SSPC has over 120 researchers from each of our 9 partner institutes, University of Limerick, University College Cork, National University of Galway, Trinity College Dublin, Dublin City University, University College Dublin, RCSI, Maynooth University and Waterford I.T. When we all found ourselves working from home, SSPC ran a staying connected internal communications campaign aimed at postdoctoral (PDRA) researchers and PhD students. This group found themselves out of the lab due to the Covid-19, which brought uncertainly and disruption to every business and as many SSPC researchers were new in their role and some had just travelled to Ireland, it was important to help the community adapt rapidly to this new environment.
The campaign ran for 8 weeks and platforms used were internal email, newsletters, learning hub, webinars and training events. In addition, PhD and postdoctoral working groups were set up and an SSPC guide book was created and shared.
The object of the campaign was to ensure communication was frequent, supportive and transparent. As an initial start, SSPC postdoctoral researchers and PhD students took a survey during Covid-19 to let SSPC know what they were finding most challenging whilst working from home. Much of the feedback was based on lack of focus, motivation, organisation, work routine, time management issues, conversations with peers and not being able to run experiments in the lab.
The strategy was to offer guidance and supported learning from home and in addition support the researcher that may have not built up their own support network just yet and make them feel part of a community. The lecture/training materials included in the Learning Hub proved very helpful particularly to first year PhD students.
Originality of the campaign
The originality of this campaign comes from the fact that there was a very sudden change in the working environment and we are all experiencing a new wave of mass experimentation in virtual work. This was particularly daunting for the scientist who needed a lab to start and finish work, therefore it was imperative that SSPC encourage employees to communicate their new norms and get used to the work-home transitions for individuals.
The marketing strategy was to make sure SSPC offered guidance and supported learning from home and in addition support the researcher that may have not built up their own support network just yet and make them feel part of a community. With this in mind, SSPC established two working groups giving PDRAs and PhDs a stronger voice within SSPC and externally, to promote in-centre collaboration, to promote engagement with industry and to offer a focussed approach towards personal and professional development.
Moving to digital online learning was our vision and Covid-19 sped this up. We immediately set up the SSPC Learning Hub, offering tutorials and on-demand webinars for all in the SSPC community, including industry partners. In addition, because our researchers could not attend or speak at many cancelled events, webinars were extended to postdoctoral students.
Additionally, SSPC ran a course called Productively Working From Home, helpful everyone with focus & time management. A Post-Doctoral Grant Writing Masterclass also ran with Bernal researchers (UL) Dr Damien Thompson, Dr Micheál Scanlon and SSPC co-director Prof. Mike Zaworotko. This gave insight into everything from work-life balance and national funding, to ERC applications, reviews and CVs.