A word to the wise. You can make a difference.

The university just finished running the biennial Postgraduate Research Experience Survey (PRES) 2015 – did you fill it in? Perhaps you did (34% of you did) and thank you for your time. Or maybe you didn’t? That’s OK, this post isn’t about national surveys anyway…(though do click the link if you’re interested in looking at the 2013 PRES data set)…

I just wanted to take time to remind all PhD students and early career researchers that you that you don’t need to wait for an official survey to come round to make your voice heard. Indeed we didn’t run the staff focused CROS and PIRLS surveys this time. We opted for an in-depth, in person consultation with departments to collect rich data on our research environments. So what now…

Think Ahead operates a continuous listening campaign for all researchers at the University of Sheffield, both staff and students, so you can let us know what matters to you, how it’s going, what’s great, and what could be better, without saving it up two years for the next survey. ‘We are listening’ may seem a bold claim but we really value feedback, comments, thoughts, suggestions and your stories. There are a number of ways that you can share your views with us:

  1. email the team – thinkahead@sheffield.ac.uk
  1. Complete one of our anonymous postcards (using a real olde worlde pen!) and return it to one of our post-boxes – these are located at:
  1. Use social media Twitter: @thinkaheadsheff
  1. Complete this anonymous webform. NOTE! None of the fields are compulsory so the form can be used to share whatever you want to say in the ‘What else would you like us to know?’ open box.
  1. Comment on this blog post.

We use the information, along with our evaluation data, to: ensure the Think Ahead framework achieves its mission to be innovative, inclusive and impactful; to support individuals with challenges they may be facing, and; to pick up on trends (both happy and not so happy) so we can support and cement change.

Some things this listening exercise isn’t:

A futile waste of your time because everyone knows the problems and nothing will happen anyway. Change is a complex and gradual process that starts with demonstrating a clear need by gathering together the evidence. This team is committed to learning, and feeding that learning into the wider university in the form of new ideas.

Designed to help us benchmark ourselves against other universities, enter league tables, or ‘for marketing purposes’. We’re not looking for you to tick ‘somewhat happy’ or ‘fairly peeved’. We want to hear your story in your own words so we can understand the complexity of the issues that you work with in the research environment.

Going to get you in trouble, or make things worse. It’s anonymous, so that can’t happen, and it’s also just not the way we work. We want to understand what’s going on not judge anyone, be that you, your supervisor, or your department. Only properly anonymised, aggregated data will be seen by anyone wider than the Think Ahead team. Guaranteed.

A way we can take any individual action on your behalf. If you require a reply on a specific issue, need support, or want to ask a question that needs a timely answer, please email thinkahead@sheffield.ac.uk so we can advise.

So…we are listening…what do you want to talk about?

Kay Guccione @kayguccione