Archives for category: Sandrine Soubes

With the end of the academic year and holidays looming, many of us are wrapping up the year and planning what lies ahead. The process involves reviewing what we have achieved, what we have not done so well, or not finished, but also considering things we intended to do, but have forgotten, projects/ tasks which got lost by the wayside, because of the constant time-wheel, crushing our best intentions. Read the rest of this entry »

I have been thinking a fair amount over the years about the writing process, whether in preparation for PhD sessions or through my own struggles. During the last couple of weeks, we have been running PhD inductions across the Faculty of Science, inviting some academics to share their experience of the writing process and receiving contributions from Katherine Clement, who is one of the new writers in residence working with undergraduate and PhD students, Postdocs, fellows and academics from the biological disciplines in our faculty.

“Becoming a researcher is…becoming a writer”

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During the 2016 Researcher Away Day, I had set a stall with a Ketso kit, which is a fun mind-mapping tool developed to facilitate community engagement. Ketso was developed by researchers from the University of Manchester who have set up a social entreprise to produce this interesting interactive resource, showing that indeed researchers’ creativity and ingenuity lead to entrepreneurial activities.


During the coffee breaks of the away day, I used the Ketso kit to ask Postdocs participants some simple questions about their experiences of being and developing as researchers at Sheffield, about the type of research environment they would want to have, and aspirations about the role of their PIs (e.g. A super PI does… I would like my PI to…) Read the rest of this entry »

During the last Researcher Away Day* (Friday 13th May), which brought together PhD poster_ad16students, Postdoctoral researchers, and Research Staff from many diverse departments across the Faculties of Science and MDH, I came across an interesting tool/model, which I would like you to consider as a possible tool to negotiate research careers strategically.

Dr Ali Riley who works for USE (the University Enterprise hub, which support enterprise education across the University) presented the concept of Effectuationdeveloped by Dr Saras Sarasvathy. This researcher explored the thinking processes used by expert entrepreneurs in making decision at the start of a new venture. Her research participants were entrepreneurs with extensive experience of the business environment. She set the participants “a 17-page problem set of 10 typical questions encountered by entrepreneurs as they build a venture”. Participants thought aloud about their approach to the problem and its resolution. The data gained from this study has permitted to develop a model about the type of logic followed by successful entrepreneurs in making decision and taking action. Different types of logic exist in making decisions about the future, which we cannot predict: causal logic, adaptive logic, visionary logic or effectual logic. Successful entrepreneur use a lot of effectual logic in their cognitive processes. Read the rest of this entry »

Unconscious bias is a type of unintentional bias that all of us ‘suffer’ from (even the most scientifically-minded and critical thinking academics!). It refers to a psychological phenomena, that we are unaware of, where our brain’s perception of other individuals plays tricks on us. Our brain as an effective processing machine, fires rapid decisions, makes short cuts on how we perceive and assess others. Howard Ross calls it the “human danger detector”. It’s not that we are either good or bad people in the way we judge others, it’s just that our brain has to process so much information that it has evolved mechanisms to make things easy in processing information. But the bug is, that it may not always help us make the right decisions.


Unconscious bias makes us look at others through our own specific lenses

Psychologists have extensively researched unconscious bias. Tests have even been developed to unearth and measure such biases. The term implicit bias is also used to describe such biases, once individuals become aware of them. The most commonly known test regarding unconscious bias is the Harward test, which measures different types of associations we make- you can test yourself with Project Implicit: Read the rest of this entry »

30 Principles for Steps Towards Research Independence 

We hosted last week the STRI symposium ‘Steps Towards Research Independence’ for researchers from the Faculties of Science, Medicine, Dentistry and Health. Our ambition in hosting this symposium was to offer a packed day full of ideas, food for thoughts, strategies and shared experiences about the process of transitioning towards research independence. Our speakers included researchers who had just gained their first fellowships to academics who had held several, lecturers who had never had one as well as professors who had achieved great academic success and held senior fellowships. We also had talks from colleagues from Research and Innovation Services about different funding streams or researchers supporting colleagues with the integration of statistical good practice in research proposals and research design. We had over 90 participants who joined us on the day for a morning full of talks and an afternoon busy with 6 workshops on offer covering topics as diverse as leadership skills, demystifying the CV, incorporating ‘Person, Project, Place’ in fellowship applications, as well as very interactive and dynamic sessions with Vox Coaching on shining in job/ fellowship interviews. Read the rest of this entry »

Group 7 of SUGS 2015During last week, I took part in the delivery of the Sheffield GradSchool (SUGS), a 3-day development programme for PhD students from across the University. For me the most important aspect about the programme, is that it gives PhD researchers the opportunity to ‘pause’, park their PhD for a few days and give them permission to think about themselves. Read the rest of this entry »

I have been looking at some of my old notebooks. I am a notebook scribbler. Whether I attend a meeting, a seminar, or a conference, I like to make notes on paper. With the advances in technologies with multiple genres in tablet devices, many colleagues have shifted their note taking to the very professional looking tablets where every pieces of writing or notes can be catalogued into the right file, shared in a diversity of digital remote spaces and accessed by an ever more increasing number of devices. Ok, maybe I should just admit it, but I am a bit of a dinosaur with technology and I still like my messy notebooks. I have many of them with random and unorganized notes gathered from diverse encounters. photoThe issue I have had with many of my trials in digital note taking is that the notes are there beautifully organised in many computer files and folders, but do I ever bother looking at them again?….rarely unless I really need something specific. Read the rest of this entry »

Becoming a competent researcher and progressing in academia requires commitment, dedication, time and much more. Developing the many skills and competencies of researchers to be competitive for jobs within an international research market could be a daunting prospect. During some of the workshops we run for PhD students and Postdoctoral Research Associates, we often discuss about the many opportunities that young researchers should take to make the best of their research period at the University, and we encourage our young researchers to take on additional responsibilities in order to build their CVs.

In order words we tell them “well, just doing your research won’t be enough, you need to develop your leadership skills, gain some teaching experience, practice reviewing papers, develop your network, become commercially aware”, and the list goes on. Not to mention, writing skills, the ability to publish well in good journals and the added bonus of demonstrating a track record in gaining research funding.

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As I am just back from holiday after several weeks away, I realise that I have been thinking a lot about how researchers get inspired for their work. When you ask young researchers what they do to foster their research inspiration and creativity, they usually start by responding that before being able to be creative, they need to know enough, need to have read enough. They may say that they get inspired by attending conferences or by meeting other researchers.


How do we get our research inspiration? How can we be creative as researchers? These are vast questions. What strikes me is that rarely will people start by saying that for them to be inspired or creative in their research, they just need time to think. In some ways, ‘time to think’ may seem an oxymoron in the academic context. Isn’t it what researchers do all day, isn’t it their job to think? Of course you do think all day when you are doing research, but the question remains of how you can sustain inspiration and creativity in the manner you pursue your research. I have just started reading a very interesting book called Bite: Recipes for remarkable research (Eds. A. Williams, D. Jones & J. Robertson from Sense Publishers), which presents lots of examples or as they are called in the book recipes about fostering and sustaining our inspiration and creativity as we work alone or collaboratively. It would be interesting to hear from you which of these recipes work for you.

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