Funded Researcher Resilience Fund Projects 2020-2021

Find out more about the funded Researcher Resilience Fund projects from 2020-2021.  

The U21 virtual geoscience fieldwork collaboration network: fieldwork in the age of COVID-19 and beyond

Lead Applicant: Alexander L. Peace, McMaster University

Partners: Renjie Zhou, University of Queensland, Conor O’Sullivan, University College Dublin

Geoscience focuses on making real-world observations with far reaching implications for the understanding of our planet, as well as natural resource exploitation and geohazard mitigation. Many geoscience observations take place during fieldwork, i.e. physical excursions. However, with the arrival of COVID-19 most physical fieldwork has been cancelled, presenting a challenge to the delivery of geoscience education and research.

However, the latest technology enables us to create virtual fieldwork experiences that can be undertaken remotely. This will provide students with valuable educational experiences, whilst addressing outstanding accessibility challenges, and providing new approaches to geoscience research. Fieldwork accessibility is a pertinent topic as barriers exist preventing participation such as disabilities, caring commitments, and financial limitations. Virtual field experiences comprising digital resource e.g., videos, animations and text can alleviate this. Although virtual field resources exist, their availability, quality, content, and applicability are currently poorly documented. This is because these materials are often created to address a specific need, with community dissemination often not included as a goal. As such, students are missing out on these educational experiences. To address this, we will create a platform to host and share virtual geoscience fieldwork resources (Virtual Fieldwork Database –VFD). This will place the U21 network at the forefront of the virtual fieldwork revolution and expand the network’s digital capacity.

The aim of creating the VFD is to 1) provide a platform to share virtual field trips, and 2) provide insights into best practices and protocols for virtual field experiences from a pedagogical perspective.


Digitally advancing early career researchers: From methods to leadership in research             

Lead Applicant: Andrea Casals Hill, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile  

Partners: Maria de Lourdes Melo Zurita, University of New South Wales, Vasna Ramasar, Lund University

The aim of this project is to increase research leadership and build digital capacity that explores possibilities for online research in the humanities and social sciences, as well as to foster a research interdisciplinary community among U21 self-identifying female1early career researchers to perform successfully in the post pandemic scenario. Evidence shows that research positions are precarious for early career researchers, but the numbers fall short when focusing on female researchers. In general, females get paid less for the same job as males, hold less of the strategic positions in academia and overall, tend to have more precarious contracts than male professors in higher education. Moreover, the media has exhibited that the COVID-19 scenario has had a detrimental effect on the productivity of female researchers. This project seeks to host a blend of online research methodology and leadership coaching sessions specifically tailored for self-identifying female early career researchers of the U21 network, which could be replicated in the future by the participants in these sessions.

The online research/leadership workshop will focus on acknowledging the challenges and opportunities of the current and post pandemic scenario, the strengths and weaknesses of our particular research community, as well as the individual skills and expertise of each participant; and ultimately, identifying and exploring the specific digital skills and methods required to conduct “field work” at a virtual distance for practitioners in the humanities and social sciences. Thus, this project will serve to build more resilient researchers within an under-represented group in the academy, who are better equipped to engage in meaningful and productive research in the digital era that has been accelerated by COVID-19.


Linguistic Data Collection in the age of a Pandemic  

Lead Application: Viktorija Kostadinova, University of Amsterdam          

Partners: Matt Hunt Gardner, KU Leuven, Alexander Rober, University of Edinburgh

Sociolinguistic research primarily relies on naturalistic conversational language data, collected through face-to-face interviews in settings in which speakers feel comfortable. The drastic changes in communication and mobility caused by the pandemic have introduced unprecedented challenges to collecting this highly valued naturalistic language data. First, face-to-face interviews are almost impossible to arrange in most countries due to rules related to social distancing or wearing face masks. Second, many researchers may not be able to reach thsir data collection sites due to travel disruptions. Third, the alternative of using online channels for data collection presents further challenges, which are yet to be identified, explored or dealt with. For example, conducting interviews via Zoom makes it difficult for the researcher to create a naturalistic, comfortable environment in which speakers can talk freely. This situation presents a fundamental challenge to sociolinguistic research, as its principal source of data is difficult to obtain. Early career researchers are particularly adversely affected by this, because they have yet to collect data for their research. This also means that they are the most likely to experience longer-term effects of disruptions to data collection. This is precisely the issue that this project aims to tackle.

