Finland here I come!!!

IMG_4391This time next week I will all packed and ready for my trip to Turku, Finland. For those of you who do not know, my trip was made possible by winning a Student Research Bursary and I did blog about this here. It has also been made possible due to the wonderful people in the School of Computing at Edinburgh Napier University who agreed to part-fund the trip too. It was also possible because my Director of Studies had faith in me and encouraged me to apply for the funding which I won.

My trip to Finland has two purposes – firstly to help me collect some PhD data in a Finnish organisation and secondly so I can visit Åbo Akademi University to both share my own research and hear about work similar to mine.

As the identity of my case study organisations are confidential, I can’t really say much about who I am interviewing and where they are from – all I can say is that they are members of an organisation in Finland. I know this does not help the curiosity of some people who really want to know what I am doing, but in the case of my PhD integrity and ethics, this is just tough luck! 😉 I can say, however, that my panning is going well. We have some interviews lined up already and I’m hoping to have more scheduled in before I leave Edinburgh next week. I’m hoping I can come back to Edinburgh with some nice European data to analyse and lots to talk about after my trip.

My host whilst I am in Finland will be Professor Gunilla Widén. I’m very thankful to Gunilla for her help with the practical side of things and for her constant communication before my visit. It makes me feel very welcome even before I have arrived on campus. It is nice to know I will have an academic base whilst I am collecting data and getting on with work but it is also nice to know I can get to know more about the work of Gunilla’s research team as the research themes link quite closely with mine.

TurkuI have been frequently informed that Finland will be cold. As I type this blog post I am searching the BBC weather app which has lovingly told me that it is only going to get even colder for my visit (many minus numbers indeed). Fortunately, I have lots of layers of clothing, thick coats, hats, scarves and gloves to keep me warm as I bought much of these for Scotland and have not needed to use most of them since!

I’m sure I will return to Edinburgh with lots of stories to tell and lots of information to share. But for now, I have data analysis to get on with and a presentation to run through so I will just have to blog about my trip when I return.


PhD Workshop Series Launch Event!

Phd workshop series launch

A while ago, some of the other PhD student’s ad I applied for some funding form our Research and Innovation Department which aimed to help improved skills of researchers. Sean, Cedric, Andreas and I applied to create and run a one day launch event of a workshop series we had in mind. Our funding proposal comprised an outline of our activity and proposed timetable as well as justification of why we wanted this event to be carried out. We also had to explain how our event related to the Researcher Development Framework, a told used by PhD students in their own training and development as a researcher. I think creating and writing a research finding proposal is an important skill for doctoral students and we have had the opportunity to improve our skills in this area from planning and organising this event.

We were successful in our funding bid and were awarded a grant to officially plan and deliver our event and here is a quick run-down of how that planning and delivery went. The planning stages were somewhat difficult as we had to coordinate everything as a group. We had to ensure that the practical things were done – such as booking rooms, ordering lunch and setting up IT equipment but we also had to ensure our event was planned and advertised accordingly. We worked together as a team, each of us taking on roles and responsibilities as part of that team. We all gave feedback to each other on elements that were going public and we all made sure we contributed fairly to the event so that nothing was left untouched. I think this was one of the most important parts of making sure the event went well and making sure that everything was done. If we had fought or argued continuously then we probably would have batted heads and the whole thing could have gone down the drain.

The running of the day was rather smooth and there was no problems on the day at all. You can see that we had a variety of speakers on our programme here:

We started off with a quick introduction of what was to come and why we were here. The purpose of the event was to launch a workshop series so we wanted to give students a flavour of what was to come but also encourage them to volunteer to share their skills with students for the series that we are planning to carry out in the future. I think we did just that!

IMG_4351.JPGOur first speaker was Dr Laura Muir form Edinburgh Napier and she talked to the students about research design. Now research design is really important as it’s often the first things students need to think about when planning research and sometimes (as in my case) we forget this until part way through. Laura’s talk was welcomed with lots of questions about research philosophies, methods, design and practicalities of these as well as questions about where more information could be sought. You can tell by the information on twitter feeds here, here, here, here, and here that many people tweeted about the event and I would like to thank everyone did so to promote the event worldwide.

Our second speaker was Professor Bill Buchanan OBE who talked about data analysis. This focused a lot on how to present data and analyse data properly, and focused on the use of Python as IMG_4357this is where Bill’s experience lies. Bill also used students as examples of data and asked students to fill in question polls about data analysis motivation, what makes a PhD and important factors in gaining a PhD to demonstrate the use of data analysis but also bring home the fact that a PhD is completely worth it and thee is a reasons for us being here too!

Our third speaker was Professor Adrienne Muir for Robert Gordon University who kindly made a 6 hour round trip to talk to our students about research ethics. Adrienne made an excellent talk about how ethics should be considered as part of research in general and held discussions on how ethical considerations should be made. Adrienne spoke form the heart as she has not only researched legal and ethical issues but she has also supervised students too. Adrienne touched upon some of the things Laura Muir IMG_4359.JPGtalked about in research design and took this one step further to help students think of ethical implications in research carried out and expressed in the media. Students were then asked to think about ethical implications in their own research and whether things such as values, should be considered when exploring which direction to take.

Our final speaker of the day was Dr Laura Jenkins form Strathclyde University and she had lots of statistics to talk about! Laura has a vast amount of experience in teaching research methods and statistics to students so we felt her expertise was perfect to help students understand consideration they need to make when thinking of statistics in their own research. Laura talked about the different ways dataIMG_4361 can be presented and then explained how often, just explaining data in a descriptive way may not be the most appropriate thing to do (especially of you are looking at patterns in data to support a research question). She then spoke about the different kind of statistical tests that can be carried out and emphasised the importance of choosing tests to suit the data type, research aims and research questions created. Laura has only recently completed her own PhD research (only last year!) so she was fully equipped to answer the questions about statistical type and data variation which she had to consider in her own quantitative research.

For all of the talks, the speakers and content were received well. We had a little panic early morning thinking out audience would be a grand total of 5 but soon realised how popular the talks were going to be and had to get more seats for other rooms and add them to our set. We were very impressed at how interactive all sessions were and would like to thank the students for coming along and participating… and asking lots of questions for our speakers to get involved in!

As a team, we would also like to thank all of our speakers of taking time out of their days to present to our students and we would welcome them back anytime that would like to make a return. We would like to thanks our Research and Innovation Department who held the Researcher Development Fund 2017/18 competition to which we bid for and won the funding, and to all of the other people who helped us out on the day (catering, IT, facilities) as we could have not held this event without your help.