Fresh Perspectives of the PsyPAG 2018 Conference

‘An extremely unique and positive experience’

This year was my first time attending the PsyPAG annual conference and it was such a memorable and inspiring few days! If, like me, you had been away from academia for a while and you have now begun a postgraduate course, I urge you to attend the next PsyPAG conference and become involved, as, for me, it was an extremely unique and positive experience. The conference was also particularly special for me, as I became the new PsyPAG BPS Social Psychology Section Representative, therefore in this blog I will share some of my highlights of the conference and my experience of presenting my research from the perspective of a new member of the committee!

Figure 1: I was a red head in college so I knew this look would suit

A major highlight was the workshops. I had quite carefully decided which workshops to go to, because they really did all look great, but I wanted to attend those which I knew I could take forward in my studies. The first one I attended was An Introduction and Practical Guide to Open Science Practices in Psychology led by James Bartlett, which was extremely helpful. I am slightly embarrassed to admit how little I knew about Open Science before I attended the workshop, it was definitely a “I really should know about this, I’ll do it tomorrow” thing. I was a bit intimidated to get started and didn’t really understand the importance of it for my work. However, the organisers were extremely knowledgeable, helpful and organised (#organisationgoals). There was time for questions, interactive tasks and all the documents we would need (along with examples) were uploaded onto the Open Science Framework for us to access. I feel a lot more confident now and will be using open science practices in my research. The next workshop I attended was Capturing, Evaluating, and Demonstrating Research Impact, led by Ryc Aquino and Catherine Talbot. As well as useful and hilarious role play (research related of course) we were encouraged to condense our research into three ‘take home messages’ which I think is such good practice. It also gave me a much clearer and diverse perspective on what research impact is and how I can demonstrate that with my research plans.

The final workshop I attended was Uses of Social Network Analysis in Health Care: Methods, Tools, and Controversies led by Dr Tim Gomersall and Dr Susie Kola-Palme. This introduced us to software we can use to download and analyse data from social networks and how this can be interpreted. As a social psychology researcher, this was incredibly helpful and relevant for my research. The organisers were also kind enough to answer some specific questions I had about research ideas! The other workshops which were running I know were just as useful and they definitely inspired people to consider running workshops next year.

All the symposia I attended were interesting, diverse and entertaining. In just 12 minutes the speakers explained their research, their methods, discussed the implications and I remember a few in particular that had us all entertained! Therefore, as you can imagine, in the lead up to my presentation I was feeling pretty nervous. I was presenting my research plan predominantly, and was quite anxious that I didn’t have findings to present. However, the audience were incredibly supportive and gave lots of advice about my research aims and plans, which is invaluable at the early stage of your PhD. I feel like my research will really benefit from the workshops I attended, listening to other people’s presentations and the keynote presentations and of course from the comments and questions I received after my presentation.

Figure 2: There should be time for photos before you start presenting!

PsyPAG was three jam-packed days of research, discussion, learning and of course socialising, but hopefully this blog has given a brief overview of some of my highlights as a new committee member. Like I said before, I would definitely urge people to attend PsyPAG 2019 in the wonderful Sheffield- and don’t be scared of attending alone! I am really excited and grateful to be the Social Psychology Section Rep, so if any social psychology postgraduates have any suggestions, concerns or comments, please don’t hesitate to get in touch! You can email me at darel.cookson@research.staffs.ac.uk or tweet me @DarelCookson.

Darel Cookson is a PhD Student in the Department of Psychology, Staffordshire University.


Attending a Conference Full of ‘People Like Us’

I went to Huddersfield (for the first time) to present at the PsyPAG Annual Conference, which was organised by postgraduate students across the country. Although I follow the works of PsyPAG quite regularly, it was my first time attending one of their events and from the first moment to the last, it was exceptional.

Finishing the second year of my PhD, so far, I attended a few national conferences in the UK and some international conferences in Europe. I presented my research at conferences, which were either directly related to my specific field (social psychology) or psychology as a general discipline. Each of these attendances played a big role on my professional development, especially in terms of networking and getting familiar with the current works in my field. I learned a lot from listening to numerous professors talking passionately about their research and amazing almost everyone in the audience. At the same time, I also felt anxious presenting to these people, mostly because my research does not yet seem to ‘save the world’ as theirs do and also because I considered myself ‘just’ a PhD researcher –yes, I’m aware of how impostor this sounds.

Figure 3: Nihan Albayrak presenting her research

The PsyPAG Annual Conference, on the other hand, was one of a kind. All the presenters as well as the audience were postgraduate students, coming from different universities in the UK. Normally, when I present as an early-career researcher, I do not encounter a room full of passionate listeners. Furthermore, most of the questions I receive would be about the technicalities in my research process. However, I had a very unusual (and amazing) experience presenting at the PsyPAG Annual Conference. First of all, the room was literally full and some people were even standing in the back – just to listen my talk. It felt incredible! The questions I got after my talk were also very enthusiastic, engaging, and curious, showing a strong interest in the topic itself, not just on the research process. If you have never presented before, this is a wonderful opportunity to present your work in a friendly environment to an audience who is strongly familiar with your struggles as fellow postgraduate researchers.

Figure 4: Just one of the many workshops on offer at the conference

Another advantage of this conference was the very beneficial skill-development workshops, such as increasing the impact of your research or preparing for grant applications. Generally, such workshops given at various events or institutions are led by experts in their fields. In this conference, however, workshops were also run by experienced and skilled postgraduate students, which in turn helped them to understand our questions or concerns to a better extent and to give us more practical and hands-on tips that would better meet our needs. Additionally, this helped us to increase our confidence in achieving whatever the workshops are helping us to achieve because students giving these workshops already seemed to achieve what we wanted to achieve, and they were just ‘people like us’. All in all, however, just meeting so many PhD students from different universities was by far the most useful part of the PsyPAG Annual Conference. I do not remember any other event in the UK where there were so many  postgraduate students coming from different psychology departments across country. This conference provided us with a unique atmosphere where we can learn from each other as well as teach and inspire each other without being intimidated! I think there was a big ‘people like us’ effect in the end. That is, we saw ‘people like us’ presenting their research, earning grants, receiving prizes, making good publications, running workshops, giving inspirational speeches, and so on. In turn, I feel much more confident and optimistic about my research and personal development now. For this, I would like to thank to all the lovely people I have met during the conference and to the organisers for giving us such a vibrant atmosphere!

Nihan Albayrak is a PhD Student and Graduate Teaching Assistant at the Department of Psychological and Behavioural Science, London School of Economics and Political Science

Contact: n.albayrak1@lse.ac.uk
Twitter: @NihanAlb