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Interdisciplinarity in DigiTech Research: A post-event summary

Updated: May 7

The Interdisciplinarity in DigiTech Research spring school that took place from 24 to 26 April 2024 in Prague brought together nearly 50 early career researchers interested in learning and discussing how to conduct research across disciplines to explore the impact of digital technology on individuals and societies. 14 guest speakers and workshop hosts delivered an intriguing programme of lectures, talks, interactive activities and workshops. Plenty of opportunities to network allowed our event attendees to build connections with both peers and speakers.




Participants


Close to 50 pre-doctoral, PhD and post-doctoral researchers from across Europe including Czechia, the UK, Switzerland, Spain and Poland made up a diverse and multicultural audience. Participants varied in their disciplinary backgrounds, conducting research in Sociology, Literature, Psychology, Anthropology or Business.


Four researchers at different stages of their career were awarded CHANSE-funded bursaries covering travel and accommodation costs for their stay in the Czech capital. They demonstrated not only a keen interest in interdisciplinary Digitech research but also a clear and compelling vision of their career goals and benefits of the event to their professional development. Our successful bursary recipients are


  • Gareth Osborne, postgraduate practitioner-researcher in children’s literature based at Cardiff University, the University of Bristol and the University of Bath Spa

  • Julia Zbróg, final-year psychology student at Maria Grzegorzewska University, Warsaw

  • Diane Peck, social worker and doctoral student at Liverpool John Moores University where she currently investigates violent experiences encountered by Ukrainian refugees and asylum seekers

  • Anna Rezk, PhD student at the University of Edinburgh who conducts research on the impact of personalisation of news curation and news recommender systems


Organising team


To offer our participants an intellectually enriching and rewarding experience, we involved several parties in the planning, organisation, and delivery of the spring school:


  • The spring school received the official patronage of the Capital City of Prague and was held under the auspices of Deputy Mayor of the Capital City of Prague JUDr. Jiří Pospíšil.


  • At the forefront of all main organisational matters, our Prague-based TIMED researchers Dr Vanda Černohorská and Tereza Svobodová not only took charge of local tasks, such as the arrangement of the event venue, photography, organisation of catering and spring school materials but also promoted the spring school, introduced and presented guests speakers and promptly addressed any queries, challenges or concerns of participants or speakers during the delivery of the spring school.



  • The professional photographer Romana Kovacsova as well as Katarzyna Goncikowska, PhD student and member of the TIMED team (pictured standing on the far left) documented the event by taking expressive and well-thought-out photographs of speakers, participants, facilitators and talks.


  • Food and drink were prepared and delivered by the Czech catering company Cooks Without Homes, a non-governmental organisation that supports women experiencing homelessness


Snapshots of our event


Dr Jan Balon


Dr Jan Balon, Head of Department at the Institute of Philosophy of the Czech Academy of Sciences extended a warm welcome to all participants in a brief opening speech.



Jakub Nekolný


As a representative of the Department of Culture and Tourism of Prague, Jakub Nekolný offered an overview of the department's work aimed at connecting science and culture and measuring the latter via novel digital tools, such as "Mapka" (Map of Culture), which can capture cultural infrastructure, events, funding and the behaviour of the population in Prague.



Prof Ruth Ogden


During a series of engaging activities delivered by Prof Ruth Ogden, Professor of the Psychology of Time at Liverpool John Moores University participants worked individually and in groups to capture their initial understanding of what conducting interdisciplinary research means as well as its opportunities and challenges. A colourful display of post-it notes illustrated a rich variety of ideas expressed in drawings and phrases associated with interdisciplinarity, such as “allowing new voices to contribute to research”, “finding new research avenues” or “sharing tools for understanding”





Prof Ruth Ogden highlighted that the integration of knowledge and methods from two or more disciplines is key to solving the wicked problems of society, such as mental health crises, COVID-19 or climate change, which a single discipline cannot satisfactorily address. Participants then engaged in lively discussions to design hypothetical research projects aimed at solving wicked problems.




The activities also emphasized the key role of digital technology in fields, such as healthcare, economics or national security that sustain a functioning society. Using the example of a diabetes health app, Ruth Ogden clearly demonstrated how such digital tools can only be developed, trialled, used and improve health outcomes if researchers from fields as diverse as biology, chemistry, engineering or political science conduct research jointly. Key pillars of such projects include the engagement of stakeholders, flat structures and diverse but complementary teams.



The ins and outs of stakeholder engagement and the generation of impact in a research context became the focus of Ruth’s third interactive session. While creating stakeholder maps and brainstorming how different stakeholders could contribute to impact, spring school attendees familiarised themselves with key considerations necessary for successful interdisciplinary research. Advice on practical steps that could be taken to facilitate impact, such as aligning research with sustainable development goals, recording change in the course of a research project or writing accessible and simple reports showed that impact was not only a desirable but also a realistic and feasible outcome.



