A blog entry by Frida Andréasson
In Sheffield there is a mix of old and modern buildings standing side by side, creating an interesting and vibrant city landscape. Transferring this mix to academia my visit to Sheffield made me think about the possibilities that multidisciplinary collaborations offer and that meeting new people can bring.
During my PhD studies in Sweden, I have thought for some time about a research visit abroad. I first met Professor Sue Yeandle at the International Congress of Gerontology held in San Francisco in 2017, and when I heard about the Sustainable Care Programme I started to think about the possibility of visiting the CIRCLE research team. I was hoping to widen my perspectives and gain further knowledge in my research field, focusing on informal care, couplehood and the use of supportive Information and Communication Technologies. If I was to make a research visit, I also wanted the opportunity to network with researchers and PhD students working in the same research field, but coming from different disciplines. Not the least, I was looking forward to receiving critical and constructive input on my final studies and the writing of the ‘cover’ for my doctoral thesis. My expectations were high!
I am very happy that I got the opportunity to visit the CIRCLE research group and researchers within the Sustainable Care Programme for a week in November 2019. Now, looking back on this one week in Sheffield, I’m amazed by how much energy and food for thought one can gain in such a short visit, given the possibility to take part in the everyday academic life of a dedicated research group. My high held expectations were certainly met!
Photo: Frida Andréasson
The value of new input
Engaging in education, such as university studies, does not only bring new insights and knowledge about different things. Engaging in education also means that one becomes socialised into a certain way of thinking about scientific knowledge, methodology and theory. This, often unconscious, process strengthens the bond between the individual student/researcher and the field of research or discipline to which he or she feels they belong. There are of course many gains concerning shared perspectives and joint frameworks regarding how knowledge is searched for and obtained. But if the boundaries between disciplines and perspectives become too clear cut, there is at the same time a risk for unused possibilities for creative thinking. One might even lose the ability to find the unexpected and see unexpected solutions to old problems, in research and in life.
During my visit I had the opportunity to meet colleagues who generously shared their perspectives and ideas on how to build ‘sustainable care’. I was introduced to new and, for me, unfamiliar concepts, and received input regarding ideas and literature for my final study and cover writing. Furthermore, I had the opportunity to ask researchers in the programme about being involved in a multidisciplinary research programme, such as the Sustainable care programme. It turned out that not only did they conduct work within their own work packages, they also do some cross-over work with other work packages as they have different competencies which complement each other. The researchers seem to mirror the interesting mix of the city in which they work and live.
A research visit is not only about research however. Also this is a mix. There was a lot of work, of course. But during my visit I also got the possibility and privilege to get to know a lot of things. I got to know a little about the city of Sheffield and its interesting history. I got to see the Winter Gardens and the Millennium Gallery. I also spent one evening at the Theatre and another at a Jazz club. But first and foremost I got to meet some genuinely nice people/colleagues who made this stay a memorable experience that brought new energy into my final year as a PhD student.
Many thanks to Sue Yeandle for inviting me to visit the CIRCLE team and for inviting me to some interesting and enjoyable events. Many thanks also to Kelly Davidge for organising this amazing week and to Dan Williamson for helping me with practical things and for asking me now and then if I needed anything. I received such a warm welcome and I really appreciated that. Many thanks also to all the researchers and PhD students within the Sustainable Care Programme for taking your time to talk to me about your important work.
I also very much want to thank my doctoral supervisors who encouraged me to go on the research visit and a big and humble thank you to my research school SWEAH for making my stay possible through funding my trip.