharing different perspectives. Furthermore, seeking to obtain interviews, waiting for answers and then getting meetings at the last minute was a challenging but rewarding experience, giving me more confidence in what I am working on. This process has highlighted how interpersonal relationships or 关系 guanxi are essential. Unlike in countries where contacting people in a spontaneous manner is not a hindrance, it is better to be formally introduced to people you wish to speak to in East Asia.
Additionally, thanks to the network I have developed during past conferences, I have been lucky to be offered the opportunity to deliver a lecture as a guest speaker of a summer school for undergraduate students at New York University Shanghai.
From a personal perspective, I felt away from two countries I can call home: going overseas for fieldwork while already being abroad for my PhD has been a challenging learning experience. During that time, I have gained a better insight into a country I have studied for years, and sometimes daily life can be quite different from what one learns at university. Being exposed to regional dialects – Shanghainese differs from Putonghua or Mandarin Chinese – and to some local customs and habits can be unsettling, and yet the best way of having a hands-on broader knowledge of a country’s diversity. Following that experience, it was then time to fly to a Cantonese speaking area: Hong Kong, which has a special anniversary this year. 2017 is indeed a benchmark for the twenty years of its handover to Mainland China by the United Kingdom.
Travelling as part of research is being a privileged traveller: it has been a unique opportunity to take photographs, to explore the region, and enjoy contemporary and ancient architecture, gardens and culture. I would encourage any researcher to embrace the ups and downs of such an experience within their academic journey.
Doctoral Researcher, Martin Heneghan, University of Sheffield, visited the World Bank in Washington, DC.
Right from the very beginning of my PhD, it was an ambition of mine to apply for funding for an ESRC Overseas Institutional Visit (OIV). I had always planned to visit the University of Pennsylvania, to work alongside a leading scholar in my area, Professor Mitchell Orenstein. He made a substantial impact in the field of global social policy and the influence of international organisations. His scholarship showed how the World Bank led a coalition, which campaigned for countries to part-privatise their pension system. The campaign was successful, with 28 countries following the World Bank’s advice. However, after the global economic crisis, many countries reversed these reforms. My thesis is investigating this process, essentially writing the sequel to Orenstein’s work, investigating why the reforms went wrong. It had always made perfect sense that we should one day meet to discuss ideas and collaborate on a paper. The ESRC funded OIV scheme made this happen and I could not be happier with how the visit went.
Upon arriving at the University of Pennsylvania, or ‘Penn’ as it’s simply referred to in America, I was allocated my own office to work from for the duration of my visit. It was exciting to be based at an ‘Ivy League’ university, the campus grounds were beautiful and the library resources were outstanding. It was fascinating to witness the academic culture in one of America’s most prestigious institutions. Most exciting, (and daunting), however, was the prospect of meeting a scholar whose work I knew inside out. We immediately set about discussing ideas for a joint-authored article. I was extremely fortunate that the university is based within commutable distance to the World Bank. I was able to visit the Bank, sharing ideas of my research to date and conduct some interviews with senior staff. Before the trip to the World Bank, I felt like I was stepping inside the lion’s den, but it was an exhilarating experience and the staff were very helpful and friendly. The visit also enabled me to meet several times with other policy makers in the field of global pensions, who were based in the region. It felt like everything came together perfectly for the visit.
Penn is situated in the heart of West Philadelphia. I spent 9 weeks living there, which gave me plenty of time at weekends to explore the city where American independence was born. The US really knows how to do museums well. My personal favourite experience was a visit to Eastern State Penitentiary, America’s first prison, now a museum. Not only do Mitchel Orenstein share research interests, we’re also both sports mad. I had the pleasure of accompanying him to a soccer game and a baseball game to see how Americans do sport. I also ate enough Philly cheesesteaks to last a life time. Philadelphia also happens to be situated 2 hours away from New York. Since my birthday fell during my trip, it only made sense that I should visit and make it a birthday to remember.
I had the time of my life during my OIV. More importantly, I really feel it started my transition from PhD student to early career researcher. It gave me the chance to build international collaborations and discuss my research as a scholar in my own right. We are so lucky the ESRC values these opportunities enough to invest large sums into the scheme. I would highly recommend it to anyone.
