Research foundations in a global challenge initiative

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Achieve More:10bn is an optional interdisciplinary programme open to all second-year undergraduate students at the University of Sheffield. Launched in 2015 and bringing together students from all disciplines, it comprises a 3-week online course and an accompanying series of face-to-face talks, workshops and other events. Importantly, students get to meet each other and discuss an issue which impacts on everyone, whether from a background in science, engineering, social sciences, medicine or arts and humanities.

10bn showcases examples of interdisciplinary research networks within the University of Sheffield, exposing students to 10bn-related research that is going on in their own institution, and demonstrating how different disciplines do and conceive of research differently. This encourages students to critically appraise their own disciplines – their methodologies, scope, priorities, concerns and assumptions.

What, we ask students, do their subjects bring to our understanding of this research question and the world? And how might their discipline work usefully with others?

Equally, 10bn promotes openness to the approaches, views and priorities of others. This heterogeneity, we argue, can function as a driver of creative and non-normative thinking. In the ‘safe’ context of AML2, a non-credit bearing programme, we aim to inspire students to take creative research risks which they might otherwise avoid in credit-bearing modules.

In order to complete the 10bn programme, students submit a piece of reflective writing that is peer-reviewed online. In this, students reflect together on the ways in which knowledge is constructed, contested, shared and disseminated in the research cycle. 10bn exposes students to a diversity of research practices and experiences, thereby encouraging them to reflect on and develop their own.

A key aspect of 10bn is to highlight ‘exit points’ and promote further development and reflection, whether this is through existing opportunities, or by creating new ones.

10bn seeks to enhance understanding of different epistemologies and interrogate the permeability of borders between subjects. It is attentive to the wider priorities for the future of higher education, namely developing better relationships and networks, developing impactful and creative research, as well modernising pedagogy.

In a world where ‘all the information is already out there’ – it constructs more meaningful relations between teaching and research.
There are unanticipated benefits of the research focus that underpins 10bn. It has allowed the work of interdisciplinary research groups to have an impact on teaching and learning.

In many ways it addresses some of the realities of the HE environment, in that it gives researchers the opportunities to engage in co-production and dissemination; it is good for impact and co-informs research.

Furthermore, by bringing together academics from different disciplines, it enables the sharing of pedagogical good practice and promotes better teaching.

By Amanda Crawley Jackson

Amanda Crawley Jackson is one of the Academic Leads for 10bn

Find out more and register for 10bn here: https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/ssid/course/achieve-more/aml2

Imagine a pile of chairs in a room. Draw what you see, but not the chairs.

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Imagine a pile of chairs in a room. Draw what you see, but not the chairs.

Today I photographed an empty space, the venue for our experimental art workshop, for 2 Fine Art academics who will be leading this event for us on 17th Feb. I felt a pang of deja vu and a little apprehension, wondering; what are we hoping will happen here? Yes there will be charcoal, sponges and pencils, board and giant sheets of paper, new people to create with, but …we are not an art school.

What does this mean for 10bn, and what are we trying to do? It’s been 2 years since I started work on level 2 of Achieve More and here was a pop-up anniversary to redeliberate curricular space and purpose.

This particular event – the arty one – bookends our opening week, for those of you participating in 10bn to visually and kinaesthetically output your thoughts about the concept of ‘negative space’ (having had the theory intro on Mon 13th and the chance to apply this on our tour of the unseen campus Tues – Thurs).

Are we hoping you might co-create an artefact, for fun, in 2 hours? Yes.

Are we suggesting that you help design an alternative campus map, one that might represent the interdisciplinary research networks we are introducing you to? That would be amazing.

But it’s not just about producing an object, or solving something. There’s the philosophical side to chew on.

What’s the gain in identifying the architecturally defined ‘negative spaces’ that unite our campus; those places in which we interact, drink coffee, collaborate? What work is done by multidisciplinary teams? What makes encounters with people from different subjects so interesting?

Academically, I’d say, we detect how other subjects teach and how we learn, what we learn; a taste of new methods, aims, skills, findings and approaches… and insight into our differences! Arguably, we need these interactions – a mode of interdisciplinarity? – in order to tackle societal and global issues such as migration, energy, water management and inequality, as these can’t be addressed in a monologue. But a more straightforward answer might also be, this is an opportunity.

As extended by our strapline – an opportunity to develop deeper, broader understanding as well as building new networks of your own.

It’s a chance to appreciate the anatomy of the campus, the materiality of scholarship and its potential. But why charcoal? It’s messy! (Come in old clothes!)

Well, it’s smudgy. With charcoal you can illustrate the impermanence of boundaries and sliding change.

For instance, has the curriculum for your subject always been the same? Why do new buildings evolve? What effect do new technologies have on our cognition?

Why are we are doing 10bn..?

The beauty of all this is, it doesn’t matter. (Of course it matters, silly, we work really hard to make it fab!) But it doesn’t matter if you can’t draw, it doesn’t matter which course you are on, it doesn’t matter if you want to find out more about groundbreaking antibiotics but you’re a archaeology student.

It’s not about an outstanding artwork, but your interpretation. We’re valuing thought. A bit old school, maybe …

The upshot is, while I don’t know what exactly will happen in here, I don’t need to. Repko says that interdisciplinary research is ‘reflexive..process..a heuristic tool for finding out’ (2008). We’re providing the apparatus so you can explore, do more, think more.

So pick up your brushes – or sponges – and get to work. And that’s got everything to do with scholarship.

By Fran Sutherland.

Fran is the educational developer for Achieve More L2: 10bn.

The art workshop is 10-12 on Fri 17th Feb, Icoss conference room.

Find out what else is on https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/o/10bn-talks-10964136447

Sign up to 10bn here http://www.sheffield.ac.uk/ssid/course/achieve-more/aml2

Twitter @Sheffield10bn

https://www.facebook.com/shef10bn/

Reference:

Repko, A. (2008) Interdisciplinary Research: Process and Theory, Sage.

Behind the scenes of 10bn Online

This week we have been behind the scenes watching the filming of short videos for the 10bn online course.

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We managed to get a glimpse of what the migration chapter of the online course might include.

We watched Amanda Crawley Jackson and Sophie Watt from the Department of French talking about their collaborative research on migration and the neocolonial world order.

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The footage taken in this cold but striking venue will be made in to a short film.

Thanks to Amanda, Sophie, the wonderful Online Learning Team and all of their brilliant skills, this is sure to be an interesting and engaging part of the course!

Migration is just one aspect of thinking about what the world will be like with 10bn people.

If you are a level 2 student and want to get involved, you can apply now: http://www.sheffield.ac.uk/ssid/course/achieve-more/aml2

Watch the 10bn trailer here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iAm55W1rp0U

Introducing the 10bn Magazine

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The 10bn Magazine is finally here!

This unique publication, which covers a range of topics related to living in a world of 10 billion, was created by a team of second year students as part of AML2:10bn 2015-16.

Subjects such as migration, climate-change, biodiversity, religion, food and more are all explored via a range of mediums including essays, poetry, art and photography.

The magazine is available to read online now.

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The magazine’s editorial team was:

Tayma A Bartram (Picture Editor); Michael CW Chilton (Editor); Harriet A Hales (Copy Editor); Elka Hubenova (Online Editor); Dinora AA Kruja (Deputy Editor); Evelyn A Mantoiu (Contributor); Kate M Marron (Graphic Design Contributor)

The 10bn magazine was sent to a few experts for critical review. Here’s what they had to say:

 

[The magazine is] very impressive, reminiscent of the big corporate style reports I sometimes get from Greenpeace or BP.  The production values, layout and use of imagery is strong [and it has] a really nice mix of stories across a big area. The articles are well written, informative and curated nicely.

All in all, a very impressive piece of work.

~ Alan Grady,Programme Editor, ITN, Channel 5 News

 

The magazine looks excellent.

~ Anwar Ahktar, director of The Samosa

 

This [is an] excellent critical assessment […] of population growth [that is] lucid, well structured and easy to read and absorb.

[The magazine shows] an appreciation of the fragility of the rule of law and the necessity to construct appropriate social and legal architecture to run in parallel with scientific innovation.  That requires an awareness by intelligent and perceptive young people and this endeavour illustrates that Sheffield University is well up to the mark.  

