Annual Conference 2018 – the postgraduate perspective

Recipients of the British Psychological Society's postdoctoral conference bursary give their highlights.

I was delighted to receive one of the BPS’s postdoctoral bursaries to attend the conference in Nottingham. This allowed me to present my academic poster to psychologists who were interested in inner speech and executive functions, which made for some interesting and lively discussions! I’d recommend trainee psychologists/psychologists to attend these conferences as these discussions have led to potential collaborations and have given me direction on future research plans.

The conference in general held some fascinating presentations. The open science talk by Brian Nosek (pictured above) was a particular highlight. I was left reflecting on how science needs to change its approach to be more open. Thanks to the momentum that is behind Nosek et al., I feel that science will progressively move forward over the coming years by changing the culture of how science needs to be conducted. Crisis in the sciences (it’s not just psychology!)? No, it’s a reformation, and science and society will soon benefit from this reformation.

Christopher Atkin (PhD student, Nottingham Trent University)

My experience of this year’s BPS conference was an engaging and inspiring one – specifically, the sense of inclusivity that was being encouraged across the psychological discipline. Professor Brian Nosek’s keynote speech addressed some of the challenges in how psychologists value their research within the community (e.g., making data openly accessible), contrasted to the everyday practices which can act as barriers to sharing. Professor Stephen Reicher gave a fascinating talk on the classic Milgram studies, challenging the notion of obedience as unthinking behaviour by participants who ‘administered’ electric shocks to confederates. Confronting established research, I would argue, contributes to the broader psychological landscape within the discipline.

My conference highlight was Dr Simon Goodman’s presentation of his research on asylum seekers – in particular, how unaccompanied child migrants are ‘interrogated’ in asylum interviews. Dr Goodman approaches his analysis through discursive psychology, which focuses on how psychological matters come about as interactional resources, in this case, between interviewer and interviewee. By showing actual transcripts of interviews, Dr Goodman demonstrated that the ways in which questions were worded implied the child was to blame for their current situation, and how this related to the broader discussion around bogus asylum seekers. Dr Goodman presented his research in an engaging and clear way, showing that other psychological approaches, such as discursive psychology, have an important role to play in the study of interaction. Consequently, this has inspired me in promoting my research – in terms of sharing data in an accessible way, and further, how different psychological approaches can be positively received within the community.

Marc Alexander (Loughborough)

I am currently in my second PhD year at Nottingham Trent University exploring teacher, adolescent and parental perceptions and response towards cyber bullying. While I have previously attended BPS section conferences (i.e. Developmental, Social & Psychology of Education), this was my first experience attending and presenting at the BPS annual conference, this year held in Nottingham. I had an amazing experience and enjoyed a wide variety of presentations, across a broad range of research fields. A particular highlight for me was the keynote by Professor Brian Nosek on ‘improving openness and reproducibility'.

The conference provided an opportunity to discuss my research through a poster presentation, enabling wider networking and feedback for my PhD research. The conference widened my network contacts and I left feeling motivated to continue my PhD journey with new research ideas. I very much look forward to attending and presenting at future BPS conferences.    

Peter Macaulay (PhD Researcher and Hourly Paid Lecturer, Nottingham Trent University)

I wasn’t sure what to expect from the conference, having only attended small psychological conferences in the past. This year I presented a poster based on my master’s thesis. It was great to meet other researchers and discuss ideas together, exploring possible future directions and applications of research. One presentation which I particularly enjoyed was delivered by Stephanie Heyes called ‘Adolescent pain and social interactions’. It was absolutely fascinating to hear the results of this project and even though we are from different subdomains of psychology, we continued discussing the project afterwards, as well as talking about both of our future ideas. I also attended a talk by Sailaa Sunthararajah about a mindfulness group therapy with looked-after children. As my current research is adapting a current mindfulness-based programme I found it inspiring to hear about her project. The discussion afterwards was lively and interesting, and I thoroughly enjoyed talking to her after the presentation also.

Overall, the conference was an excellent opportunity to hear about the research that is being conducted all over the country and across disciplines. It was a great opportunity to meet other researchers and discuss future projects together.

Rebecca Park (University of Lincoln)

I thought Professor Brian Nosek’s keynote on ‘improving openness and reproducibility’ was particularly thought-provoking. He highlighted a number of key and pertinent issues in relation to open science which I will incorporate into my own practice both now and in the future.   

I also attended six award winner presentations, which showcased a number of fascinating research projects and recognised clinical and academic achievements. As an early-career researcher, having the opportunity to learn from this excellent work is both inspiring and will prove instrumental in developing my own ideas and research.

Finally, this diverse conference was an invaluable opportunity to present my own work to a multidisciplinary audience from a variety of occupational and academic backgrounds. Such opportunities to disseminate beyond your given field can be challenging, yet, are so important.

I left the conference feeling motivated and energised, with lots of new ideas!

Holly Bear (PhD Student, University College London)

For me, the BPS conference brought a series of 'firsts'. It was the first psychology conference I have ever attended. So, at the outset, I wasn’t too sure about what to expect. It turned out to be a stellar three-day event with friendly participants, impeccable organisation, stimulating presentations, and inspiring keynote speeches.

Also, at the conference, I was interviewed about my research for the first time. This would have been a daunting experience, if it hadn’t been for the support I received from the BPS’s wonderful PR team, who took their time to help me prepare for the interview. In the end, it was a great experience.

As other social psychologists attending, I consider the highlight of the conference to be Stephen Reicher’s keynote speech about the reinterpretation of Stanley Milgram’s obedience experiments. Like many psychology undergraduates, I 'grew up' reading about the obedience studies. Thus, I was excited to see Milgram’s experiments came back into the limelight through the work of Stephen Reicher, Alexander Haslam, Stephen Gibson, Matthew Hollander, Jason Turowetz and Douglas Maynard and the recent debate featured in the British Journal of Social Psychology about the identity vs. the conversation analytic interpretations of Milgram’s experimental data. 