The main aim of the project is to build digital capacity by: a) forming a working group of U21 early career researchers to brainstorm and develop solutions to the above-mentioned challenges; b) conducting multiple feasibility studies that tackle these challenges and that will be used to assess solutions; and c) sharing the results via a website and creating a digital research support network among U21 early career researcher


Developing and disseminating a digital toolkit for promoting and prioritizing emotional wellbeing among graduate-students and early-career researchers across the U21 Network.             

Lead Applicants: Sarah Rockowitz & supervisor Professor Caroline Bradbury-Jones, University of Birmingham  

Partners: Elizabeth Orr, McMaster University, Jacqueline Kuruppu, University of Melbourne

Qualitative research is emotionally demanding. It is often used to explore sensitive topics, including death and trauma, with immersive methods like in-depth interviewing. The personal impact of emotional work on the researcher can often go unaddressed. In these instances, it may lead to Secondary Traumatic Stress (STS) or Vicarious Trauma (VT). Researchers can manage STS or VT by engaging with supportive research networks. However, graduate-students and early career researchers (ECRs) who are still establishing supportive research networks may not have access to this support. Without the appropriate support, these graduate-students, ECRs and their supervisors may not be equipped to mitigate risk of STS/VT.  

Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a rapid virtualization of the research environment. Due to public health restrictions, graduate-students and ECRs may experience further stress/challenges. This speaks to a greater need for connection and opportunities for reflective supervision.  

recent scoping review found that less than 5% (n=230) of Canadian dissertations using qualitative methods to explore sensitive topics described a protocol to mitigate psychological risk to the researcher (Orr, Durepos, & Jones, 2020). Building on these findings, the aim of this project is to develop a digital toolkit [click for example] that may be used in several ways. First, to understand the personal impact of emotional work. Second, to assess risk for STS/VT. Last, to address risk with strategies that reflect the needs of researchers and their supervisors. The toolkit will be designed and refined through the collaborative efforts of a graduate-student and ECR community of practice (CoP) within the U21 network. 


Towards better informed, more inclusive autism research: Building the U21 Autism Research Network            

Lead Applicant: Sophie Sowden, University of Birmingham  

University of Birmingham Partners: Bianca Schuster, Lydia Hickman, Connor Keating  

University of Connecticut Partners: Melina West, Karla Rivera-Figueroa  

University of New South Wales Partner: Anne Masi  

University of Auckland Partners: Bianca Jackson, Joan Leung  

Waseda University Partner: Toru Takahashi  

McMaster University Partner:  Michael Galang

Samples in studies of autism are currently one-dimensional, recruiting majority so called ‘WEIRD’ (Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic) participants, with a lack of inclusion of individuals from ethnic and minority backgrounds. This is particularly timely to consider as we reach the 10-year anniversary of the seminal paper by Henrich et al., (2010, Nature) calling for more diversity in the participants we test in psychological research and the current world focus on equality. 

This proposal for the U21 Researcher Resilience Fund aims to make a starting point in addressing challenges to collaboration across borders as well as the lack of diversity and inclusion in autism research. We have the following aims:  

1) Build an online international database of autistic participants in order that members of the U21 network can recruit from a more diverse pool and thus, that our research findings may be applicable to a wider portion of society. 

2) Organise a public engagement event - and thereafter yearly meetings between researchers in the network - that builds on a practise already in place here at the University of Birmingham called the B-PART Autism Consultancy Committee. This involves the ASD community providing advice – informed by their lived experience of autism on our research. We aim to include the voices of a diverse group of individuals.  

Thus, by working digitally we can create a robust U21 Autism Research Network, a network of researchers who collaborate with the aim of making autism research more diverse and inclusive and involve the voices of the autistic community. 


