Veterans and Families Research Hub, Anglia Ruskin University, 28 February 2018

By Clare Stevens and Claire Lee

Effective collaboration is increasingly seen as critical to successful research. This workshop was an opportunity to reflect on the benefits and challenges of collaboration, learn about organisations in relevant fields with an interest in collaborating with PhD and early-career researchers, and network with people with similar interests from across disciplines and institutions.

Despite snow, ice and wind, it attracted a good turnout, with people travelling from as far afield as Newcastle and Exeter. The breadth of research interests represented by the participants was an excellent showcase of the kind of social science research that our Network is engaging in.

The day started with welcomes from the DRN Committee and an introduction from Alex Cooper, Director of the Forces in Mind Trust Research Centre, who gave an overview of the fantastic new resource that is the This is aimed at providing an easily accessible bank of research oriented around matters of interest for Veterans and Families. Following that, participants were invited to represent their research interests or projects "on the back of an envelope". This provided a focal point for discussion and networking throughout the day, as well as an opportunity to exercise our creative muscles!

The next session took the form of a Collaboration Roundtable Discussion. This was an informal and enlightening exchange of experiences around the challenges and benefits of working collaboratively, in whatever form that might take. This led nicely into the talk given by Dr Simon Harwood of Cranfield University. As Director of Defence and Security, Dr Harwood was able to draw out his own experiences of collaborative work between industry, academia, the armed forces and policymakers, and helped participants think through some of the issues and practicalities that can arise in making new connections with collaborative partners.

After a brief update on how the DRN is progressing and an overview of the Yammer networking platform, we had a brief but delicious lunch (provided by the Veterans & Families Institute) and enjoyed our refreshments and the opportunity to further some of the conversations of the morning. Paul Barnes, soldier/scholar, regaled us with his perspective and insights on working across different contexts. It was an encouraging and engaging portrayal of both the challenges and the rewards of working collaboratively, with some useful pearls of wisdom for participants to take on board in their own efforts.

To round off the day, Alex Cooper returned to give a more in-depth account of the kind of research projects which may be considered for funding by the Forces in Mind Trust. The VFRhub is one of the outputs of the Forces in Mind Trust Research Centre and Alex's closing remarks encouraged us to explore the potential benefits of the VFRhub and the research opportunities that the FiMT can offer.

It was a thoroughly enjoyable day, with some twenty-two participants coming from far and wide to share their research experiences and aspirations. The DRN would like to extend our heartfelt thanks to the Veterans & Families Institute at Anglia Ruskin University and our guest speakers for making it possible, and we look forward to hosting more events as successful as this in the coming months. Stay tuned to @DefenceResNet!