All in all, I found the conference a great way to reconnect with psychology. As a PhD student in an interdisciplinary department, working on a social psychological topic – persuasion – using conversation analysis, I rarely get to 'talk psychology'. I really enjoyed meeting other like-minded researchers and feeling that my current work has a home in psychology.

Bogdana Huma (Loughborough University)

A highlight of this years conference was the inclusion of an open science theme in the programme. This included a keynote from one of the largest contributors to the open science movement (Brian Nosek) as well as a whole symposium on developments in open and reproducible practices from world leading open science academics.

As an open science advocate I found this very welcome and it was promising to the discussion surrounding the reform being presented to a wider audience. It sometimes feels as though the proponents of the credibility reformation operate in an echo chamber and it is important to talk to people who are unfamiliar with the progress about their opinions and their criticisms so that the movement can progress further.

There was also an incredibly enjoyable evening Fringe Event on the topic after the Wednesday evening BBQ. I think a lot of people, including myself, were a few drinks in by that point and it was really fun to hear various members both the BPS committee and some of the speakers present their opinions on the state of psychology and how to fix some of the problems as well as involving a large group of delegate in the discussion.

Some of the points that were included were the emphasis upon breaking new ground in psychology rather than replicating existing studies and gaining a deeper understanding on some of the existing theories, the role of qualitative research in the open science movement, (specifically whether the lessons learned from quantitive studies apply), issues surrounding diversity in the the samples of psychology studies.

Oliver Clark, Manchester Metropolitan University

At this year’s conference I came away with a new appreciation for the term ‘connectedness’. It was a theme that came through in the many excellent presentations about connecting communities (Community capital: The value of connected communities from Suzanne Wilson at University of Central Lancashire), health and social interactions (Social network analysis for developmental psychology, by Stephanie Burnett Heyes at the University of Birmingham) and the meaning of connection between teachers and adolescents (Teacher connectedness in adolescence, by Irene García-Moya at the University of Hertfordshire). But ‘connectedness’ also came through in some other fascinating areas. Tamika Roper and her colleague demonstrated the potential for a barbers shop to provide a space for black men to come together, connect and support mental health. Their talk gave a great example of applied psychology that invited us to to think about exploring places in society which hitherto maybe overlooked, but where important connections already occur.

Ulrike de Ponte, at the University of Regensburg, Germany also delivered a wealth of insight as part of the European Federation of Psychologists’ Associations (EFPA) symposium. She not only highlighted the challenges of connection for refugees and migrants coming to Europe, but importantly the connection needed between theoretical approaches and inter-cultural research to provide valid and robust approaches to support important work in this area.

Perhaps it was my own experience as a social psychologist carrying out my field research in Brazil that meant I was more sensitised to it issues of dis-connectedness during this conference. Conference is certainly all about connections, and is invaluable to an overseas researcher. But hearing about the significance of connection for psychological wellbeing, and listening to the EFPA describe the opportunities and advantages of working together across the various societies within Europe, re-affirmed my faith that connection and collaboration couldn’t come at more important time.

Susie Ballentyne, Lancaster University PhD Student

My first experience of the BPS Annual Conference was a rewarding and enjoyable experience. Presenting a poster for the first time was a valuable part of my learning journey as a Phd Researcher. The feedback and questions from other academics from a wide range of psychological fields provided me with an ideal opportunity to discuss my work in detail. It helped me to articulate clearly my reasoning for the research and the research findings so far.

Among the highlights for me were the opening talk by Professor Brain Nosek, a very interesting and thought provoking presentation. His simple message to academics of the need to show your work and share it, will go a long way to supporting the changes needed in research culture. Another highlight was the talk by Craig Harper on ideological symmetries in “fake news” acceptance, providing a research-based insight into the highly current topic of “fake news”.

Caroline Ford (PHd Researcher at Nottingham Trent University)

I am so glad that I had the chance to mingle with such a wide range of people, from prestigious researchers, and practitioners, to research and undergraduate students across all fields. I got to know so many great new people and catch-up with so many others. I attended many great presentations, workshops and symposiums, which all really peaked my interest, and were extremely informative and enjoyable. As well as this, having the opportunity to present my own work through a poster presentation has helped me vastly with my confidence when discussing my own research and findings to a larger audience, and I am extremely grateful for the experience. I would highly recommend it and am incredibly excited for next year’s annual conference.

Jodie Enderby (MRes students, Coventry University)

The BPS Annual Conference in Nottingham was the first BPS conference I have ever attended and I have to admit I did not expect such a diversity of presenters and their research interests. It was a truly refreshing experience to step out from my own research bubble and find out more about other people’s work as well as to get to know their perspectives on my current project. I also enjoyed the poster sessions as they really gave everyone an opportunity to share their interests and experiences. 

As we all know, being a researcher may sometimes be tiresome and a bit lonely, and therefore I think it is important that people in the academia are given chances to socialize while also sharing their work with others. Finally, I was fascinated by the talk given by Professor Stephen Reicher on Milgram’s obedience studies. Professor Reicher proved to be both an engaging speaker and insightful researcher. He demonstrated that it is always worth challenging even the most endorsed psychological theories.

Marta Beneda (University of Cambridge)

- The October round of the British Psychological Society's postdoctoral conference bursary scheme is open from 1 July and all applications must be received by 1 October. Find more details on the Society website.

- You can read more coverage from the Annual Conference online, and in the June and July print editions.

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