On May 22, the Department of Politics held the White Rose Annual Politics and International Relations Colloquium. The colloquium was a great success, with 56 attendees, including students and staff from Sheffield, Leeds and York. Six panels on a range of topics (please see below and attached as a programme) were followed by BBQ at University Arms. I received highly positive feedback from the participants.
Panel 1: European Employment and Migration
Panel 2: Cases Studies in Governance and Public Policy
Panel 3: Democracy, Deliberation and Violence
Panel 4: Development and Mobilization
Panel 5: War and Critical Security Studies
Panel 6: International Intervention and Humanity I received amazing feedback from the participants.
Infographics For Social Science Interactive Workshop And Masterclass
The Social Policy Pathways organised an Infographics For Social Science Interactive Workshop And Masterclass in York (26th January 2017). The masterclass was led by Dr Catherine Stones, Programme Leader Graphic and Communication Design at the University of Leeds, and holder of an AHRC Design Fellowship. The afternoon included a Masterclass to share best practice and interactive discussion of participants’ infographics.
Workshop in Thematic Analysis – Matthias Benzer Sheffield
On the 8th of June, the Department of Sociological Studies at the University of Sheffield hosted a workshop in Thematic Analysis as way of analysing empirical data. The workshop, conceived as a masterclass, was led by two experts from the University of Aberystwyth, Sarah Riley and Martine Robson. The event was supported by the WRDTC Pathways in Sociology and in Social Policy. Its aim was to provide a grounding in Thematic Analysis of qualitative research data. Workshop participants were taken through each phase of the thematic analytical process, including familiarisation with data, exploration of different types of codes and the generation of codes, examination of researchers’ standpoints and assumptions, arranging codes and initial themes into a coherent narrative, and interpretive analysis. The masterclass also explored variations of Thematic Analysis and its relationship with other analytical approaches. Throughout, the event focused on developing practical thematic analytical skills.
The initial idea for the event emerged from a discussion among White Rose doctoral students about their requirements for training for their analyses of qualitative social research data. The workshop was organised by Katey Twyford, a doctoral researcher in the Department of Sociological Studies at the University of Sheffield. The event illustrated the wide relevance of Thematic Analysis to research conducted across the network. Attendees are working on a great variety of topics, the event was fully booked within days of it being advertised, and it soon developed a long waiting list. The event successfully achieved its objectives.
According to organiser Katey Twyford: “The day provided a great opportunity to discuss the development and application of thematic analysis with both experts and novices alike. Sarah and Martine provided a clear theoretical framework, with lots of opportunities for us to practice our analytical skills in the safety of small groups. The value of this type of event is that it provided an opportunity for students from Sheffield, York, and Leeds to come together and share learning across disciplines, pathways, and departments. Although Thematic Analysis is more common in qualitative research, it was interesting to hear how it is also being used by other doctoral researchers using mixed methods research. I came away not only confident about adopting a flexible but rigorous approach to Thematic Analysis, but also with a deeper understanding of how our ontological and epistemological positions influence how we make sense of our research data. It was great that we also got some top tips on getting started on writing it up. We came to the workshop hungry to learn, we left the workshop with confidence to practice and an appetite to learn more!”
Training Workshop on Random Effect Structures in Mixed-Effect Models organised at University of Leeds, funded by the WRDTC, and written by one of the PhD student attendees, Valentina Ragni.
Harald Baayen at Language@Leeds
On Mon 5th and Tue 6th June 2017, a third, very exciting event about everything mixed-effect models was organised by Language@Leeds. Two preparatory workshops paved the way on 8th and 15th May 2017, both led by visiting fellow Aaron Ecay (University of York/University of Ghent), who provided a very thorough introduction to statistical modelling as well as an informative session on model comparison and selection. In this third workshop, hosted in the state-of-the-art facilities of the Leeds Institute for Data Analytics (LIDA), several White Rose Network scholars had a unique opportunity to learn a great deal about modelling and specifically about random effects: how to define them and understand their contribution in linear models, how to use them with interactions and non-linear predictors, how to estimate random effect structure depending on one’s data, and finally how to report the results of mixed-effect models.
