I-AM-PHD Summer School
My name is Kali Barawi and I am a PhD student within the Traumatic Stress Research Group (TSRG) at Cardiff University. I was fortunate enough to attend the 2nd international Annual Meeting of the I-AM-PHD summer school, during the 16th-18th of September. I-AM-PHD is a European initiative that was created by Professor Miranda Olff and Jan-Wilke Reerds (ARQ chairman board of directors).
The consortium consists of the following partners: ARQ National Psychotrauma Center (Miranda Olff, Jan-Wilke Reerds), Nasjonalt kunnskapssenter om vold og traumatisk stress, NKVTS (Grete Dyb, Inger Elise Birkeland), Cardiff University (Jon Bisson), Videnscenter for Psykotraumatologi, SDU (Ask Elklit), Research Training Group (RTG) / Department of Psychosomatic Medicine and Psychotherapy, Central Institute of Mental Health, Medical Faculty Mannheim, Heidelberg University, J5, 68159 Mannheim, Germany (Christian Schmahl), and Center for Psychotraumatology in Vilnius (Evaldas Kaslauskas).
In collaboration, they identified the need to create an initiative that encouraged young researchers the dual benefits of an enhanced understanding of the nature and importance of collaboration, whilst simultaneously creating a multi-disciplinary, global network for our future careers.
Research has always been a collaborative endeavor, but there is increasing drive from funders and institutions to stimulate partnerships between researchers with diverse skills, and knowledge, working in different contexts.
Effective collaboration in the future will demand more than disciplinary excellence. Researchers will need to understand the motivations, strengths and contributions of their partners whilst communicating their own goals and expectations. Researchers who understand how to work effectively with others will be better equipped to generate long-term impact across boundaries between subjects, countries and sectors.
Following the UK’s decision to leave the European Union in June 2016, there has been a renewed emphasis on the significance of high-quality knowledge exchange and collaboration between the UK and its European neighbours.
The need to collaborate will always remain and although it may prove to be more challenging than before, and more international in its scope, the skill set involved in establishing, participating and fully utilizing an international collaborative research community will become increasingly invaluable as Europe continues to deliver impactful research to the rest of the world.
The first I-AM-PHD meeting was held in Amsterdam, in September 2018, when the consortium consisted of five universities; Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, Sweden, and Cardiff. Since then the consortium has expanded to include seven universities, with the additional two from Germany and Lithuania. We were all invited to share knowledge and experiences from our PhD’s and our research groups. It was a great opportunity to meet other researchers and start developing lifelong relationships in both a professional and personal capacity.
This year the summer school was held in Oslo, Norway in the Norwegian Centre for Violence and Traumatic Stress Studies (NKVTS). We were invited to take part in a three-day summer school, which was filled with lectures, group workshops and a packed social calendar.
Objective of I-AM-PHD Summer School
To introduce early career researchers to the principles and practice of effective interdisciplinary collaboration within the field of traumatic stress on a global stage and allow them to apply learning on a substantial collaborative activity during the three days.
Awareness of collaborative models in traumatic stress research (interdisciplinary and international)
Tools to maximise success and minimise challenges of collaborative research
Development of an international network of peers
Appreciation of cultural differences and strategies to work effectively across cultures
Authorship of a novel guide to international collaboration for PhD students
The first day started with a lecture from Prof Grete Dyb, a child and adolescent psychiatrist specialising in traumatic stress. Prof Dyb welcomed us to Oslo and gave an insightful talk about the trials and tribulations of a PhD student and PhD supervisor. Prof Dyb provided valuable guidance and support on making our PhD journey as enjoyable and as nurturing as possible.
We then went into small groups based on our common PhD interests and had an hour to create a symposium plan for an upcoming conference. In my group, we thought about treatment outcome as the common area of interest within our PhD’s. We considered the different information that we were all collecting, the gaps in the literature and the need for uniformity and standardization in reporting factors associated with treatment outcome.
Talks continued and plans developed, for something collaborative for the European Society for Traumatic Stress Studies (ESTSS) in 2021, we called it the ‘The Recipe for Perfect Therapy’ which would include the factors to consider when identifying and tailoring the most effective treatment for people with PTSD.
After an educational day of sharing experiences and knowledge we embarked on our trek up the Fuglemyrhytta mountain. I had a great time socialising with like-minded researchers and clinicians who shared their knowledge and experience of working with different population groups in trauma.
