At the end of the academic year 2012–13, Hive Scholars conducted an evaluation of the Research Hive and its activities through an online survey. This was distributed to researchers by email via the School RECs; through a promotional blog; via Twitter and Facebook. Leaflets were also distributed in the Research Hive, in other key areas and at an end of year Doctoral School event. A prize draw with two £20 Amazon vouchers was offered and the winners have been notified. We received 70 responses in total. Sixty-nine (98.6%) of respondents were doctoral researchers and there was one associate tutor. Responses came from across the university with the majority of schools participating – the schools with the best representation were Global Studies, Media, Film and Music, Business Management and Economics and Law, Politics and Sociology. What was particularly interesting was that 20% of respondents never used the Hive so it gave a good insight into the perspective of non-users.
For those who use it, the Hive space continues to be used primarily for quiet, individual study, although it can be utilised for communicative purposes – meeting and catching up with other researchers. Respondents were asked whether they used the small meeting rooms to work with a group and while some regular users did, 11.4% of respondents indicated they did not know they could – anyone interested in booking a meeting space for a small meeting or discussion session, this is done via the Library website.
In terms of what equipment / facilities / furniture researchers would like to see in the Hive, there were many suggestions which have been passed onto the Library Research Support team. Significantly, 17.1% respondents stated that they would like to see more computers. Other suggestions included more desks, more comfortable chairs, a scanner, a printer, lockers, a water fountain, fax machine and cushions. However, it is not possible to provide all these facilities as mentioned earlier in the year. The Library keeps equipment where the majority of students can access it; as there are only a few scanners overall, they are in the main part of the Library for all to use. There are two water fountains not too far from the Hive. Unfortunately the Library would not be able to provide enough lockers for all who wanted them, it would take up space and is likely to be difficult to manage. There was also the suggestion that coffee, tea and other refreshments could be available but as the Hive is a Library space, food and drink is not permitted. Nevertheless, please be reassured that all your feedback has been taken on board – we love the idea of cushions so watch this space!
As well as comprising a physical working space within the Library, the Hive has aimed to help researchers to feel part of their researcher community. The Hive has been successful in this with the majority of respondents stating that it had helped either a lot or a little (44 or 62.9% in total). Positive feedback included the following comments: ‘It is very useful all the workshops that are organised and all the activities to meet other researchers’; ‘The dedicated space that the Hive offers helps a lot… it provides a focus point and is a good space for catching up with other doctoral students’; ‘The research community does an excellent job of making people feel involved’ and ‘You’ve got it just right at the moment, I think – there are resources and opportunities available and these are easy to find out about.’
However, experiences of the researcher community are inconsistent across departments with some researchers indicating that they had few opportunities to meet or socialise with other researchers and some suggesting more needed to be done within their academic departments.
A programme of peer-led activities were offered this year and these were well received by those who attended, although there was a suggestion that events could be put on at different times of the day and week to maximise opportunities to attend. Feedback relating to specific events included the following:
Wellbeing Walks: ‘They were good. Helped build team and confidence.’
Viva Survivors:‘Very useful.’
‘It was really good to hear from people who have gone through the viva – I’m really glad you organised it. It might have been nice to have someone from the sciences there to round out the panel, but I understand it’s difficult to organise these things!’
Shut up and Write!:‘A great concept.’
‘Shut up and write was good, should be held more often.’
How to finish your PhD:‘It’s very useful to meet other PhD students and learn how they do their research, how they write their thesis etc.’
As well as running various activities, the Scholars have successfully developed the Research Hive social media presence this year, aiming to reach out to researchers who may not necessarily use the Hive but who would like to participate in the community, contribute to discussions and find out about relevant activities. The recently launched Facebook page has 60 “likes”; there are 293 Twitter followers and the blog page has had over 2000 views. However, 21%of respondents were not aware of these sources of communication and so more needs to be done to ensure all researchers are aware and have the opportunity to engage in this aspect of the researcher community.
Conducting this survey has been a very valuable experience and provided helpful feedback for the team to carry forwards into next year. Thanks are due to all those who participated and look out for an update on how the feedback will be used by next year’s Scholars next semester. In the meantime, here is a selection of positive, thought-provoking comments on the Hive:
‘I think it’s a great idea to have a place to sit down and really think about your work, away from the hustle and bustle of the lab environment.’
‘I wanted to attend shut up and write, how to finish your PhD and Viva Survivors, but in the end I gave in to the urge to keep working at my desk…’
‘I really think more computers are needed since there are a lot of research students who come here often and is not always possible to find a free space.’
‘I think the Hive and Hive Scholars really great initiative that could be of great value to doctoral students like myself who feel isolated, neglected and often uninformed… but it obviously needs tweaking. I think the biggest need is to raise the profile of the hive within academic departments and create stronger relationships with doctoral students across campus.’
‘There seem to me to be so many different parts of being a Doctoral student and so many different events that we can attend that it is not clear which event is associated with which area and it puts me off a little.’
‘The only reason I have not attended recent events is them always being during lunchtime slots when I am testing participants. I do value the research Hive for putting on events like this though and do wish I could attend!’
‘I loved the idea of a very quiet area in the library so that I can focus on my work.’
‘Twitter and the Hive Blog are likely to get a very few people involved, but possibly more deeply than email. Email should be the primary method of communication, the blog and Twitter should be comprehensive but secondary. The benefits of the Hive I think have to be spelt out periodically to get new people in.’
‘I think events at the beginning of each term are a great way to reach out to new students (especially international students) so they can feel more connected and also learn more about available resources.’
‘Maybe to have more social activities will be good to know the others outside the academic environment so we can talk about our research and other topics as well.’
‘You guys are doing a great job and I should use the Hive more!’