Category / Doctoral College

Dr Gavin or: how I stopped worrying and learned to love research

A lesson on patience

It apparently took J.D. Salinger 10 years to write his first novel, The Catcher in the Rye. J.K. Rowling spent about 6 years writing and re-writing Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (I suspect publisher pressure accelerated things thereafter). As an early career researcher, I feel that since graduating from my doctorate and becoming independent, I can be less patient and eager for instant results – a feeling encouraged by social media and continuous metricisation.

My own current project, inspiratory muscle training for care home residents at risk of falling, can’t be compared to great achievements like those novels. But it is my ambition to undertake my own research project as principal investigator – and so I intend to savour the experience (i.e. be task oriented), rather than just chasing the outputs (i.e. being outcome oriented). I have learned to value iterative research designs, in that, the initial study’s outcomes inform the subsequent study’s methodology, and so on. However, this method presents its own uncertainties, as the researcher has to relinquish their control over the study.

Several lessons on managing myself

That said, I am beginning to see the need to set regular targets to keep the momentum on a project like this going. Taking my research beyond the controlled ‘safety’ of the physiology laboratory (satisfying internal validity), into a brave new world of the care home setting (satisfying external validity), requires working with research ‘end users’, be it: service managers, staff or residents. I’m finding the process: i) slow, care providers have additional administrative requirements, ii) essential, in laying trusted foundations for a long-term project, and iii) rewarding, by implementing research into the real world and establishing impact from the outset.

Since being awarded ACORN funding, my summer has been spent: writing for ethical approval, satisfying HR admin, recruiting care home partners, revising protocols, creating Plan B, writing Plan B ethical approval, piloting testing, revising participant selection criteria, and being trained by my PhD student (a lesson in humility, if nothing else). Even supported by an industrious research assistant this has felt a slow journey, with weekly peaks and troughs. I have even begun an 8 week period of inspiratory muscle training myself, to understand how care home residents can improve, feel challenged, and require further support. This has been equally useful to highlight practicalities – my challenges have been fitting 30 breaths, morning and night, into my daily routine; in contrast care residents’ challenges are likely to relate to effort, guidance, and motivation for training.






Research is an intellectual and logistical marathon

My initial participant selection criteria excluded all people with: dementia, COPD and respiratory difficulties, and cardiovascular diseases. My journey has presented three worries thus far: i) the funding expenditure deadline, ii) recruiting care homes and, iii) the selection criteria. In academia, the deadlines, targets and metrics are omnipresent, arguably more so since the increase in tuition fees.

Following the joy of being awarded research funding, comes the deadlines of expenditure (simple, if it were not for standard processes – ethical clearance, securing HR contracts, recruitment, and piloting) and the deliverables. I’m highly grateful of the ongoing support I receive, however I strongly believe that HE institutions must be realistic when financing projects and staff. Research is a slow process; outcomes cannot always be constrained to exact dates, as much as quality research cannot be established in rushed expenditure.

Mostly recently my challenge has been in recruiting care homes, particularly due to my selection criteria. This presents the methodological conflict between internal validity (i.e. the controlled laboratory) and external validity (i.e. the unpredictable care environment). Should I maintain my exclusion criteria, even though the majority of care home residents have dementia and/or COPD? Or relax the criteria to reflect the real environment and achieve recruitment? The former would make for more publishable data; the latter would support a Research Council funding bid (ah, I nearly forgot…must submit one of those by April 2019). Again, tempus fugit.


In this this social media age, time can appear condensed; two days can seem like an age, an afternoon of no replies, an epoch. A study in the 2017 Altmetric Top 100 provides compelling evidence that regular Smartphone use impairs cognitive performance by re-orienting attention. I’ve ‘disconnected’ from using a Smartphone and Facebook; this works for me. Regardless, I still have to exercise discipline in unnecessary email checking and now time-block my diary for: education, research or practice. I seriously recommend, as an academic, experiment on yourself. J.B.S. Haldane was a notable and prolific example of a self-experimenting physiologist. Yet whether it’s inspiratory muscle training or reducing Smartphone use, experiment on yourself – assess how you respond, identify influential variables and intervene if you wish.





How my ACORN grows

The simple truth is I don’t have a study finish date. The logic is if I am flexible on time, and put lots of my own effort in, then I will ultimately be able to generate both output and impact. There’s the psychological advantage too: by not having a finish date, I also stop the project becoming ‘work’. Pressures, missed opportunities, worrying others are publishing – these would stop research being fun. Academic success is not proportional to effort alone, however developing partnerships beyond academia is.