Improving tropical forest resilience to human-climate pressures - learning from the past to guide the future (FOREPAST)           

Lead Applicant: Charlotte E. Wheeler, University of Edinburgh  

Partners: Dr Alexander Koch, University of Hong Kong, Dr Xavier Benito, University of Maryland 


The COVID-19 pandemic has severely limited interdisciplinary collaboration opportunities for early career researchers (ECRs) that would naturally develop at international conferences and workshops. However, climate change and human activities have continued to exert enormous pressures on tropical forests. Tropical forests provide numerous ecosystem services including; climate regulations, carbon storage, and being an important repository of biodiversity, furthermore they are vital to the livelihoods of millions of forest dependent peoples. The current changes in climate and adaptations necessary for resilient forest can be seen in past records, including paleoecology and archaeology. Yet unproductive links between these two different disciplines preclude understanding how past human-environmental dynamics can inform our response to current changes in tropical forests of a similar nature and magnitude. 

The underlying causes of these impacts, physical climate as well as societal constructs, call for interdisciplinary approaches to understanding how to best preserve this biome. This project aims to bring together researchers from U21 member universities and beyond from the fields of paleoecology, archaeology, forest ecology and social sciences to i) learn about each others’ research within the tropical forest biome, ii) establish new, lasting collaborations, iii) create a knowledge database and, iv) write a position/synthesis paper mapping out the various pressures and challenges that the tropical forest biome is facing from the perspective of different disciplines. We will use a combination of webinars, online town hall meetings and online collaboration tools for documents and databases (e.g. GoogleDocs, GitHub). Core to this effort will be a website, hosting information on the participants, a knowledge database as well as outcomes, to enhance the digital capacity within the U21 network.  


New Research and Teaching Pathways in the Digital Age: Addressing Challenges and Opportunities for Criminologists and Sociologists During Covid-19     

Lead Applicant: Emiline Smith, University of Glasgow  

Partners: Katie Lowe, The University of Hong Kong, Julie Berg, Glasgow University


The global pandemic has unearthed several specific challenges with the academic setting, forcing many to alter their research and teaching methods in a short time. The current climate is particularly taxing on PhDs and ECRs who are provided with little time, funding and training to establish or refine skills enabling them to adapt to the new demands of researching and teaching in the digital age and during a global pandemic. The aim of this project would directly address these two areas of development demand, namely online teaching and research innovation and upskilling, through two online conferences and two networking workshops. Such an online platform will bring together PhD students and ECRs from all U21 universities and provides them with a space to think creatively about potential solutions to the obstacles that the pandemic has presented in terms of research and teaching methods.

Two conferences will be organized, which will consist of discussion, presentation and training sessions. One conference will be held  in  September  2020,  to  respond  to  the  current  sharp  increase  in  online  teaching  demands focusing  on  developing  and refining practical skills for delivering interactive and engaging online courses. The second conference will be held in February 2021  and  will  draw  upon  interdisciplinary  and  innovative  online  research  methods,  enabling  students  to  consider  the applicability  of  these  research  methods  to  their  current  research  or  future  research  funding  proposals. In  addition,  two networking workshops will be organized separate from the conferences in November 2020 and April2021 to provide conference attendees with an opportunity to check in, network and offer a ‘safe and practical forum’ to discuss and resolve teaching and research problems.


Reimagining fieldwork in the interconnected world: ethnography-inspired digital strategies under the COVID-19 challenges  

Lead Applicant: Yichen Rao, University of Hong Kong  

Partners: Lili Almási-Szabó, Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile, Yang Zhao, University of Queensland, Yuting Yin, UC Davis


Ethnography is a set of participatory, observational and communicative methods to study the phenomena, behaviors and interactions among people. It has been widely applied in Anthropology, Sociology, Public health, Communication, Education, History, Arts, and other disciplines. Ethnographers rely on immersive fieldwork online and offline to collect first-hand data. The current COVID-19 situation has posed ongoing challenges for most of the ethnographers with insufficient training in digital ethnography, while it also produces opportunities for them to reimagine fieldwork itself. Reimagining fieldwork during Covid-19 is theoretically and practically meaningful as it advances digital ethnography not simply as “fieldwork online” but as a broad system of mindsets, toolkits, and strategies to understand human interconnectedness beyond a narrow boundary of empiricism. Only when the fieldwork is reimagined in the post-COVID-19 terrain can we find the right digital strategies for a contextually meaningful understanding of the society in the interconnected world.  

