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CREST Summer School 2016: Discovering our Interdisciplinary Connections

Posted by. Jo Clarke and Kelly Zarins-Brown
Posted on 20 September 2016


​​​Leeds Trinity University is a member of CREST​: The Consortium for Research Excellence, Support and Training. This year saw the third CREST Summer School, which provided a focus for PhD students and Early Career Researchers on the themes of research impact, engagement, leadership and influence.​

​As we are both working within communities to produce our practice and​ research, we found this year's summer school incredibly relevant to our projects, and thoroughly engaged with the take-home and knowledge sharing that was on offer throughout. ​

We enjoyed meeting and discussing our projects with fellow researchers and practitioners from CREST affiliated institutions. The summer school was held in Woburn House and so we were lucky to be opposite the beautiful Tavistock Square Gardens, where we spent much of our free time catching up and exploring the moving peace memorials found in and around the park.

(Claire Wood, NCCPE, delivers a lively presentation on public engagement with research).

We'd like to share our highlights from the event and links that will be useful to fellow PhDs and early career researchers. 

Here are our top five messages to take away from the summer school:

  1. ​Interdisciplinary research is key: ​Gaining vital transferable skills sets and experience outside of your comfort zone and research area or methodology during your PhD can be really helpful for future funding opportunities, especially when applying for roles outside of traditional post-doctoral positions.​​​   
  2. There are a multitude of other impactful career routes ​out there, outside of the traditional post-doctoral routes within universities, or leading on from them. Inspiring speakers Mary Hodgson from the Young Foundation and Nick Ockenden from the NCVO spoke of the need for research to reach independent organisations, charities and communities outside of academia in order to inform new policies and affect real change.
  3. We were encouraged to be proactive in considering new and shorter form ways of disseminating research. Traditional academic papers are not always allowing for data to reach the people and communities it can affect change within. Examples include blogs, public engagement events, short reports in everyday accessible language and infographics.
  4. Consider new avenues to expand your research skill set. For example, the British Library offers PhD students opportunities to volunteer on specific projects through placements every summer from June-August. 
  5. Write to make a difference. Simple but great advice from Routledge who shared useful insights on how to get a book or article published (if you want to go down that route). Be clear on your story and why people should read it.

​​​​(Jo is pictured at the Wellcome Museum following a session about the work of the Wellcome Trust and Museum. Kelly pictured outside our accommodation at Passfield Hall). ​

Jo and Kelly's top three survival tips for summer academic events:
  1. ​​Take your discussions outside, literally!​ During breaks go outside, explore the city you are in and talk through ideas with new and existing contacts whilst you are feeling inspired. ​

    (London Bridge at night).

  2. Appreciate your surroundings. Despite a packed 2 day schedule we used the small amount of free time we did have wisely - taking in a self-guided tour around London's sights. 
  3. Think ahead. Summer schools and conferences often inspire people at the time but we have been keen to think practically on how the two days will impact us as PhD students when we get back to Leeds Trinity...
Summary of future plans 

Despite the fact that we come from different research disciplines, (Kelly - Media/Interactive Documentary and Jo - Sport/International Development) we share a strong mutual interest in practice-based and practice-led research and are now looking into ways of working together in the future. Our current ideas include setting up an interdisciplinary network of practice-based/practice-led researchers at Leeds Trinity and leading a discussion/workshop at the next Leeds Trinity Research day on our experience researching alongside communities - watch this space! 

Here are some useful links that were shared by the panel speakers at this year's Summer School:
Useful Routledge publishing links:
Author Services website (link to main website, all links below can be found on here)

Article link:

Inger Mewburn & Pat Thompson (2013) Why do academics blog? An analysis of audiences, purposes and challenges, Studies in Higher Education, 38:8, 1105-1119,​
DOI: 10.1080/03075079.2013.835624 Available at:

Guild HE Diversity Report:

Nesta, the innovation foundation: