Posts By / Richard Berger

Media Education Summit 2012 @ BU.

This week, BU hosted the 5th annual Media Education Summit. Over 60 delegates attended from all over the world, to hear a wide range presentations and to take part in themed conversations about the scholarship of learning and teaching in our field.

Keynote speakers included Caroline Norbury, the new Chief Executive of Creative England. She set the scene for the Summit and challenged all media educators to “get out more”!

Next we had Ian Livingstone – remember the Fighting Fantasy adventure books in the 80s? He started the Games Workshop and is now President of the videogame company, Eidos, home of Lara Croft. Ian talked about his NextGen report and the ICT curriculum in schools, which is now gaining quite a lot of traction.

Paul Lewis from The Guardian shared his thoughts on collaboration and what he called “layered journalism”. He used his own reporting of the riots last year in London and Birmingham as a case study, and showed how he used Twitter both as a source and a means to get close to the unfolding story.

Jon Dovey from the University of the West of England talked about his REACT project, which is a collaboration between UWE, Bristol, Bath, Cardiff and Exeter Universities. Funded by the AHRC, the project aims to bring together arts and humanities researchers and creative economy companies to work on a series of ‘Sandbox’ initiatives. It’s probably the best example of ‘Fusion’ I have ever seen, and has given us all a lot to think about.

The Media School’s Centre for Excellence in Media Practice (CEMP) started the Summit in 2008, as a forum to bring together those in the field of media and creative education. Since then we’ve been to Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham and London and we are planning to hold the 2014 Summit outside the UK.

We filmed the keynotes, and they will start appearing on the website soon, if anyone is interested:

Life as an AHRC Panel Reviewer


At the moment the Arts and Humanities Research Council are recruiting new members for their review panels. I have been member of the review college (as it’s grandly called) for just over two years have reviewed many bids in that time. Like Dr. Richard Shipway of the School of Tourism – who has recently posted about his experiences reviewing for the ESRC – I’ve found it to be a surprisingly enjoyable experience.

I get around 4-5 bids to review a year. It is all done online – although you can save and print all of the documents as PDFs if you want. I’ve looked at all sorts of bids, submitted by all sorts of academics, at varying stages of their career. Sometimes I have heard of the researcher, sometimes not. Sometimes I know a great deal about the proposed topic, sometimes not so much. That’s OK, because you can evaluate your own expertise in commenting on a proposal when reviewing the bid – this is great if you’re not entirely comfortable.

So, you get to see what other people are bidding for, and for what. The review process then directly informs your own bidding activity. The training for reviewers – at Polaris House in Swindon – is excellent, and the regular sessions are a further opportunity to meet other academics from all over the UK. The most useful thing though is to read and discuss same successful and unsuccessful bids with other reviewers, panel chairs and AHRC staff.

Being a reviewer gives me a great insight into the ways in which a successful research proposal can be crafted. It’s like being at the other end of the ‘pipe’ because on one hand I’m putting together bids with my colleagues here at BU, and then I’m very often reading the submissions at the same time. Right now I have a proposal sitting in my inbox waiting to be reviewed, alongside an almost complete proposal I’m working on with a colleague at the University of Wolverhampton, which we will be submitting to the AHRC very soon.

For me, this dialog between the two processes (reviewing and writing) has been invaluable, and has certainly improved the practice of putting together research bids. It’s also shaped my thinking a lot more strategically in terms of what to go for, and who to work with.

There is still time to put yourself forward as an AHRC reviewer and I would highly recommend it.

If you’re interested in being nominated as a reviewer for the AHRC then read how to do so here: AHRC Still Seeking Nominations for Peer Reviewers

Getting Out There

When I finished my PhD here at BU in 2006, all I had to show for it was…a PhD. There is nothing wrong with that, but my research career only really began when I had completed my doctoral studies; I presented my first international conference paper the following year, and my first journal article finally appeared a year after that.

Now I’m a supervisor of PhD students, and most are already submitting their work to conferences and writing journal articles. This provides a corollary to my own advice and support, and in many ways it also holds me to account. In June, the Times Higher Education reported that:

 “For those hoping to progress to a more stable academic career, the figures make for depressing reading. The NSF estimates that only 26 per cent of recent PhD recipients in the US will secure a tenure-track position. UK postdocs appear to have even more reason for pessimism” (Jump, 2011).

This is rather a bleak assessment, but even so, it is clear that a PhD is no longer the ‘entry level’ route into a research career it once was. At BU, we want our PGRs to be competitive, so it is imperative that our PGRs have a clutch of conference papers, a publication-or-two and a bit of teaching experience behind them on exiting their doctoral research.

This workload must of course be carefully managed, but there is nothing to stop full-time BU PGRs undertaking our P/G Cert in Education Practice. As for publications, there are now hundreds of open access journals online, and even some of the most prestigious ones have themed issues and room for smaller ‘research reports’ on work in progress. All supervisors need to be aware of these places and not leave it for their students to find them.

BU has a postgraduate conference each year, which is an excellent nursery for presenting at national and international conferences later. Most subject areas now have established conferences; the Media, Communication and Cultural Studies Association has both a national conference and a dedicated postgraduate one – which BU hosted this year. Just last week I met an eminent broadcasting history scholar who praised a BU PGR she had seen at a recent symposium in Winchester. This can only reflect well on us and validates the students’ work.

So if our PhD students finished with…just a PhD, then to an extent we have failed them. Part of being a good PhD supervisor is not just to help bring the project to completion, but to also nurture the beginnings of a research career; the dialogue with ‘outside’ scholarship needs to get going as soon as possible.


Richard Berger – Associate Prof & Head of Postgraduate Research, The Media School.