We hope to establish a supportive network to quickly reorient the conceptualization of fieldwork, enhance our digital capabilities and respond to the pandemics with boundary-breaking digital mindsets. We will collaborate on Slack, invite explorative scholars in the U21 network to provide Zoom workshops and produce writing projects and a virtual handbook of ethnography-inspired digital strategies shareable with young researchers in the U21 network. We have heard from interested scholars from Australia, Belgium, Chile, Hong Kong, Peru and the U.S. and received generous supports from Professor Stephen Schensul and Professor Jean J. Schensul at the University of Connecticut who are devoted to researching global health and teaching ethnographic methods. The four applicants across four countries with cross-disciplinary backgrounds in anthropology, sociology, public health and digital economy will lead the project together. 


Thriving in a Post COVID age: An International Collaboration And Career Development Tool to increase Diversity and Inclusion in Healthcare Management, Health Services, and Health Policy Research

Lead Applicant: Negin Fouladi, University of Maryland  

Partners: Sandhya Duggal, University of Birmingham, Aitalohi Amaize, University of Maryland, Portia Buchongo, University of Maryland


The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically changed the research environment with institutions struggling to maintain networks and career development links for Doctoral Students and Early Career Investigators now and in the future. The decrease in funding and travel opportunities highly impacts all individuals at the start of research careers, and especially Minority Investigators that are underrepresented in Health Management, Services, and Policy disciplines, as they often face unique challenges to career success due to feelings of isolation, limited collaboration opportunities, and difficulty securing mentoring and funding opportunities. These challenges are amplified and highlighted by recent global civil unrest and uprising against racial injustice and inequality. Concurrently, the pandemic has highlighted struggles faced by nations to improve population health and need for timely evidence based research to inform policy and practice.

We aim to support development of the U21 network’s Doctoral and Early Career Investigators and address health systems needs through a virtual translational science research platform “Health Research Exchange (HREx)”. HREx will build digital capacity within the U21 network and minimize barriers to career enhancement in times of unforeseen rapid social, economic, environmental, and political changes through culturally sensitive evidence based mentorship and professional development opportunities emphasizing diversity and inclusivity. Specifically, we aim to develop the structure of HREx in 6 months (Phase 1), which can be replicated across U21 institutions as part of a larger initiative to develop a sustained research collaboration tool incorporating local/national stakeholders as healthcare solutions often result from local efforts to meet system and community needs (Phase 2).  

Remote Collaborative Translation: Modern Chinese Social and Political Thought             

Lead Applicant: Craig A. Smith, University of Melbourne           

Partners: Jun Deng, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Nathan Woolley, University of Glasgow, Nicholas Loubere, Lund University

This project will develop an online collaborative and interdisciplinary network enabling translators and researchers across the U21 network to make use of talent at each institute in the post COVID-19 academic environment.

Translation is a crucial research methodology for students and scholars across the humanities and social sciences. As both a practice of deep reading for the individual and a form of contribution for the field, as well as a method for escaping from the Eurocentric practices of previous generations, proficient academic translation remains an undervalued form of scholarship and suffers from a lack of skilled practitioners and insufficient training in most graduate programs. This is particularly true in Chinese Studies.

This project aims to create a platform and collaboration network to enable translation and bilingual research of modern Chinese social and political thought in the skills and practices listed above; to support scholars engaging in translation-related research; and to provide impressive contributions to the study of social and political thought through a wide-ranging bilingual webpage which will also open doors to book projects based on some of these translations that will serve to address the disappointing lack of academic translations of Chinese writing.

As both translation studies and Chinese intellectual history remain small fields, each institutions has a  limited number of scholars and higher research students with both exemplary bilingual language skills and relevant research interests, particularly in this post-COVID19 environment. We will therefore be bringing together scholars and students from across the U21 network.


