What should I do if the COVID-19 outbreak is affecting my ability to do research?
There are several options to choose from if you feel that COVID-19 and the attendant issues are affecting your ability to do research:
- With the campus closure, you may take your work home and work remotely, continuing with regular supervisory meetings online.
- If your research entails work in laboratories or studios which may no longer be accessible, please liaise with your supervisory team to see how best you might use the current period. For example, there may be thesis-related work that can be done in the meantime without access to these spaces so that the time is not lost.
- If there is nothing you can do on your research while current conditions persist, you might want to consider requesting an ‘interruption’ for up to two months (please see the FAQ on requesting an interruption below).
- If your data collection involves human participants, you should cease data collection immediately and talk with your supervisor for advice on possible virtual methods of data collection. Fundamental changes to your methodological approach and your research instrument, may need further faculty research ethical approval.
- If you are an international student, you may decide to return to your home country. If you are choosing to do this, please do notify us through email at email@example.com, and speak to your supervisors at the earliest on options to work remotely.
Now that the campus is closed, will I be able to continue my research?
Many of you will want access to specific equipment or rooms in order to manage and undertake your research. With the DMU campus currently closed, this may not be possible. You should discuss this with your supervisory team to establish a plan going forward in order to minimise the impact to your research.
I am at a stage where my work can be done from home, can I continue working on my PhD?
Please do continue working from home and continue to make progress with your research.
What happens with my supervisory meetings and progression events?
All supervisory meetings will continue online. Please liaise with your supervisory team to arrange monthly meetings, via Skype or other means.
All key progression events, including a First Project Review, Formal Review, Probation Review or Annual Review, will now also take place online. There might need to be some adjustment for time for these to be arranged, and your patience is greatly appreciated. Please contact your supervisory team for advice and support.
I was booked on to some face-to-face training. Will there be online webinars instead?
We are working with our academic facilitators on transitioning to online teaching. You will be notified by email whether the session has been postponed or is to be delivered as a webinar. In these cases, we will provide you with instructions on how to access the webinar.
We regularly add to our Researcher Development offering so please do visit the Doctoral College Eventbrite page.
Where can I access training materials to support my research?
We are regularly updating our Research Student Community Blackboard space which contains materials on a variety of subjects, including new packages on ‘Qualitative Research’ and ‘Quantitative Research’ containing slides, links, resource lists, and recordings.
To find the pages, go to blackboard.dmu.ac.uk and sign in. Scroll down to the ‘My Communities’ section and select ‘Research Student Community’. We will be reviewing and refreshing the content regularly.
I am due to start data collection/lab experiment. What happens now?
If you have not commenced data collection, you have the option of reconsidering your research plan so that you will not be required to travel, or so that you can collect research data in an alternate method, so that you don’t lose too much time. For example, if you are collecting data from human research participants, there may be online methods for organising surveys or interviews.
If this is not possible you might want to request an interruption, but please be aware that the suspension of normal practice at the university is currently indefinite.
I am in the middle of data collection but have had to stop. What do I do?
Following government guidance to avoid unnecessary social contact, researchers should immediately cease any face-to-face research data collection with human participants. This research ethics guidance is for all researchers, including PhD students.
If you are in the middle of data collection, it might be worth pausing to analyse your data to assess if there is enough there for a PhD thesis. We would suggest that you look at ways to minimise further loss of time or look at other possible means of data collection in the event you are not able to continue with fieldwork.
Alternatively, you might want to consider an interruption (please see the FAQ on requesting an interruption below).
There are some online resources available providing guidance on conducting research when a pandemic is on, such as ‘doing fieldwork in a pandemic'. For NHS-related data collection, see COVID-19: Guidance for Sponsors, Sites and Researchers.
In all cases, please keep in touch with your supervisor. If you are changing the direction of your research, or even making tweaks to your research design, there may be implications for your ethics application that you will need to consider with your supervisor.
I am due to submit in the next couple of months. Can I still go ahead and submit my thesis?
Yes. All PhD theses are now submitted electronically only. If either of the examiners requires a hard copy, we are able to get it printed and sent to them.
The electronic submission requires a text-only thesis submission through Turnitin and a USB sent to the Doctoral College (posted, if drop-off is not possible). Given current circumstances, we are able to send you a link to Zend that will permit you to upload an electronic copy of the thesis, saving you the need to send us a USB version.
Do keep your supervisors updated, so exam arrangements can be initiated. If current conditions continue, it will be a viva by Skype, Blackboard Collaborate or Zoom or other video link.
I am due to have a viva soon, but don’t feel entirely confident about a viva that is not face-to-face.
If you would rather postpone your viva, please speak to your supervisors.
I am back in my home country but am planning to fly back to the UK for my viva. Will COVID-19 impact my travel back?
International travel is becoming very limited as air routes close, land borders close and new restrictions are put in place, so it is likely that your journey would face disruption. Please do consider the option of a viva by Skype or other video link options and discuss this early with your supervisors. You could also consider postponing your viva for now.
How should I submit my corrections?
If you have corrections to submit, you should still follow the current process: send corrections and related documentation to the Doctoral College via firstname.lastname@example.org
I would like to apply for an interruption for two months as I cannot progress my research. What are the implications of doing this?
Your research programme will be paused and resume two months down the line. During this period, it is expected that you are not engaged with your research programme and will therefore not normally have access to university systems and resources. You will not be charged fees for this period.
If you are in possession of a Doctoral Loan, the Student Loans Company will be informed of the interruptions and payments will also pause until you return to your studies.
For students on a university scholarship, your payments will stop during this period and recommence on your return.
I am a funded student. Are there any consequences for me if I decide to apply for an interruption?
If you are funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) through one of the research councils, please look at the guidance they have issued here.
If you are funded or sponsored by another body, you are advised to check with them to ascertain their expectations and support.
What should I do if my plans to travel for research are disrupted by COVID-19?
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advises British people travelling abroad to return to the UK now, if commercial flights are still available. International travel is becoming very limited as air routes close, land borders close and new restrictions are put in place that prevent flights from leaving. It is essential that you follow the guidance provided by the Foreign Office which you can find on its website.
Travel for research should always be linked to the university insurance to recover costs for trips, where this is possible. If your flight has been cancelled or your conference is called off, you should be able to recoup your funds dependent on your travel insurance policy. We advise you contact your insurance policy provider as soon as possible.
Are there other resources I could look at?
There is a growing online community, ‘Virtual Not Viral PhD’, led by the account @virtualnotviral on Twitter. You can also find related posts using #virtualnotviral.
How do I access my files if I'm working from home?
If you are working from home, we recommend you ensure your research notes and resources are saved to your personal OneDrive folder. This will then allow you to access your files from any location. All research degree students have a OneDrive folder.
If your files exist only on a local DMU hard-drive (e.g. My Documents) or to a shared folder in DMU’s network, they will not be accessible outside of DMU. We recommend you transfer these files from your local desktop to OneDrive as this will be a more secure location.