Confessions and Realities of Early Career Research: Lifting the lid on today’s challenges and skills for collaboration, knowledge exchange, and just being an early career researcher took place on 12-13 November, 2014, at Grassmarket Community Centre, Edinburgh.

Over the course of two days we were joined by leading academics and early career researchers (ECR), creative practitioners and media experts from across the UK to share experiences and discuss the importance of knowledge exchange and the challenges for early career researchers.


Visual Documentation

> See photographs and illustrations from the event here

Session 1: Gaming the Networks


Introduction – Prof Tom Inns, The Glasgow School of Art

Tom Inns is the Director of the Glasgow School of Art (GSA), Scotland’s Specialist Institution for Art, Design and Architecture. Tom studied Engineering at the University of Bristol and Design at the Royal College of Art. In 1990 he cofounded the Design Research Centre at Brunel University, becoming Director in 1996. In 2000 he moved to the University of Dundee becoming Head of Design at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design (DJCAD) and then Dean. Between 2005-2010 he was Programme Director for the AHRC/EPSRC funded Designing for the 21st Century Initiative. Tom has an active interest in how strategic design can apply principles of traditional design to society’s systemic challenges. He regularly designs and facilitates knowledge sharing workshops with innovation agencies across Europe working with organisations such as NESTA, UK Design Council, ARDI Rhone Alps, UKERC, Swedish Industrial Design Foundation, South West Screen, PopVox, VINNOVA and Guimaraes 2012. In September 2014, Tom was appointed as Member of the Arts & Humanities Research Council’s governing body, the Council.

How Research can go Viral – Dr Donna Yates, University of Glasgow

Donna Yates is a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow on the University of Glasgow’s Trafficking Culture project. She is an archaeologist in a criminology department studying the looting of archaeological sites and the smuggling of stolen antiquities. When she isn’t twittering on about art crime, she spends what little free time she has on Lego, traffic cone preservation, and playing the banjo.

The Picture of Dorian Gray – Prof Chris Speed, University of Edinburgh

Chris Speed is Chair of Design Informatics at the University of Edinburgh. At present Chris is working on funded projects that engage with the flow of food across cities, an internet of cars, turning printers into clocks and a persistent argument that chickens are actually robots.

How to use networks to think creatively about research (panel)

Dr Paul Smith, Glasgow School of Art

After working as a Product Designer, Paul took on a first Masters degree in 2006 researching computer aided product development, this was followed by a second Masters degree in 2008 researching 3D print technology applications. This research carried into a PhD in 2008 researching generative design for 3D printing. In total this has seen Paul working with 3D print technology for around 10 years, 5 years of which have been spent researching the technology and developing its applications. His research continues to look at future application of digital fabrication technology. More recently research has focused on participatory design and design thinking. He has presented on the subject at a number of conferences around the world and has written articles for a wide range of journals.

Mel Woods, University of Dundee

Mel, Reader at DJCAD, UoD, has developed and explored interaction between people to support discovery, foster creativity and affect. Throughout her academic career she has sustained a critical enquiry in art and design, creating digital artifacts, prototypes and exhibits using novel methods and evaluation techniques. She presents and publishes nationally and internationally and recently won the Imperica Prize 2013 for Installation using data from the British Library ‘Booksight’ at British Computer Society, EVA Conference, London.

Mel has extensive experience leading interdisciplinary teams across art, design, computer science (Artificial Intelligence, Open Data and Semantic Web) HCI and ethnography, and regularly works with external agencies, businesses and communities. She has worked with NESTA and The Cultural Enterprise Office as a mentor for entrepreneurs in the creative industries. In this sense she aims to position her interdisciplinary approach to questions with direct application to benefit business, culture and society.

Dr Gerard Briscoe, Queen Mary University of London

Gerard is a researcher at Queen Mary University London, and a visiting fellow at the Glasgow School of Art. He specialises in interdisciplinary research at the fringe of the computing sciences with the arts and humanities, business and social sciences, and the natural sciences. His research interests are centred around Digital Cultures.

Dr Debbie Maxwell, University of Edinburgh (Chair)

Debbie is a researcher at Edinburgh College of Art, University of Edinburgh, on the Arts and Humanities Knowledge Exchange hub, Design in Action. Her research interests are around the ways that people interact with and reshape technology and the roles that storytelling can play across media. Past research includes her doctoral research working with traditional storytellers in Scotland, mobile digital interpretation projects in rural Northumberland, and the design of digital tools to facilitate and encourage serendipitous encounters in research.

Session 2: Cooking up ECR Success


Challenges for Early Career Researchers – Dr Sabine Hoehn, University of Glasgow

Sabine Hoehn is a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow at the Politics department of University of Glasgow. She completed her PhD at the University of Edinburgh in 2010. Her current research concerns the role of international criminal law for changing ideas about political violence in Africa. Sabine has three children and lives in Edinburgh.