Reimagining academic horizons: Stories we tell       

Lead Applicant: Marian Mahat, University of Melbourne          

Partners: Joann Blannin, The University of Melbourne, Jay de los Reyes, National University of Singapore, Caroline Cohrssen, The University of Hong Kong


Academic identity is created and explored through the stories people tell about themselves, which can vary with time and occasion (Hyland, 2018). Consequently, academic identity evolves, particularly as horizons shift in the current higher education landscape. Hearing stories of   others can help situate an academic within their personal and professional academic networks.

Drawing on philosophies of positive psychology and resilience (Grant & Sandberg, 2017), the aim of this project is to understand how academics identities are transformed during the COVID-19 pandemic and in the longer-term recovery from crisis through the development of resilience strategies. The objective is to capture reflexive narratives of the self through a series of themed interviews with different academics across disciplines, career stages and global contexts. Podcast interviews will be accessible to all members of   U21 via an online platform that supports network-building. Thematic analyses of the podcast interviews will be used to advance a theoretical framework for academic resilience and identity.

This innovative study will build digital capacity in three ways: (1) It will enable researchers on the project to develop skills in analysing podcast interviews as one form of data collection and to share this learning with the U21 community; (2)Individuals participating in the podcast series will simultaneously hone their podcasting skills and enhance engagement and impact in academia; and (3) For the wider academic community, it will strengthen understanding of the evolving nature of academic identity and resilience by creating a digital repository of innovative resources of  academic stories.


Establishment of a non-significant research results sharing platform  

Lead Applicant: Yanqi Wu, University of Melbourne    

Partners: Jiyao Gan, the University of Melbourne, Shiying Zhu, the University of Melbourne, Dahui Li, the University of Hong Kong


Non-significant test results are often obtained in research activities across different disciplines, while many of such results remain unreported in academic communications. For example, a study published in Science investigated 221 survey-based experiments and found that nearly two-thirds of the null results were filed away, never to be published.

In most hypothesis-driven research projects, a specific hypothesis is often proposed at an early stage to guide the research project; however, not every assay returns a positive result that supports the initial hypothesis. To publish on high impact journals within the increasingly competitive research environment, many early career researchers choose to use exaggerated narratives in their publications and only to publish positive results, leaving other non-significant, yet maybe important, research outputs not discussed. Such research practice may contribute to biased conclusions and should be avoided. Unfortunately, considering the negative economic impact of COVID-19, researchers may be subjected to more constraints in funding resources. In order to hold a competitive position in future funding applications, it can be anticipated that researchers may face even more pressure to build up a good track record and become less preferable to share their non-significant research data.

Non-significant research results can just be as valuable as positive ones, as they form a critical part in discussing scientific topics. And by studying and discussing non-significant results, early career researchers can develop important research skills and critical thinking capability that are essential for a successful career in academia. Therefore, we propose to develop an online platform that is dedicated to sharing non-significant research results. It is expected that researchers from different backgrounds within the U21 network can share and discuss their non-significant research stories in a forum format.


Cardographer Online - Digitising Intelligent Card Based Tools

Lead Applicant: Dimitrios Darzentas, University of Nottingham               

University of Nottingham Partners: Peter Craigon, Hanne Wagner, Steve Benford  

University of Edinburgh Partner: Lachlan Urquhart  

Shanghai Jiao Tong University Partner: Yitong Huang


Card-based methods have become established as valuable tools in the early stages of the design process across several fields. Similar to decks of playing cards, their physical nature provides a tactile interaction that delivers contextual information to designers' fingertips. They drive and democratise multi-user and multidisciplinary design efforts.

The Cardographer project involves card tools, or decks, which cover topics including Design, Cultural Heritage, Ethics, Policy-Making and Data Protection. These are integrated with the Cardographer platform that captures and digitises their usage and produces data-driven visualisations and analytics. We employ Cardographer in teaching, industry engagement and ongoing research projects.

To date this has been primarily concerned with the use of physical card based tools used in colocated workshops. However, the current world situation has rendered group research activities of all kinds unfeasible. Therefore, we prioritised an ultimate goal of the project: developing equivalent, accessible and agile digital versions of the Cardographer tools for use by distributed and remote participants.

