Imagine yourself as an early career PhD student. How do you deal with the situation when the institution you are working for have other expectations for your work then you have?

Challenges such as this – and more – were discussed at this year’s Summer Research school, co-organised by AFINO and DLN (Digital Life Norway). This year’s main theme at the summer school was Engaging in critical research within institutions, with lectures given by AFINO and DLN staff. Like last year, came also Jean-Paul Vanderlinden, from CEARC and Université de Versailles Saint-Quentin en Yvelines in France, and contributed with lecture and guidance for the participants.

Jean-Paul Vanderlinden in an engaging lecture at the Summer School.

Diverse group
The Summer School was fully booked, with around 20 participants representing a wide range of disciplines from various institutions, both Norwegian and international.
– My first impression was, – oh my god, we work in so different, different topics, so its hard to me to reflect on something that is so difficult. At first I also didn’t understand so much what they were talking about. But that was my first impression. After we got to know each other some, I experienced that the diversity opens new windows, says Anne-Laure Legendre, coming from University of Paris Saclay (CEARC) in France.
For Rohit Agarwal, PhD student at UiT The Arctic University of Norway, diversity was a motivation to join the Summer School.
– As a PhD student, I have a lot of dilemmas in my daily life. Is what I am doing right, is it wrong? I meet disagreements with colleagues, supervisors and collaborators. With being here, I was hoping to get some clarity. First of all – is this only me? Are others going through the same as me? The other thing – what can I do to mitigate it?, explains Rohit.
Watch the full interview with Rohit, Anne-Laure and Aiste Klimasauskaite from University of Bergen about their experiences at the AFINO and DLN Summer School.

One assignment, different solutions
In addition to lectures, the participants were divided into groups and given assignments. The assignment consisted of developing a new research design or method, a set of research skills or a way to work with policy institutions, that would facilitate doing critical research within policy institutions, and help navigate the gap between intentions and outcomes.

Group work at the Summer School, with Joaquin Zenteno Hopp (HVL) presenting for his group.

After brainstorming and discussions, it turned out that the groups came up with very different outcomes from this work.
One group developed a board game, to help the PhD student navigate in the progress. Another group used memes in an imagined (but fairly realistic!) chat between supervisor and PhD student. The third group used the case of ‘in vitro meat’ or ‘synthetic meat’ and interviewed people in the street to get their opinion on whether they would eat it or not, and why. The group used this concrete case of in vitro meat to illustrate the challenges to include public’s perceptions, needs and knowledge into ‘responsible innovation’. An example of the gap between intentions and outcomes, relative to innovations in the food sector.

More details on how all three groups solved the assignment, can be seen in RRI Garden on AFINO’s website soon.

A useful experience
– I have really enjoyed being here. It has been useful. The diversity have made me question or see things that I necessarily didn’t see before. It makes me appreciate to see the struggles of others and learn from them, says Aiste Klimasauskaite from UiB. She also points out that the diversity gives a push to understand what transdisciplinarity is, which is a focus in AFINO.

Leader of AFINO Research School, Anne Blanchard and Anders Braarud Hanssen, senior adviser responsible research and innovation in DLN, both part of the teaching team at the Summer School in Oslo.

Leader for the AFINO Research School, Anne Blanchard, confirms an engaging atmosphere at the Summer School.
– As I was going around the groups I could catch glimpses of discussions where the participants were deeply challenging each other on their assumptions, methods, or intentions for their research. It was really interesting, and done in a very friendly, ‘summer-camp’ atmosphere, she says.

This summer school was the first edition organised jointly by AFINO and DLN (Digital Life Norway), and was held in Oslo 7th to 9th September 2022.

Featured image: Participants at the AFINO and DLN Summer Research School in Oslo. From left: Aiste Klimasauskaite (UiB), Anne-Laure Legendre (CEARC) and Rohit Agarwal (UiT).
All photos/video: Eva H. Murvold