The Benefit of Remote Research Clusters (PAfH), Societies, Networks (EMERGE) and Online Conversations – aidan buffey.

With the increase in online knowledge translation due largely to the COVID-19 pandemic and the current remote working practices, there are new and increased opportunities to join many newly formed societies, networks, and research group clusters.

These are great opportunities for Undergraduate and Postgraduate students to take advantage of sessions that would have previously been held privately/in person within a University or institution and have now been repurposed into online discussions for free or a reduced fee. A great place to find these online Webinars would be Twitter, as societies and networks will often share or retweet their webinars or online conferences including either the Microsoft Teams or Zoom invite or a link to request an invite.

Within the University of Limerick EMERGE (Early Career Researchers) and EMERGE PhD (Postgraduate) have formed over the last year which regularly hold both informative webinars on topics such as funding, grants, publications, networking and other research/academic based topics and informal coffee mornings. EMERGE is open to all University of Limerick staff and students, if you would like more information or to be included in the email list for future events and the Microsoft Teams channel, please contact me via Email (

These EMERGE webinars are all held online currently and free, with the majority recorded if you cannot attend the live webinar, to watch over when you have the time. Within PESS, there are a few research clusters involving staff, Postdoctoral researchers, Postgraduate students and opportunities for Undergraduate students, I can only speak to the Physical Activity for Health (PAfH) research cluster but here, regular webinars are held on a variety of physical activity related topics. The last webinar PAfH put on which I also had the opportunity to present on with another PhD student (Meghan Gilfoyle) was on conducting a scoping review, the why, when and how.

Social Benefit

Many of these societies, research clusters and networks as well as putting on conferences, informational webinars and scientific conversations also put on informal coffee mornings or weekly/bi-weekly catch ups. These offer the opportunity to chat with peers to socialise and network among colleagues from different departments or institutions while we are still working remotely.

Arrange Writing Mornings or Study Hours with your Cohort/Peers/Colleagues

Working remotely can be isolating, some societies and networks have arranged writing mornings or days where you can log on to an online call and have a structured writing/work morning/day. Typically, on these mornings, you would log on. Each then discuss what you are going to work on/complete and then mute your microphone and work for a set amount of time (1 hour). After the set amount of time or hour, you would unmute and have a short chat to break up the work, grab some water or a coffee, set a new goal or continue with your last goal for another hour. Repeating for the specified time of the morning or day. You would then finish the morning/day with an overview of what you got done and a social chat. These can be a great idea for accountability and to focus on a sole task and avoid email or small task distractions. You may also be able to arrange this for yourself and peers/cohort/office if you would find the dedicated time and accountability useful.

Break Up Your Day and Week

Working from home can become monotonous after over a year, especially for traditional PhD students and those not taking modules as your contact time with peers will be minimal. Webinars and informal social calls offer the opportunity to connect with your peers or meet/network with other colleagues. Putting my physical activity and sedentary behaviour hat on also, these webinars and chats are a great opportunity to have standing/walking meetings if you are not required to present at the webinar. This therefore provides you with the opportunity to break up your sitting.

Service/Outreach Opportunities

Some societies and networks offer Undergraduate and Postgraduate student positions on their committee or board in a variety of roles/capacities. These can be great opportunities to develop new skills, upskill and network with a society related to your research field with the opportunity be involved in the decision making of the societies/networks upcoming events. These opportunities are usually limited but have yearly turnover so I would suggest checking the societies/networks website for information about possible committee positions or further membership roles as well as paying attention to any newsletters or Tweets that may highlight the opportunity to join the Society/Network committee. 

Aidan Buffey is a Structured PhD student in the Department of Physical Education and Sport Sciences, University of Limerick. He is funded by the Health Research Institute and supervised by Prof. Alan Donnelly and Dr Brian Carson. Aidan is in the second year of his PhD project titled ‘Design and evaluation of an intervention to reduce sedentary behaviour and improve health in older adults’. This project aims to implement an office-based intervention designed to interrupt sedentary behaviour with light-intensity physical activity with an emphasis on improving cardiometabolic health markers. Aidan has an MSc in Sport and Exercise Science – Physiology (Manchester Metropolitan University, 2018-2019) and a BSc (Hons) Sport and Exercise Science (Manchester Metropolitan University, 2015-2018).  Contact: Follow on Twitter @AidanBuffey Researchgate  ORCID, Linked-In

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