To pursue this, we will utilise established online sandbox gaming platforms, which offer robust infrastructure and interfaces, as reference test-beds. We will implement our card tools on these platforms and conduct a series of adapted Cardographer activities with our network partners. This will gather feedback and give us insights into adapting existing physical processes into a virtual setting and inform the design of our future bespoke platform.

The reflective process of adapting existing tools will provide lessons around issues including:

  • Practicalities, benefits and limitations of using existing systems
  • Challenges of working with cards remotely and internationally
  • Technical and ethical issues
  • Benefits and limitations of this approach in practice.

These lessons will form a case study of practice with wider implications and application to others within and outside the U21 who may be looking, or indeed be compelled, to adapt co-located physical research practices to an online remote, distanced context.


Research Chats: Expert Advice on Research in the Digital Age

Lead Applicant: Federica Caso, University of Queensland  

Partners: Debbie Lakshmi Baishya, University of Delhi, Anna Carlson, University of Queensland, Marianthi Karakoulaki, University of Birmingham, Shreya Singh, University of Queensland, Fernando Velasquez Villalba, University of Auckland, Alister Wedderurn, University of Glasgow


The workplace disruptions of the COVID-19 global pandemic highlighted the importance and necessity of digital technologies and online communications in academic research and conduct. Although the digital age offers plenty of opportunities for researchers, many who come from non-STEM fields find it difficult to navigate through them without guidance.  “Research Chats” aims to act as an audio-visual mentor to PhD candidates and early career researchers who are trying to figure out what it means to be an academic and conduct research in the digital era.

Seven researchers from five U21 institutions will train in the production and development of a podcast series and website on the challenges of research and academic conduct in the digital era. “Research Chats” will focus on research in the social sciences and humanities where the digital world seems complicated at times. The producers will invite academics and practitioners experienced in research and academic conduct in the digital age, who will share insights on the challenges and ways to overcome them.

“Research Chats” will build digital capacity within the U21 network in two ways. First, it will act as a research training tool for the producers themselves. This training for the producers will build their capacities in podcast production and website and social media management that will help them deliver the project effectively. The skills acquired can be used in subsequent projects and to improve their research and teaching activities. 

Second, “Research Chats” will create a community and open access audio and visual resource for the U21 network and beyond which will help users find expert advice on research and academic conduct in the digital age.


How to Run Design-led Workshops for Teaching & Learning and Research in a Digital Environment      

Lead Applicant: Ivano Bongiovanni, University of Queensland  

Partners: Dayana Balgabekova, University of Glasgow, Beth Amelia Cloughton, University of Glasgow


COVID-19 has underscored the need for education professionals to utilise innovative tools for learning & teaching and research. Internet is the most intuitive solution, as the growth of Zoom and MS Teams usage has demonstrated: +300% in the use of Zoom; and +775% in the use of MS Teams. Despite this, technology is not enough: scholarly research and anecdotal observation show how online learning & teaching and research can result in disengagement and a passive attitude by end-users (students and research participants).

To improve user engagement in learning & teaching and research, our project will create a toolkit for education professionals to independently run design-led workshops in a digital environment. These workshops are anchored in the discipline of Design Thinking and achieve two objectives: leveraging technology to meet post-Covid19 need for social distancing; and adopting an approach (design thinking) that maximises user engagement.

In this project, we translate our expertise in running design-led workshops into a toolkit that will be shared amongst U21 education professionals (PhD students, junior and senior academics, admin staff). The toolkit will consist of: 1) A handbook on how to run design-led workshops in a digital environment; 2) A pre-recorded webinar teaching our approach; 3) A synthetic executive guide for quick reference.

Our toolkit will build digital capacity within U21: it will teach U21 education professionals how to run highly engaging workshops with the support of digital technologies. This will ultimately benefit the end-users of learning & teaching and research: students and research participants.


Viral Making: Exploring Fologram, Rhino and Grasshopper to Craft Connections             

Lead Applicant: Jo McCallum, University of Queensland            

Partner: Dong Ding, University of Edinburgh


Whilst meeting platforms, like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Skype offer the opportunity to cross borders and boundaries, practice research is in flux. How can makers, fabricators, and material researchers preserve, harness, and enhance tangible engagement in this new screen-centric era? In this context, researchers in architecture and craft have a unique opportunity to share their tacit knowledge. As such, Viral Making will explore adaptive digital tools (Rhino & Grasshopper) and mixed reality platforms (Fologram), in order to craft connections, deliver novel pedagogy, and share practice research methods.