I congratulate all involved for their effort and erudition.

~ Judge Sir Howard Morrison QC

10/10 Showcase Event

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On 10.10.16, we held an event to celebrate and showcase the work of students who were involved in Achieve More Level 2: 10bn last year.

We also launched AML2:10bn 2016-17 – a 3 week programme for second year undergraduate students at the University of Sheffield, taking place online and across campus 13 Feb – 3 March 2017.

Here are just some of the evening’s highlights:

1. The Students

The event was an opportunity for the previous year’s AML2:10bn student groups to showcase the work they have been carrying out over the summer break. And they didn’t disappoint!

All five project groups exhibited and presented their research:

  • Aquaponics: The Future of Resilience Food
  • Exploring Attitudes to Migration
  • Sheffield Biodiversity
  • Saving Energy with Virtual Reality
  • The 10bn Student Magazine
The migration research team presenting their findings
The migration research team present their findings
The VR team introducing their undergrad. research project
The VR team introduce their undergrad. research project

3. The Magazine

The event saw the launch of the 10bn magazine, a student-produced publication which captures students’ wide-ranging responses to the theme of 10bn.

The magazine covers everything from climate change to migration to politics, with contributors communicating their thoughts via a range of mediums, including poetry, artwork and photography.

You can read the magazine online here.

The Editor launching the 10bn magazine
The Editor of the 10bn magazine
The magazine group proudly displaying the finished 10bn magazine
The magazine group proudly displaying the finished magazine

2. The Food

A fabulous reclaimed food buffet was provided by The Real Junk Food Project Sheffield.

Guests devoured the fresh fruit, muffins, sandwiches and salads provided by this sustainable organisation. There was even a pheasant pie to sample!

The few morsels left over at the end of the evening were quickly swooped up by students and taken back to share with their housemates (we hope!).

After all, waste not want not!

3. The guests

The HRI was full to bursting with academics and professional services staff, as well current second year students, all excited to see the work students had produced.

Our deputy PVC for Learning & Teaching, Paul Latreille, was one of the academics to speak at the event. He began by congratulating the students on their hard work, and went on to say how impressed he was by the quality of their projects.

We also heard from Amanda Crawley Jackson and Alastair Buckley, the academics heading up the programme. They too were impressed by the students’ work and talked about their exciting plans for the year ahead.

Our guests gave us some really positive feedback, too:

All in all the event was a wonderful way to celebrate the work that students at the University of Sheffield have produced, and to look forward to the year ahead.

If you’re a current second year undergraduate student interested in taking part in next year’s programme, you can sign up and find out more here.

Event Review // ‘Is there space for nature in a world of 10bn?’ // by Harriet Hales

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A particularly thought provoking event from the Festival of 10bn in February 2016 was a panel debate which asked: ‘Is there space for nature in a world of 10bn?’

The title of this debate is intriguing in itself, as the subject matter is one you may not immediately associate with the theme of 10bn, which on the surface appears anthropocentric. However, when considering population growth, it is vital that we also consider the impact we are having upon our environment, and the animals with whom we share our planet. Since it is an extremely provocative question,this debate evoked a wide range of responses, and sparked numerous points of contention – as any engaging debate should!

The panelists came from a range of disciplinary backgrounds: Matthew Hethcoat is a Conservation Scientist, Dr Anna Krzywoszynska is a Social Science researcher, Debbie Coldwell is undertaking a PHD in Cultural and Educational ecosystem services, Nicky Rivers is a Living Landscape Development Manager at Sheffield Wildlife Trust and Neil Williams is studying a PHD in the department of Philosophy. This illustrates that to explore a topic such as 10bn effectively, input from a range of perspectives is required.

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Opening the debate, the panelists were asked why it is important to make space for nature as we move into a world of 10 billion. A rather harrowing point made was the fact that without nature, the world of 10 billion would cease to exist. Examples were given of the various ways humans depend upon nature, ranging from how nature provides us with food and medicine, to how nature regulates climate and disease, not to mention the benefits it can have for our general well-being.