Being an academic is great – relative freedom, interesting colleagues, working with students, and contributing to societal value. Personally I’m not sure I’ll ever stop worrying, nevertheless, I have learnt to expect challenge on a near daily basis. This is notably relevant for the early career researcher looking to develop into an independent researcher, capable of sustaining their own work. Academia will always have a mountain to climb. I learnt to relax, stop worrying and love research by:

  1. Indulging in ‘quiet time’ – think, talk and share ideas
  2. Accepting failure
  3. Avoiding perfectionism
  4. Prioritising – day by day, week by week, time-block based on what tasks arise
  5. Avoiding distraction – e.g. social media detox / only read emails after late morning

Dr James Gavin

Dept. Sport & Physical Activity

Faculty of Management


Phone 012029 66303

Introduction to Good Clinical Practice – 10th October

Are you interested in running your own research project within the NHS? Good Clinical Practice, or ‘GCP’, is a requirement for those wishing to work on clinical research projects in a healthcare setting.

GCP is the international ethical, scientific and practical standard to which all clinical research is conducted. By undertaking GCP, you’re able to demonstrate the rights, safety and wellbeing of your research participants are protected, and that the data collected are reliable.

The next GCP full day session is scheduled for Wednesday 10th October, at Dorset County Hospital, Dorchester – 8:45am – 4:30pm.

The day will comprise of the following sessions:

  • Introduction to research and the GCP standards;
  • Preparing to deliver your study;
  • Identifying and recruiting participants – eligibility and informed consent;
  • Data collection and ongoing study delivery;
  • Safety reporting;
  • Study closure.

If you’re interested in booking a place, please contact Research Ethics.
Remember that support is on offer at BU if you are thinking of introducing your research ideas into the NHS – email the Research Ethics mailbox, and take a look at the Clinical Governance blog.

Good Clinical Practice refresher – 2nd October 2018

Are you currently undertaking research within the NHS and your Good Clinical Practice (GCP) training is due to expire? Or has it expired recently?

GCP certification lasts for two years, so if your training is due to expire, has expired, or you want to validate your learning, then take advantage of the upcoming refresher half day session, taking place at Royal Bournemouth Hospital on Tuesday 2nd October, 1pm – 4:30pm.

Spaces are still remaining and the closing date for bookings is the end of Monday 24th September. If you’d like to enrol, get in touch with Research Ethics or the Wessex Clinical Research Network.

Doctoral College: Researcher Development programme

The Doctoral College would like to present the September monthly update. This September update brings the launch of the Researcher Development Programme for 2018-19. We would also like to highlight some Brightspace Researcher Development Programme training coming up for PGRs and Supervisors and we would like to open bookings for the highly successful pre-transfer/major review and post-transfer/major review inductions.

Also note that the brand new Doctoral College: Researcher Development Programme on Brightspace is now live. Workshop bookings, online resources and modules, plus much more are now accessible on this new platform. If you cannot access the platform, please get in touch.

Don’t forget to check out the Doctoral College Facebook page.

NIHR call for peer reviewers

The National Institute for Health Research are in urgent need of psychiatrists and psychologists to peer review funding applications.

See the original tweet here advertising this opportunity, and how to apply here*.

*The link takes you to how to apply as a professional peer reviewer, from any clinical speciality. You can review for the NIHR for professional development (amongst other initiatives), and they need a wide range of expertise:

  • Academics
  • Clinicians
  • Health service managers and clinicians
  • Practitioners
  • Public health and related professionals
  • Social care sector workers
  • Patients and the Public
  • Anyone whose work has a potential impact on health.


Dr Paul Whittington attends Life Beyond the PhD 2018 Conference

Dr Paul Whittington pictured front far left

Cumberland Lodge in Windsor Great Park








Cumberland Lodge – an educational charity which tackles social divisions by promoting creative thinking and inclusive dialogue – held its 11th annual ‘Life Beyond the PhD’ conference.

Held over 5 days, the conference brought together PhD students and early career researchers for thought-provoking workshops, presentations and activities which explored the value of doctoral research both inside and outside of academia. Underpinning each of the activities was the Cumberland Lodge’s ethos of inclusivity, and insightful, interdisciplinary discussion.

Dr Paul Whittington, who completed his PhD in 2017 in the Faculty of Science & Technology, attended and benefitted greatly from presentations which included a variety of topics: Research Culture in the UK, Self-Leadership for Researchers, Techniques for Impact through speaking and writing, Public Engagement and Writing Interdisciplinary Research Proposals. These were presented by a variety of academics from institutions, including The University of Cambridge, Guardian Higher Education Network, Government Equalities Office and the University of London.

Paul also had the opportunity to collaborate with PhD students from around the country and to discuss and present his research to other delegates. On one day, he participated in an interdisciplinary team project which involved producing and presenting a research proposal tackling some form of social exclusion to a panel followed by a Q&A session. Paul presented a slide and subsequently his team won the challenge and received the “funding” – a box of chocolates that was then shared amongst the other teams.

Paul said: “Thank you very much to the Doctoral College for providing me with the opportunity to attend the Life Beyond the PhD Conference at Cumberland Lodge. It was very valuable to me and greatly appreciated.”

Developing doctoral research at Bournemouth University

Over the last fifteen years, more than 640 students have completed their doctoral studies at Bournemouth University in a range of subjects, from engineering to midwifery, from business management to animation. During that time, support for postgraduate research students (PGRs) has gradually developed, so that Bournemouth now has a thriving community of over 630 postgraduate researchers.

“Our new Doctoral College has its roots in the establishment of the Graduate School, back in 2003,” explains Dr Fiona Knight, one of the Doctoral College’s two Academic Managers. “Originally, our aim was to help make postgraduate research student’s journeys more consistent. At the time BU had 7 Academic Schools and postgraduate research students experiences really varied according to where they were based. We wanted to make sure that no matter where you were in the university, you had the same outstanding experience.”

“We began to work much more formally; introducing a Code of Practice for Research Degrees, developing training and formal qualifications for our supervisors, and giving much more structure to the research degree journey. The route to getting your PhD became much clearer,” continues Dr Knight.

The Doctoral College team have also worked hard to develop a sense of community among Bournemouth University’s postgraduate research students. This year will see their 10th annual Postgraduate Research Conference take place, where postgraduate research students from across BU will be able to share their research via presentations, posters and photography. “It’s the perfect opportunity for others working at BU to find out more about the exciting research being carried out by our postgraduate researchers” explains Dr Julia Taylor, the other Doctoral College Academic Manager.

Throughout the year, postgraduate research students can also develop their research, professional and personal skills by signing up to any number of skills and training courses offered through the Doctoral College’s Researcher Development Programme or hone their public speaking skills by taking part in the internationally renown 3 Minute Thesis™ .

Olivia Placzek, a postgraduate student in the Faculty of Management has been studying at Bournemouth University for the last eighteen months and is Chair of the Postgraduate Researchers Rep Committee.

“I’ve really enjoyed my journey so far, and it’s great to see how well the students, supervisors, administrators and the Doctoral College work so well together,” says Olivia, “I like all the opportunities we have to learn something new; whether it’s taking a course, going to a workshop or just catching up with other student’s research over coffee.”

“Having all these opportunities to choose from means that you can improve your skillset and the chances of going into the career you aspire to; which might be continuing in research or going into industry. There are always workshops on offer to help improve your skills, no matter what your goals are.”

Doctoral college case study

 Min Jiang joined Bournemouth University in 2010 to begin her studies in MSc Computer Animation and Visual Effects, after completing her first Master’s course at the Communication University of China whose programme is in partnership with Bournemouth University (BU).

“I thought I was certain to return to China after the one year’s Master’s course, however, BU won me over with their amazing animation course,” says Min. “I’ve learnt so much here and the life in Bournemouth is just too good to be over so quickly, so I continued my study as a PhD student in Computer Animation for a further 5 years.”

Alongside her PhD studies, Min also participated in group research projects which helped to develop her real-world skills such as project management and working effectively with others including external researchers and experts.

“Throughout my experience at BU, the Doctoral College has been very helpful. They provide funding for us to attend and present at conferences, conduct experiments and buy advanced equipment,” says Min. “They arrange all our training sessions and seminars to help us go through each stage of our PhD smoothly.”

After Min graduated from her studies in 2016, she went on to work for Oriental DreamWorks in Shanghai and is now working for Moving Picture Company in London, a global leader in visual effects.

“Luckily, BU gave me a very good introduction to the entire industry. Not only do we use the same system and animation tools as the university, but many of my colleagues are BU graduates too!”

“The Doctoral College really cared about our studies as well as our lives outside the university. All the tutors there were very kind and helpful; they took the time to get to know us all individually and take care of us.”

To find out more about BU’s Doctoral College, visit:

This article was featured in the 2018 Bournemouth Research Chronicle. To see the magazine in full, click here or pick up a copy in Poole House or Studland House reception.

Doctoral College: Researcher Development Programme

The Doctoral College would like to present the August monthly update.

In this August update we would like you to be reminded that the Doctoral College is open all summer and we are still holding one-to-one support sessions, so if you are not sure where to begin with your researcher development or where to go, come along and speak to one of us. Also, remember that the August Summer School Masterclass is now bookable click here.

Be aware that the brand new Doctoral College: Researcher Development Programme on Brightspace is now live. Workshop bookings, online resources and modules, plus much more are now accessible on this new platform. If you cannot access the platform, please get in touch.

Don’t forget to check out the Doctoral College Facebook page.

BU PGR Aishah Selamat in the running for IoD’s Student of Year 2018

Picture source:

BU PGR Aishah Selamat a third year PhD student from the Creative Technology Department has been shortlisted for the Institute of Directors (IoD) Student of the Year Award 2018. The award is aimed at recognizing students who have shown directors qualities in a project they have worked on in a business, employment or academic capacity. The IoD is the UK’s longest-running organization for professional and business leaders.

Aishah has recently pitched her project, alongside, her additional contributions to, UK Data Service, Global Blockchain Consortium and academic visiting lectureship to a group of judges at IoD’s main office in London. The winner of the Student of the Year Award 2018 will be announced at the prestigious Director of the Year Awards on the 18th October 2018 at the Royal Horticultural Halls.


Doctoral Summer School – hard work and fun!

The European Media Management Association Doctoral Summer School is a bi-annual event that has previously been run by institutions in Germany, Spain, Sweden, Portugal and Zurich. This year the Advances in Media Management (AiMM) research group hosted an international group of doctoral students at BU.

Dr John Oliver, Associate Professor of Media Management, said that “our aim was to create a community of learning where doctoral students, media industry professionals, BU faculty and professional services staff fused media management theory and practice to define the next generation of media management challenges”.

On the social side, delegates were given a Dorset cider tasting experience, an opportunity to see the grave site of Mary Shelley (author of Frankenstein) and a Gala Dinner in The Library of the Miramar Hotel in Bournemouth.

Dr Oliver would also like to thank the Doctoral College for their support and those members of the AiMM team that helped plan and deliver what can only be considered to be an “excellent event” that has contributed to BUs international profile and reputation. Many thanks to: Dr Joyce Costello, Dr Chris Chapleo, Melanie Gray, Graham Goode, Maria Musarskaya, Muridzo Searchmore and Conor O’Kane.

Doctoral College: Researcher Development Programme

The Doctoral College would like to present the July monthly update.

In this July update we would like you to be reminded that the Doctoral College is open all summer, we are still holding one-to-one support sessions so if you are not sure where to begin with your researcher development or where to go next book in to speak to one of us. Also, remember that the August Summer School Masterclass is now bookable click here.

Thank you to all who completed our PGR Communities Questionnaire. We presented initial findings at the UK Council for Graduate Education Annual Conference this week which you can read about in our blog piece and will be disseminating findings wider in the coming months.

The Doctoral College hosted it’s first ever PGR and Supervisors BBQ at Branksome Dene Room on Wednesday 27 June. It was an enjoyable event with good weather, great food, and the timeless classic Giant Jenga was a huge hit. The evening culminated with a beautiful sunset over the sea. If you couldn’t attend on this occasion we hope to see you at a future Doctoral College event.

Don’t forget to check out the Doctoral College Facebook page

Doctoral College @ UKCGE Annual Conference 2018

On 2nd-3rd July 2018, the Doctoral College Research Skills and Development Officers Natalie and Clare attended the UK Council for Graduate Education Annual Conference ‘Creating Inclusive Postgraduate Cultures and Communities’ in Bristol where the initial findings of the PGR Communities Questionnaire were presented.

The conference was attended by delegates from UK and International institutions (reaching Australia), policy makers and advisors from the Office of Students, Research England, Advance HE and industry. This was a fantastic opportunity to have discussions with colleagues on how best to support and accommodate an inclusive postgraduate research culture and community. We look forward to exploring further opportunities towards enhancing a strong and vibrant postgraduate research community here at BU.

Doctoral College June NVivo Workshops – open to all

The Doctoral College is hosting two NVivo workshops. If you would like to attend either of these workshops please follow the instructions below.


Please note that to book onto the Advanced NVivo workshop you need to attend the Introduction to NVivo first.