On cloud nine in Brighton

We asked recipients of the British Psychological Society's postgraduate conference bursaries for their highlight of last week's Annual Conference in Brighton.

Sam Parsons (Oxford University):

Is psychology in the midst of a replication crisis or a revolution? In a workshop that should be mandatory to all researchers, Mark Andrews and Daryl O'Connor discussed issues contributing to why many published findings are likely false. These workshops are integral to developing better research practices, so it was disheartening that the room was not completely full. Regardless, the lively discussion centred on the importance of conducting replicable, well powered, and statistically strong research in a scientific community that values and incentivises these practices over publishing as many “sexy” results as possible. Pre-registering studies and increasing statistical inference training were recurring themes. My conclusion is that to fully enact this evolution of our science, these practices must be imbedded into undergraduate teaching. This would undoubtedly require a considerable overhaul of undergraduate courses, but this early investment will be massively outweighed by the reward of better, more reproducible research. 

Dung Jidong (PhD Student, University of East London):

I had an amazing experience at the 2017 BPS annual conference in Brighton. I also had useful interaction during the conference and delegates’ feedback for my poster presentation enhanced my research thinking. More exciting is that I emerged as the ‘delegate poster choice’ winner! The student stream was also incredibly helpful in understanding the roles associated with early career research. In addition, I was privileged to network with highly placed psychologists such as Martin Seligman, with the hope of future research collaboration on how to harness and contextualise the elements of positive psychology and wellbeing in Nigeria and Africa.

In essence, my participation in the 2017 Annual Conference was really inspiring and I am looking forward to attending the 2018 event in Nottingham.

Rose Lea (PhD Research Student in the Institute of Health and Society, University of Worcester):

I really enjoyed my first BPS Annual Conference! The range of topics was excellent and the event was well organised from start to finish. Keynote speaker Martin Seligman’s inspiring talk on positive psychology was a particular highlight for me, and I have come away full of ideas for my own research. I am hoping to return next year to deliver a verbal presentation.

Rose Turner, Kingston University:

My second PhD year has entailed many challenges and lonely lab hours. Presenting a poster enabled me to share my findings one-to-one with students, academics and practitioners, which opened up potential research applications. I was gifted a poetry book following a fascinating conversation about access to literature for people with reading difficulties, and invited to join a new research network. I left feeling rejuvenated and reconnected to my field, and was delighted to discover my findings reported in the press following the conference.

Furthermore, I gathered lots of ideas about support for students during enthusiastic talks from the Division of Academics, Researchers and Teachers, and felt motivated to design a PhD support project at my own university, which I’m currently implementing. In the meantime, I’m remembering inspirational keynote speaker Martin Seligman’s ‘three good things’ daily writing exercise, as a reminder of the many things to enjoy during the PhD journey.

Jess Cotney (Doctoral Researcher and Associate Tutor, University of Sussex):

I attended many talks, keynotes, and symposiums that emphasised the importance of both positive and negative aspects of well-being. Although I am unable to pick one specific talk, this overarching theme was a real highlight for me. Numerous talks, including Martin Seligman’s keynote speech on positive psychology, Charlie Lea’s presentation on well-being measurement, and our own symposium (led by Robin Banerjee) on children and adolescent relationships, emphasised the important distinction between mental health problems on the one hand and positive functioning on the other. Well-being is not the same as an absence of distress, and this core message came through over and over again. This provided a very valuable perspective on how we can seek to improve human functioning across the whole life course and within numerous personal and social contexts. I was pleased to see attention being given to this issue throughout the conference.

Lenka Blaskova (PhD student, University of Cambridge):

Apart from presenting my own research on students’ wellbeing in Slovakia in front of nearly 80 BPS academics and practitioners, I will always remember meeting Dr Martin Seligman at this conference. His books on Authentic Happiness and Fluorishing have inspired me to pursue researching positive psychology and apply his concepts to my previous managerial work, current research in education and daily life too. Being present at his keynote speech and at the less formal discussion was a ‘cloud 9’ experience. Dr Seligman is such a lovely and approachable person! Genuinely interested in answering all the questions, he connected with everyone through sharing his insights and guidance with a crowd surrounding him in a friendly circle. After 90 minutes (instead of the planned 35 minutes), ‘Marty’ had the energy and enthusiasm to even pose for pictures! Although I could stay only for that one day, I will definitely remember this conference forever.