The first day was led by Arief Gusnanto (Lecturer in Statistics @ University of Leeds).It was interesting to hear on the topic from a statistician whose field of expertise is medicine rather than linguistics, as he gave another perspective on mixed-effect models and their applications beyond linguistic data, whilst also providing an introduction to the mathematical side of modelling that many linguists are not familiar with. Dr Gusnanto started off the day by looking at the assumptions of linear regressions (in particular how the errors in a model are assumed to be both independent from each other and normally distributed) and explained why the variance σ2 is critical in linear models. He then addressed collinearity between predictors, which is a problem as it inflates the standard errors (SE) of the estimates. Various ways in which to tackle this issue were discussed, e.g. centering, variable dropping, principal component analysis, and finally random effect models.
What variables should be included as random or fixed effects in a model was also discussed. The random-effect part of the model will tend to contain variables for which there is a hierarchical data structure (e.g. pupils nested in classes, which in turn are nested in schools), or those for which there is a serial correlation due to repeated measures (such as having multiple items, as it is common in linguistic experiments). Interestingly, random effects are also necessary when the number of parameters to be estimated far exceeds the number of observations collected, which almost never happens in psycholinguistics, but can be commonplace in other areas. The fixed effect part of the model, on the other hand, usually will contain primary variables of interest to the experimenter, i.e. those whose scientific interpretation require them to ‘stand’ on their own, as well as variables that are confounders (e.g. age or gender). As Dr Gusnanto pointed out, however, these are just general guidelines: the assumptions, theoretical basis and result interpretation of every individual experiment will be different, and need to be taken into careful consideration during this phase. Yet, these guidelines can prove useful for the researcher trying to establish what needs to be fixed and random effects, when building a suitable regression model for their own data.
In the hands-on session, we looked at a first real linguistic dataset kindly provided by one of the workshop participants, where the response variable was acceptability rating on a 7-level Likert scale, and looked at the presence of time series effect. A Cumulative Link (Mixed) Model (CLMM) was fitted with the ordinal package in R. The second dataset also came from one of the participants and was a self-paced reading study involving analysis of Reaction Times (RT), a type of data known to be naturally skewed (there are no negative values) and therefore never normally distributed. In this second part, Cox proportional hazard models were discussed and fitted to this dataset using the package survival in R.
Outline of the second half of Dr Arief Gusnanto’s talk on Linear (Mixed-effect) models.
The second day was led by Professor Harald Baayen (Professor in Quantitative Linguistics, University of Tϋbingen), who is somewhat of a legend in the field, especially when it comes to mixed-effect modelling. In a general introduction, Baayen started by relating mixed-effect modelling to issues of non-convergence, variable scaling, exploratory vs. confirmatory analysis as well as the current replicability crisis in Psychology, where many experimental results do not generalise, a situation partially arising from many experiments having too small a sample size and therefore being underpowered. Most of the second day followed a hands-on approach of data surgery, visualisation and modelling for the above-mentioned RT dataset, on which all statistical operations were carried out. While the nlme package (Piñero and Bates, 2000) does not allow for the presence of both subject and item effects, the lme4 package (Bates, 2010) allows to model multiple cross random effects, so the latter was used in most linear mixed-effect (LMEM) analyses before moving to GAM. We applied Box-Cox transformations to RT data, created elegant and visually informative trellis plots, and learnt about shrinkage. We fitted several models on the self-paced reading dataset and discussed different types of random effect structures: random intercepts and random slopes, both by-subject and by-item. We also looked at model residuals, which need to be normally distributed and independent. Both LMEMs and GAMs were addressed, and as far as the latter is concerned, we learnt about autocorrelation, the BAM function, basis terms and weights, polynomial fits, the smoothing parameter λ, and Effective Degrees of Freedom (EDF). We also touched on quantile regression and visualisation techniques where the outcome variable is ordinal (not continuous).
The main take-home message we drew from this very informative day has to do with how to go about mixed-effect modelling. Conceptually, a three-step model can be extrapolated from the workshop:
1) Data visualisation;
2) Model fitting;
3) Model criticism.