As panellist Dr Anna Krzywoszynska asserted, ‘our lives are very interconnected with the non-human elements of our survival.’

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One of the primary focuses of the debate revolved around the issue of monetary value, and whether or not we should keep economics out of nature. The multiplicity of responses to this key question was insightful, leaving plenty of food for thought.

Debbie Coldwell argued that not putting a value on nature runs the risk that nature may be forgotten about. On the other hand, Neil Williams voiced his concern that focusing on the economic value of nature would enforce the idea that everything can be exchanged for something else, thus jeopardizing creatures that do not provide a service to us.

I found both of these arguments compelling. But ultimately I do not believe that segregating economics from nature is feasible. Money is such a powerful influence in contemporary society. To entirely distance issues of nature from economics would require a radical change to the way society functions.

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One of the closing issues debated by the panel was how to get people to care about nature. I thought that this question was highly significant, because in order to live harmoniously with nature it is necessary to respect it.

Encouraging members of the community to experience the beauty and health benefits of nature from a young age was the main response to this question. It is education, the experience of natural surroundings and discovering the benefits of nature that will lead individuals to care about it and fostering a desire to contribute to conservation efforts.

Overall, the debate was intellectually stimulating and it inspired me to consider more deeply the impact humans are having upon the natural world and what the long term dangers of exploiting nature are.

In direct response to the question posed by the title of this debate, I would argue that we must make space for nature if we are to sustain a population of 10 billion. The manner in which we do this is a highly complex question, and possible ways of tackling this problem were explored in other Festival of 10bn events, such as the talk on sustainable energy and the Real Junk Food Project.

Lectures, Poetry, Exhibitions and Junk Food: The Festival of 10bn 2016

In February 2016, we ran a series of talks, workshops and exhibitions exploring what it will be like to live in a world of 10 billion.

We’ll be doing something similar for AML2:10bn 2016-17, with a wide range of activities scheduled to take place between 13 February and 3 March 2017.

Until then, though, we thought we’d share some of the best bits from the first ever Festival of 10bn…

Some of the photographs have links attached – click on them to find out more!

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Students getting to know each other at the 10bn welcome reception
Food being served by students studying MA in Food Security
Food being served by students studying for their MA in Food Security and Food Justice at The University of Sheffield
Students getting their food
Students getting their food
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Students REALLY enjoying their Real Junk Food!
Food Hall - Sheffield’s ‘Pay as You Feel’ dining room and freecycling food network ran by the community promoting cross societal engagement through food!
Food Hall – Sheffield’s ‘Pay as You Feel’ dining room and freecycling food network
Save our Sandwiches save surplus food from going to waste and redistribute it
Save our Sandwiches save surplus food from going to waste and redistribute it
The aquaponics display- saving the world with fish poo!
The Aquaponics display- saving the world with fish poo!
Abdi-Aziz Suleiman, former Sheffield SU President, giving a talk about migration.
Abdi-Aziz Suleiman, former UoS Students’ Union President, giving a talk about migration
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Senior Lecturer in French Studies and 10bn Academic Lead, Amanda Crawley Jackson, giving her thoughts on migration in the media
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Panel debate on the space for nature in a world of 10bn

10 billion shades of migration

Kia Muukkonen, studying International Relations and Politics at the University of Sheffield, is just one of the students who has been taking part in 10bn this year. Kia has been working as part of an interdisciplinary student group exploring attitudes to migration. Here’s what she had to say about their research project:

So Kia, how did it all start?

After completing the Silver and Bronze stages of AML2:10bn, we all had something in common; we wanted to finish the project and go all the way through the Gold stage. The planning for the migration project had already begun with the Silver stage, and we all got along so well that we couldn’t wait to arrange another meeting and start planning exactly what we wanted to do. We were all interested in the topic of migration even though our subjects vary from politics to town planning. In fact, this was something that turned out to be very helpful, as we have all learnt different skills from our different subjects and have each been able to contribute differently to the project.

The migration group hard at work. From left to right: Valeria Vigilante, Shaun Thomas, Evelyn Doyle and Angela Lin.
The migration group hard at work. From left to right: Valeria Vigilante, Shaun Thomas, Evelyn Doyle and Angela Lin.