We are committed to investigating innovative tools and techniques, with a view to informing and enhancing engagement across a range of disciplines.

We will collaborate in order to:

1. Preserve, harness, and enhance practice research, utilising adaptive digital tools (Rhino & Grasshopper), alongside mixed reality platforms (Fologram).

2. Explore a process of Training & Experimentation by sharing skills, and digital/physical models.

3. Craft a process of Growth through Iteration by developing a series of shared models, made collaboratively across two continents.

4. Document and reflect upon this process to deliver Demonstration & Dissemination, including a Viral Making toolkit (knowledge sharing strategy, process diagrams, workflows, material logs, short films, and opensource files).

This project will build digital capacity via demonstration and dissemination. We will deliver our Viral Making toolkit via a shared paper, webpage, and social media campaign. All assets will be opensource, and users will be encouraged to download and adapt our original models. This process-driven, collaborative approach will add value across science, technology, engineering, the arts, and mathematics (STEAM).


Writing COVID-19 and writing in COVID-19: virtual writing collective to self-empower social science PhD students within the U21 network for interdisciplinary academic writing and publishing     

Lead Applicant: Yang Zhao, University of Queensland  

Partners: Jiali Liu, University of Auckland, Huajing Yang, University of Zurich


COVID-19 is fundamentally changing our day to day life from studying, working, or travelling. The impacts of the virus on our everyday life and how it will further change it in the future, become an unavoidable topic for social science PhD students. Compared to science and technology PhD students, PhD students in social sciences worldwide are inequitably impacted by COVID-19, especially those whose thesis is fieldwork-based. We have to either change, postpone, or cancel our fieldwork plans, leading to a predicament that we ae unsure how to write or even have no data to write. In order to establish a self-empowering community for fellow students within the U21 network, we aim to launch a writing collective to provide trainings on academic writing and publishing skills and digital research methods during COVID-19, opportunities for interdisciplinary collaborative writing, and a peer support network among U21 social science PhD students. 

Three applicants from Australia, New Zealand, and Switzerland with cross-disciplinary backgrounds in anthropology, linguistics, public health, communication, education will lead the project together. Some fellow PhD students in sociology and history from our home programs and home country China have also expressed their interest in participation. Participants will meet periodically on Zoom through online events including academic writing and publishing strategies during COVID-19digital research skill training workshops, COVID-19 reading group, and writing sprints. By working together to innovatively learn and transform writing skills to adapt to research during COVID-19, the project will provide an opportunity for PhD students to write collaboratively and interdisciplinarilyThis digital community will self-empower social science PhD students to turn the threat of COVID-19 into an opportunity for academic networking and collaboration. 


Building resilience amongst forced migration researchers by supporting partnerships with early career scholars from refugee backgrounds            

Lead Applicant: Claire Higgins, UNSW            

Partner: Matthew Scott, Lund University


This project will build the resilience of early career scholars of forced migration, by establishing a mentoring program that links researchers from refugee backgrounds with mentor researchers to develop skills, networks and opportunities for collaboration.

Responses to the COVID-19 pandemic have compounding negative effects for refugee scholars who already faced barriers to engaging in traditional scholarly fora due to financial constraints or legal status as refugees, which often restricts travel. Under-representation of refugees in these fora and networks limits not only refugee scholars, but all engaged in the study of forced migration, where there is a critical need to better understand and incorporate perspectives of displaced people. With COVID-19 likely to limit travel for some time, stronger networks between refugee and other scholars of forced migration will also be vital to advancing research across the many disciplines addressing this issue.

Through establishing digital mentoring relationships and training in key skills relating to the production of research for publication, the project will strengthen and expand existing networks of early career scholars of forced migration, whilst also providing more equitable access to opportunities for refugee scholars. Mentors and mentees will work towards identified goals, which may include publication of an academic article or chapter in an international academic journal or edited volume, providing a focused opportunity for ‘hands on’ development of both academic skills and virtual collaboration. In addition, structured virtual trainings, workshops and networking opportunities will serve to develop digital and academic skills.