That is to say, when embarking on mixed-effect modelling, data visualisation is absolutely crucial, and researchers from all fields of enquiry should start by exploring (combinations of) variables visually, as examining the shapes of and patterns in the data will enable them to make informed decisions when getting to the modelling phase. We learnt that it is good practice to graphically examine one’s data not only during this initial descriptive phase, but also throughout the statistical analysis wherever appropriate, and this includes plotting interactions and residuals after fitting a model. As anyone versed in mixed-effect modelling will know, when it comes to mixed-effects model fitting, decisions about the appropriate random-effects structure need to be made, and different currents of thought exist amongst linguists and statisticians in this regard. Whilst some have argued that final models should fit all possible random effect components (Barr et al., 2013), others maintain that parsimonious models with a smaller than theoretically possible number of model parameters are to be preferred for several reasons (see Bates et al., 2015). For the purposes of this workshop, the latter approach was followed. Once a ‘final’ model is reached, however, the work is far from complete, as the researcher needs to ascertain if and how well the model the software has produced actually fits the real data collected, for example by checking whether the residuals follow a normal distribution, by plotting the fitted against the observed values and by detecting outliers. The advice we received is, in a nutshell, to question the model and be its harshest critic, which can include identifying the individual data points for which the model does not provide a satisfactory fit and develop a model that improves goodness of fit for the remaining data points in a dataset.
The day was jam-packed with new information, both on a theoretical (new concepts) and a practical level (new functions, scripts and R tricks): there was a lot to take in for all attendees, and Prof. Baayen proved to be an extremely clear and engaging speaker throughout the day, who truly highlighted the dazzling array of applications of mixed-effect models to language data. Moreover, thanks to Prof. Baayen, we learnt not only about the nitty gritty of statistical modelling but also about interesting anecdotes which made us relate the most common statistical tests, R packages and commands to the actual people behind them, such as Douglas Bates, Ronald Fisher, George Box and David Cox.
To conclude, this workshop proved to be an enlightening experience for researchers in fields as diverse as Psychology, Linguistics and Translation Studies, who greatly benefitted from the theoretical and practical guidance provided by the two invited speakers. A sincere word of appreciation goes to the White Rose Doctoral Training Centre for linguistics and to Language@Leeds for sponsoring the event, and to Cécile de Cat (Linguistics and Phonetics, University of Leeds), for being the mastermind behind its organisation. The audience included scholars from York, Sheffield, Leeds, Ghent as well as Canada, and the high attendance on the day demonstrates the interest and high demand for such initiatives. We sincerely hope that more events of this kind are organised in the future, as it is through these that researchers can expand their knowledge, acquire transferrable skills, generate ideas and learn about tools that make further, more informed enquiries on their data possible.
Words by: Valentina Ragni
Barr, D.J., Levy, R., Scheepers, C., and Tily, H.J., 2013. Random Effects Structure for Confirmatory Hypothesis Testing: Keep it Maximal. Journal of Memory and Language. 68, pp. 255-278.
Bates, D. 2010. lme4: Mixed-effects Modelling with R. Heidelberg: Springer- Verlag.
Bates, D., Kliegl, R., Vasishth, S., and Baayen, H. 2015. Parsimonious Mixed Models. [https://arxiv.org/abs/1506.04967]
Pinheiro, J.C., and Bates, D.M., 2000. Mixed-effects models in S and S-PLUS. Springer-Verlag, New York.
UKDS – Teaching ideas: bringing data to life in the classroom
This may be of interest to those students involved in teaching. The UK Data Service has produced some short guides designed to assist teachers creating lesson plans on data analysis skills. These ‘Teaching Ideas’ provide the following materials, around which lesson plans can be developed:
• A research topic and question embedded in a brief literature review
• An overview of an appropriate dataset and specific variables that can answer the question
• A set of analytical exercises for students, using these data
• Some examples of the results students will get from these exercises
Read more about the development of the Teaching Ideas on the UKDS website and this UKDS blog, A problem shared: a way to share ideas for teaching with data.
Save the date:
WRDTP Welcome Event, 23 October 2017, University of Leeds – welcoming all our new incoming doctoral researchers from Leeds, York, Sheffield, Sheffield Hallam, Manchester Metropolitan, Bradford and Hull Universities to the new Doctoral Training Partnership. There will be an opportunity for current students to present a poster during the lunchtime session. Look out for a NEWS item coming soon on the web site advertising this event.
Goodbye DTC Matters, Hello DTP Matters!
As you know, the new White Rose Doctoral Training Partnership (WRDTP) will be launched at the Welcome Event on 23 October 2017 and we are also in the process of changing the website, branding, marketing materials etc to reflect this exciting new development. Your next edition of DTC Matters will be available at the end of October 2017 and will have a name change to DTP Matters.