‘Research Bow’: Independently growing together

Cacti field
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In this post, Aigli Raouna showcases ‘Research Bow’, a blog for and from postgraduate research students at the School of Health in Social Science. Aigli is a PhD student, and this post is part of the Learning and Teaching Enhancement theme: Showcasing the Doctoral College.

The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low and achieving our mark.

– Michelangelo

Doing a PhD can sometimes feel like a lonely journey. At least for me, at some points it felt like I was in the middle of a desert, exhausted, without any clear direction or resources to guide my next steps. Looking around, however, it becomes apparent that we are not alone. There are many other resilient creatures out there. Sure- they are all unique and, in some respects, different from us. We all have different projects, different backgrounds, different outputs, but we also all have to navigate this, sometimes challenging, terrain. There is no doubt that we have the capacity and strength to get through this journey alone, but why should we? Even cacti, the symbol of endurance, choose to grow ‘independently together’ in the desert. And, at least for me, the flower of a cactus – the sign that it’s not just surviving but thriving – is among the most unexpectedly beautiful ones.

Cactus flower
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So, if I had to describe the spirit of Research Bow – the blog for and from postgraduate research students at the School of Health in Social Science – it would probably be ‘independently growing’ together. It would be feeling part of a supportive and understanding community that ultimately aims not only to make us feel less alone but also thrive during this journey. Research Bow acknowledges how our PhD journeys are not always smooth, nor linear. Through our regular blog posts, we want to inspire our community reminding them to celebrate their small wins and reflect on their unavoidable obstacles by sharing their (our) experiences, initiatives, insights, and tips related to PhD life. Of course, our community is truly diverse and dynamic so it would be naïve to claim that everything applies to everyone, and the impact of our blogs is not just one-way; from the blog author to the reader. In fact, I would say that, in many cases, it’s the process of writing and sharing which is most powerful.

When Research Bow was first introduced back in 2019 – when I was lost in my own desert- although I truly believed in its value, I wasn’t sure if others would as well. However, looking back at what we have achieved so far, it’s far beyond what I would have expected or wished for. Interestingly, its turning point was Covid-19. As the lockdown began, Research Bow experienced an impressive growth, both in terms of blogpost contributors and audience numbers as well as of an expansion in its editorial team. Being able to stay remotely and safely connected with our community became a priority, and Research Bow became the platform for it. We now have more than 60 blogposts, 25 blog contributors (some of them recurrent), 8 editorial members, and 3 staff members/reviewers, reaching around 200 unique readers per month and around 700 pageviews per month.

Our five main blogpost categories are PhD Life and Milestones, Mental Health, Wellbeing and Resilience, Raising Awareness and Research Reflections, Creative Corner and Research Groups and Centres, but we are always open to anything in between or beyond these as long as it relates to the PhD journey. Continuing along the self-praising road, this year we were awarded a Student Experience Grant to support our growth and help us organise a series of creative and interactive workshops such as our ‘Bake your PhD’ workshop. We also won the ‘Enterprising Award’ at The University of Edinburgh Student Awards 2021. Nevertheless, my personal win has been to witness our community endorsing and shaping Research Bow into a platform that promotes peer support and co-existence, normalising both the ups and the downs of this journey.

One of the main characteristics of the PhD field, however, is that it’s ever-changing and this time it’s my turn to slowly say goodbye, hopefully reaching the end of the line in the upcoming year. I am confident that the spirit of Research Bow will continue through my inspiring colleagues, and I would just like to thank wholeheartedly everyone who supported this initiative along the way: particularly Erifili, Emily and Bethany for believing and supporting the idea from the very beginning; Nasseem, and Sheila for joining the reviewers’ team; and the amazing editorial team members SiennaMarisa, Tine, Sofia, Raahat, Clarissa, Catarina and, our newest members, Lisa and Lilli.

Let’s continue to independently grow and thrive together!

Aigli Raouna

Aigli Raouna (she/her) is a Clinical Psychology PhD student at the School of Health in Social Science. Her research explores the role of perinatal mental health in the emotional development of babies and the experiences and support needs of mothers experiencing bipolar disorder and their partners during transition to parenthood. She is the founder and editor-in-chief of Research Bow. Twitter: @researchBow @AigliR

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