Dr Ysabel Gerrard


The first day of our Interdisciplinarity in DigiTech Research spring school culminated in a fascinating and engaging keynote lecture delivered by Dr Ysabel Gerrard, Senior Lecturer/Associate Professor in Digital Communication at the University of Sheffield. Dr Gerrard illustrated the importance of researching digital media, a form of digital technology whose use has increased drastically, has lost its spatial fixity and has led to the weakening or elimination of boundaries between the digital and non-digital. Exemplifying an interdisciplinary approach in digital research, Dr Gerrard introduced her study of young people’s perceptions of anonymous apps and explained the process of determining existing skills, knowledge and resources and comparing them with those that could have been accessible through interdisciplinary collaboration.


In an interactive workshop, our guest speaker raised ethical considerations essential for digital research. Participants engaged in active discussions around the question of when to request consent from Internet users whose data is employed in research, data protection, privacy of Internet users and those of vulnerable groups such as children. Deep reflections on these issues and effective solutions resulted from group conversations in which participants shared ethical challenges that had emerged in their own research, such as the publication of visual data extracted from the Internet. By debating a case study that made use of public Instagram posts participants discovered the complex implications of ethical decision making.




A video recording of Dr Gerrard’s lecture is available on YouTube



Dr Jamie Davies


Dr Jamie Davies, Senior International Partnerships and Engagement Manager-Europe based at the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council provided valuable insights into the funding landscape, operation of funding bodies and practical steps that can assist early career researchers to successfully secure financial support. Presenting the funding initiative CHANSE, Dr Davies illustrated how the allocation and award of financial resources can proceed in inclusive and fair ways that assist heterogenous research teams with members of a range of ages, geographical origins and genders. To help early career researchers increase their chances of creating successful funding applications, Dr Davies provided a range of useful tips, such as the maintenance of an up-to-date online presence, engagement in networking, writing applications in a way that aligns with funders’ interests and taking a thorough approach to answering funder questions.




“At the @eu_timed spring school, that was a great talk from @JDaviesHeritage: “A funder’s guide to grant applications”. A lot of new knowledge and advice that will enhance career growth and networking.” (Spring school participant)


Video of Dr Davies' lecture and Q&A session




Dr Dana Moree


A creative research tool that can facilitate radical interdisciplinarity was introduced by Dr Dana Moree, Assistant Professor at Charles University in Prague in her talk on the Theatre of the Oppressed. In interaction with the audience, Dr Moree presented the Theatre of the Oppressed as a method by which groups of people with experience of injustice, marginalisation or oppression translate their experiences into theatrical performances and pose questions to the audience with the aim of producing social change. Dr Moree offered a clear explanation of how this powerful method could be applied in a research context.


Dr Mireille Fauchon and Gareth Proskourine-Barnett


Dr Mireille Fauchon, Lecturer of Interdisciplinary Image Practice and Gareth Proskourine-Barnett, Senior Lecturer on MA Illustration both based at University of the Arts London relied on creative methods to enable participants to explore the advantages and difficulties of incorporating illustration into interdisciplinary projects. Event attendees got first-hand experience of representing research through collage to help them reimagine ways in which art could form part of research. After reflecting on a series of prompt words relating to the act of thinking, participants selected images and text from newspapers and magazines, which were used to create collages. A book containing all artwork depicted the thoughts, ideas or feelings of attendees in a novel way.


“Discussing how to make it in academia, grant applications and art-based approaches. And me being stunned by @MireilleFauchon and @garethbarnett and their work. Cannot wait for tomorrow’s workshop!” (Spring school participant)


Panel discussion: How to make it in academia


In order to support early career researchers to navigate academia, and provide insight into first-hand experiences of working in this field, four researchers at different stages in their professional life shared positive moments, challenges and advice based on their personal academic journey. Our panellists included




While the life of a researcher in academia was perceived to offer rich opportunities for being creative as well as learning and teaching about topics that align with personal interests, all panellists spoke openly about difficult experiences they had faced, such as the rejection of job applications or research proposals, balancing work and family life or completing a PhD when little support was available. The varied and honest accounts of all panellists conveyed shared struggles but also a sense of hopefulness and confidence suggesting that early career researchers were not alone when confronted with isolation or rejection. Lived experience of building networks and relationships with other researchers, seeking mentors and participating in training illustrated how obstacles and their effects could be overcome.





Video recording of the panel discussion



Dr Marie Heřmanová and Dr Nina Fárová


A workshop on ethnographic methods and digital ethnography was delivered by Dr Marie Heřmanová, social anthropologist and writer based at the Czech Academy of Sciences and Charles University,  and Dr Nina Fárová, postdoctoral researcher and lecturer based at the Centre for Gender and Science and the University of Hradec Králové. The workshop hosts enabled participants to learn about the key characteristics of ethnographic methodology, such as reflexivity, cultural relativism or situationality and made them come alive through their presentation of their study on smart home living arrangements and extracts from field diaries. In a hands-on activity, participants were guided to produce an overview of the challenges of ethnographic research and ways to overcome them.







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