The funding landscape is, in a recession, a tough one. Additionally, the route from a PhD to academic employment is even more uncertain than it was already. It’s with these things in mind that you might consider less than orthodox approaches to how you go about getting funding and employment. This is something I’ve done as a research student, and will write about on this blog over the Spring. Since last summer I’ve been a volunteer for OPAAL, a national charity whose members provide advocacy on behalf of older people. My work included help to find new funding sources, as well as applying my academic immersion in text to the task of writing funding bids. During this time I applied for funding from Vodafone to set up a partly research-based project for OPAAL. I got the funding, and the picture shows the induction event, with Simon Weston and Gok Wan holding the collection box, and other grant winners in the foreground. This means I’m now a part-time OPAAL employee for the next 4 months. The project involves developing and piloting a memory recording resource that keeps the voices of people with dementia heard as their capacity to instruct or engage with decision-making deteriorates. This means consulting with experts in advocacy projects in our region, as well as researchers at Newcastle University whose work and/or knowledge could help with understanding the relevant legal, medical, IT, and social care matters. So this means I could even end up contacting you!
My own research is actually in a different subject area, but the experience of consulting, project management, and reporting takes research mindedness into practical situations that could inform how I apply my PhD experience outside academia. I will blog about the project at the funder’s website, but I hope that my few posts here about the experience of being a researcher working on a scheme aimed at volunteers can trigger some unusual ideas for researchers seeking funding and employment.