Alex Bradley, PhD Student Nottingham University:

With care for the elderly increasingly hitting headlines in the media I was intrigued to find out what psychology and the BPS had to offer to help those living with dementia. Professor Linda Clare’s systematic review showed how important social engagement and social relationships are as protective factors in maintaining higher levels of well being with dementia. Professor Robin Morris gave a thought provoking talk about how robots are becoming increasingly social adept and sophisticated in performing useful tasks like connecting those with dementia to their loved ones. Professor Peter Mittler finished with a passionate call to arms to fight for more person centred, humane and dignified care for those living with dementia (see the BPS recent guidelines). In a field that I am unfamiliar with it was heart warming to see the positive ways that psychologists are working to help vulnerable people in society live better lives.

Amy C. Orben (College Lecturer in Psychology, The Queen’s College, University of Oxford):

What makes a conference memorable are not just the people, talks or venue. The most memorable moments are the times you instantly connect with others through common ideas and passions. These moments leave you with a smile, a head full of ideas and a full-hearted dedication to being a psychologist. My conference moments were:

1. Helen Bevan’s inspirational talk about driving change in the NHS. Her manifesto for using psychological principles to innovate, left me feeling empowered to follow my passion for applying psychology to real-life problems.

2. The lively and passionate discussion of researchers during the workshop “Psychology and Scientific Method: Replication Crises or Revolution?”. All were dedicated to the idea that the replication crisis needs to be used as a chance to improve scientific practice. Out of this common dedication arose the consensus that the BPS is in the unique position to facilitate this by setting new standards for undergraduate statistics tuition.

Shola Apena Rogers (PhD Student, Middlesex University):

The conference was stimulating and engaging on many levels - the presentations I attended resonated with me as a researcher, practitioner, parent and person.

Having worked with children developing anti-social and criminal behaviour or being at risk of CSE, the presentations by Madeleine Stevens and Tania Rodrigues emphasised the key elements relating to the successful delivery of interventions for children, young people, families and practitioners. Their findings provide vital contributions to the evidence base and validation that soft outcomes are just as important (if not more) as government targets.

Katherine Johnson’s paper “Trans youth: What Matters?” reminded me to rethink and challenge the methods I employ in future research, so that it is tailored to the research question and the participants I seek to engage.

As a black female who has studied or worked within universities over the past 15 years, the paper “Interrogating whiteness, making black lives matter” by Stephanie Davies voiced my own experience and seeks to challenge the BPS to ensure universities incorporate more critical theories e.g. critical race theory and black feminism within psychology curriculum.

Gemma McCullough (PhD student at The University of Worcester) presented a poster titled ‘Heroin addiction, morality and crime: exploring the criminal behaviours associated with drug use’:

I wasn’t sure what I expected from the conference, as this was my first time attending. I hoped I would be able to disseminate my own research, engage with the research going on in my particular field of mental health psychology; as well as have the opportunity to network with other professionals and perhaps gain some career advice. I was able to achieve all of this. I planned my day around a mixture of research presentations and the student stream in order to gain the most from the experience and as a result remained engaged and focused throughout. I am immensely grateful to the BPS for my bursary, otherwise I may not have been able to attend. Overall I found the experience invaluable and will definitely attend next year, hopefully with an oral presentation of my most recent research. 

Kathrina Connabeer (Loughborough University):

My conference highlight was the plenary key note by Professor James W. Pennebaker, on how, through expressive writing people are able to reflect and influence their mental and physical health. The talk was personally inspiring and thought-provoking, as it introduced a new analytic method and research tool, which prior to the conference I wasn’t that familiar with. My own research is currently in the field of conversation analysis, and so I focus on the verbal and embodied action of people within interactions. The talk has inspired me to research reflective writing and the work of Professor Pennebaker since the conference, and how I may be able to apply it to my own research in the future. 

Courtney Allen (PhD Student at the University of Kent):

I was blown away by the 2017 BPS Annual Conference in Brighton. I was delighted to be given the opportunity to present my poster and learn about all the exciting work conducted by other presenters. It was my first time attending a BPS conference and it certainly will not be my last. A few highlights from the conference for me included the Keynote on the cult of Confidence by Professor Rosalind Gill, a talk by Stephanie Davis titled 'interrogating whiteness, making black lives matter', and a talk by Catherine Lido regarding the effects of Identity and belonging to Scotland. Each of these presentations had a very powerful message and showed just how important and valuable the research is that psychologists are doing. I left the conference feeling inspired, excited and determined to apply what I learned to my PhD work. 

- Bursaries were given to cover conference registration fees for 26 postgraduate Members of the Society who attended the Society's Annual Conference to present either a paper or poster.  

Bursaries will be available for the 2018 conference: keep any eye on the conference website in November 2017 for application details.


- We will be presenting much more coverage from the Annual Conference over the coming weeks, and in the July print edition.

Photo: Tony Dale

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