How did you decide how to go about doing the research?

During the Silver stage we completed a project proposal for the Gold stage. We decided to look at what kind of effect migration has on culture and individuals, especially in the world of growing population. We decided that rather than concentrating on state level solutions and effects of migration, we wanted to look at how individual people perceive migration and what kind of experiences they have had, whether they are migrants themselves or lived in the UK their entire lives. We concluded that the best way to do this was to set up a questionnaire in order to find out people’s opinions about different kinds of migrants, what they think when they hear the word “migrant”, whether their experiences make a difference when it comes to accepting multiculturalism and migration, and whether different types of migrants were perceived differently. We wanted to see how the growing flow of migrants and the freer movement of people would be perceived by the respondents and, by looking at their answers, we could then find out what kinds of problems and possible solutions there would be in a world of 10 billion people.

What difficulties did you come up against? How did you overcome these?

We soon found out that our project proposal was a bit too ambiguous considering the time and resource boundaries that we had. Firstly, we wanted to have two separate questionnaires: one for refugees and one for students. On top of that we wanted to have face-to- face interviews with different types of migrants, including refugees. Secondly, even though we knew what we wanted to focus on, our project was way too wide, and we had too many questions to look at. This became even more clear after designing the questionnaires, as we noticed that they were too long. After several meetings with different academics from the university and between ourselves, we decided to concentrate only on legal migration as we realised how interviewing refugees would be really risky for the refugees themselves, and it would be really hard to get it ethically approved. We also decided to only have one questionnaire for everyone, and to concentrate on a few questions rather than have too many different areas of interest. All this helped us to get a clearer picture of what we are doing and how we are going to do it, but it also reminded us of the challenges that we have had with our topic and the challenges that we would face in the future. Migration is a very sensitive topic, and even defining the word “migrant” has turned out to be a difficult process, not to mention talking about “legal” and “illegal migration”. After the Brexit result and the growing tension around the topic, we have only become more aware of the sensibility of the topic, but at the same time it has made us realise how important our project is and made us even more motivated to keep up the hard work.

What’s the biggest achievement of the project so far?

It was such a relief when we managed to get our ethics form through and could finally start the next step of the project properly. Even though we had done loads of research and met different academics, the approval of the ethics form marked a special moment in our research process, as we could finally send the questionnaires around, as well as start finding people from different organisations and backgrounds within Sheffield for the face-to- face interviews. Getting the ethics form through was way more difficult than we originally thought it would be and it took a lot more time than we anticipated. After the process we have all really started to appreciate the hard work that goes into creating the questionnaires that are sent to our email inbox each year!

What happens next?

Once we have gathered the results from the questionnaires we will analyze them using SPSS and different readings that we have done. We will then produce an infographic concluding our findings from the questionnaire and literature review. We will also write a longer report analyzing our findings.

How have you found the experience overall?

Even though working on a research project has been a great experience, we have also faced some difficulties along the way (apart from the ethics form). As we all come from different countries and have been travelling around during the summer, it has sometimes been tricky to find a place and time to meet. Luckily there is always Skype, and Google Forms has been really helpful when editing different documents. Three of us have also taken part in a research methods course as part of our second year of university, which has been really helpful when planning the questionnaires and the research questions, different hypothesis and figuring out what kind of sample size we need in order to get more reliable findings. The course will also come in handy when analyzing the results using SPSS and when writing a research report. It is great to notice how the information and skills learnt while in university can be used in practice and that it is actually helpful and needed in real life projects as well.

Obviously this is only my personal view and some of us may have experienced things differently than me and there are many things that I did not write about, including several lectures on migration that we have attended, amazing and helpful staff in the university that have really guided us throughout the project (especially Fran), tens and tens of cups of coffee during our meetings, as well as some really inspirational talks on migration, brilliant learning moments and most importantly, the great chemistry that our group has. Even though the process has been a bumpy ride so far, we have all been very passionate about what we are doing, and been able to be flexible in order to make this project work. I’m sure in the end this flexibility and hard work will pay off and our project will have a great ending.