We learnt more about each other’s interests whilst walking up the mountain and reaching the beautiful cabin. The secluded location was part of the appeal. We spent the evening eating and drinking, and getting to know each other.
We started the day with a lecture from Siri Thoresen, a Clinical Psychologist and Professor at NKVTS. Prof Thoresen presented ‘What does the editor look for in a submitted paper and how can you be a good reviewer?’ and discussed the different perspectives of the publication process. Subsequently, as a group we discussed what is required in order to publish successfully, and what points to consider when submitting to open access.
We learnt that it was important to critique a paper in a systematic way and identify both the strengths and weaknesses and its applicability to practice. Prof Thoresen explained that peer-reviewed journals are considered the best for publication because the contents are scrutinized by peers for quality.
The process involves several steps, namely that the manuscript is often reviewed by two experts in the field and they independently make recommendation as to whether it should be published or requires further work.
We then conducted a practical exercise between small groups, reviewing a paper, and using the skills that we had learnt in the presentation to examine and scrutinize the work of the authors. We asked ourselves the following question when critiquing the paper;
Does it explain the purpose of the paper?
Does it explain why the research was carried out?
What was accomplished?
What were the main findings?
What is the significant of the research?
What conclusions were reached?
This process taught me the importance of writing clearly and concisely and it increased my awareness of the reader. I will certainly be asking myself these questions in the future when I write or read journal papers.
In the afternoon, we had a lecture from Tore Wentzel-Larsen, a senior researcher and statistician at NKVTS. We were taught that it was important to work transparently in order for others to be able to replicate your work and validate your findings. Tore explained the differences between the different statistical programs and provided some insight on the positive and negative characteristics of each one. He provided useful information about reporting styles and the importance of standardised methodology.
We spent the evening roaming the beautiful city centre of Oslo, and getting to know the rich history and culture. I first ventured to Oslo’s famous sculpture park. Containing 212 statues, made from bronze and granite, the park is adorned with effigies of men, women and children, donated to the city by the artist Gustav Viegland. If you ever get a chance to visit, don’t miss the baby having a tantrum, or the stunning human tower at the far end.
I then had a walk atop the breathtaking Opera House, designed to look like a glacier rising out of the fjord. Towards the city centre, you could see Oslo’s towering medieval fortification, whose mounds were littered with evening picnickers that made the most perfect evening sight. For all these charms, Oslo is not cheap, having been voted the most expensive city in the world on three occasions. Although I was able to see most of the attractions without breaking the bank.
We were fortunate enough to then take a tram up the mountain to Ekeberg restaurant which overlooked Oslo city. We enjoyed a delicious dinner generously paid by the NKVTS and celebrated the success of the second annual I-AM-PHD meeting. We gave special thanks to the speakers, and to the three PhD students who dedicated their time to make the three days a success.
It was sadly our final day already, and we couldn’t believe how much we had packed into three days.
We started the day by having a lecture by Prof Carolina Overlien, a research professor at NKVTS, on qualitative research methods and the impossible questions challenges and possibilities for change. She provided the team with insight into different qualitative analysis techniques and the importance of rigor and reflexivity in reporting.
Following this lecture, PhD students from NKVTS led a discussion on ‘how to write a scientific paper’ in which everyone was encouraged to contribute and share their personal experiences.
Finally, we spent time in an open discussion and reflected on the last three days. We made plans for the future and discussed the following points;
What did you think of the seminar?
What did you like?
What did you miss?
How can we cooperate in the future?
Do a symposium together for the next ISTSS/ESTSS?
Write a paper together?
Visit each others research centres?
I feel very fortunate to be a part of such an incredible initiative, that encourages the collaboration of researchers and supports development of ideas.
By creating an exceptional and truly international and interdisciplinary meeting of bright young minds, the Summer School provided a highly stimulating learning experience which will be of long-lasting value to our future careers.
I felt inspired by these young women (and one brave man), all with fantastic ideas for improving the welfare of those who have experienced trauma, together with understanding the causes and repercussions of a traumatic experience. I was encouraged by the wealth of knowledge and expertise, and the diversity of research areas.
I want to give a special thank you to my supervisor Prof Jonathan Bisson for providing me with the opportunity to attend, Prof Dyb and NKVTS for hosting and to all the lecturers and the wonderful PhD students, for organising the three days.