Creating recipes for collaboration (workshop) – Derek Jones, Open University

Derek Jones is a Lecturer in Design with The Open University and course chair for U101: Design Thinking, the award winning entry course for the university’s Design and Innovation degree. His main research interests are: the pedagogy of design and creativity, Design Thinking and theory, and virtual design environments.

Session 3: Storytelling for Good


Lindsey Gibb, Story Storm – Storytelling for the Real World (workshop)

Lindsey is a professional storyteller who enjoys telling a wide variety of stories often with an environmental or wildlife theme. She specialises in Story Storming, where she makes up stories with the audience and Spontaneous Storytelling where she makes up stories on the spot. She also uses storytelling in business either as a facilitation technique or to help with problem solving, mediation, team building or help building confidence in public speaking.
Lindsey grew up in the West of Scotland surrounded by stories, listening to them, reading them and making them up and carried on doing so weaving them into her various careers and at home. She’s worked as a Countryside Ranger, Trainer & Management Coach, Communications Manager and Pilates Teacher (amongst others!) and storytelling has found its way into each of her jobs in different ways and her experiences have found their way into stories.

Storytelling through Design Tools – Dr Jen Ballie, University of Dundee

Jen is a post doctoral researcher within Design in Action, AHRC Knowledge Exchange hub. Her research is focused on the rural economy sector within Scotland, exploring how small to medium enterprises might apply design strategically to flourish. This is being investigated through Design KIT an online and physical design innovation toolkit designed to energise business through new thinking, including methods to support knowledge exchange, innovation and trend forecasting.

Stories of Creative Exchange – Dr Naomi Jacobs, Lancaster University & Dr Simon Bowen, Newcastle University

Naomi is a Senior Research Associate in ImaginationLancaster. Her general research interests include knowledge exchange, interdisciplinary collaboration and digital public space, with a background in experimental psychology. She is currently working as part of The Creative Exchange, one of the AHRC’s four Knowledge Exchange Hubs.
Simon is…

Session 4: Becoming Immortal


Making a Lasting Impact – Dr Louise Valentine, University of Dundee

Louise Valentine is Head of Enterprise and Entrepreneurship for the College of Arts, Science and Engineering at the University of Dundee. She is Vice President of the European Academy of Design and Associate Editor for The Design Journal (published by Bloomsbury). In 2012-14, Louise was worked with the Digital R&D Fund for the Arts, a collaborative fund established to nurture innovation, supporting the development of new business models and new ways of effectively engaging with the public. The Fund awarded 62 projects from across England, Scotland and Wales with investment of close to £8M. Louise studied Industrial Design before gaining her doctoral degree in Design Thinking (January, 2004) and post-doctorate positions in Craft, Innovation and Partnership Working. Her research is concerned with mindfulness. It focuses on how design is perceived and communicated and, the value design adds when used as a leadership and performance management tool in business. She is editor of ‘Prototype: Design and Craft in the 21st Century’ (2013), ‘Past, Present and Future Craft Practice’ (2010) and, ‘New Craft Future Voices’ (2007). Louise is a Fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts.

Working with academics (from the other side) – Holly Else, Times Higher Education

Holly Else is a reporter at Times Higher Education, where she covers research, early career researchers, postgraduates and the links between universities and businesses. Holly has an MSc in science communication from Imperial College and a BSc in biomedical science from the University of Sheffield. Holly has been a journalist for seven years and before joining THE she worked for Professional Engineering magazine. She has also worked for the Emerging Health Threats Forum, the Medical Research Council laboratories in The Gambia, and the World Health Organisation in Geneva.

Immortalising your Research (workshop) – Dr Jo Young, Scientific Editing Company

Dr Joanna Young received her BSc, MSc and PhD (in neuroscience & informatics) from the University of Edinburgh prior to completing a three-year postdoctoral position there. During this time she published several papers and regularly presented her work at international conferences. Joanna set up her company, The Scientific Editing Company, in 2010 and now works with researchers from all over the world. She delivers workshops on research communication, data and publishing at universities around the UK and organises an annual conference in Edinburgh on academic publishing (, in addition to an alternative careers event for researchers.

Skills in Action was developed as a response to the need for Early Career Researchers to increasingly work collaboratively with a wide range of external partners.

The programme delivered a series of informal lunchtime discussions to share best practice of collaborations and knowledge exchange.  Skills in Action culminated in a two day festival that drew early career researchers together from across the dispersed Arts and Humanities research community. The festival offered a forum for discussion, sharing of insights, targeted training and networking opportunities to researchers from a diverse range of disciplinary backgrounds.

‘We were delighted with the success of the ‘Confessions and Realities of Early Career Research’ festival.  The speakers offered insightful and useful advice that was both reflective and practical and of direct benefit to early career researchers.’ Dr Deborah Maxwell

‘Bringing together researchers from across the Arts and Humanities enabled participants to learn from each other.  Over the course of the two days there were many valuable discussions that we hope will continue beyond the event.’ Dr Gemma Kearney