By promoting partnership between refugee and mentor scholars, this project will also advance the RRF’s aims of developing global perspectives on problem-solving, cross-cultural and interdisciplinary working practices.

This project will build a model of capacity-building and collaboration that can be replicated and adapted across the U21 network in a range of contexts. As the methods and approaches are refined over the course of this pilot project, a larger initiative expanding mentoring opportunities to promote global North-South as well as South- South collaboration will become possible.


Building Online Workshops: Developing resilience and digital skills through project-based learning   

Lead Applicant: Luke Steller, UNSW  

Partners: Michaela Dobson, University of Auckland, Ben Pearce, McMaster University, Nicolas Randazzo, McMaster University, Bonnie Teece, University of New South Wales, Tara Djokic, University of New South Wales


This project will allow PhD students and Early career researchers to develop and refine their skills in online communication by providing them the opportunity to create a series of online workshops to present their research in a formative and interactive way. Through project members creating these workshops and workshop templates (to be shared with other U21members) this project will help PhD students (both within this group and through the U21 network) become confident and competent at communicating and engaging online.   

Recent unprecedented global events have emphasized the importance of digital communication competency as essential tools in academia. Conferences, teaching, collaboration and outreach ventures are now relying on online platforms to share research to colleagues, students and the general public. Therefore, it is important to develop and upskill PhD students’ digital capabilities to ensure they are equipped with the skills and knowledge to communicate their research effectively online. This project will allow our group of PhD students to learn these skills through practice, by creating a series of online STEM workshops focused on our combined research interest, Astrobiology, or the study of life beyond Earth. The skills and knowledge acquired through creating these workshops will be shared between member students and ECRs, as well as summarised in workshop templates to be shared with all interested U21 members, to build capacity across the U21 network. 

This project aims to:  

  • Boost resilience in PhD students and ECRs by providing them the opportunity and resources to develop skills in digital communication and collaboration through practical application. 
  • Create interactive online workshops that feature members research. The workshops will engage colleagues, students and the general public in U21 research. 
  • Develop instructional material on accessible digital communication and workshop development, to be shared freely with U21 members, to inspire and support other researchers to promote their research online. This material will include workshop templates, lesson plan guides and script scaffolds. 


Developing sustainable participatory approaches to child research during and after COVID-19            

Lead Applicant: Katitza Marinkovic, University of Melbourne

Partners: Kate Coveney, University College Dublin, Rachel Howe, University College Dublin

In recent years, a new generation of childhood researchers have become increasingly interested in participatory approaches (where power is handed from the researcher to the participant) which strengthen child rights-based research. Participatory approaches with children tend to involve face to face contact, however, the COVID-19 pandemic presents challenges to these methods and ensuring children's voices are incorporated into research. Additionally, PhD candidates and Early Career Researchers (ECRs) are currently limited in their ability to learn from other researchers at formal networking events such as conferences and seminars, due to funding reductions and travel restrictions. It is crucial for PhD Candidates and Early Career Researchers (ECRs) to develop, learn and share creative and innovative digital methods to help overcome barriers to conducting child rights-based research during the pandemic, whilst also being provided opportunities for networking and career development which are not reliant on funding and travel.

In response to the emerging need presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, our project has the following aims  

  1. Build the analytical and digital research capabilities of PhD Candidates and ECRs to ensure they are able to conduct participatory childhood research of high ethical and methodological standards.
  2. Build the capacity of PhD Candidates and ECRs use of digital tools to establish meaningful international research collaborations.
  3. Facilitating connections and shared learning between PhDs, ECRs and senior researchers from around the world, on how to build resilient careers as childhood researchers.

To do this, the team will explore what digital tools are currently available and could be used for child participatory research. They will then develop a series of webinars and digital workshops as part of the Kids in Action on COVID-19 (KIACV19) project. The KIACV19 project, currently led by two members of the team, is part of the International Collaboration for Participatory Health Research (ICPHR,, and seeks to connect childhood researchers from around the globe to explore how children and young people have actively contributed during this pandemic.