Brave Zoom World: Exploring engaged research in a strange, new, physically distanced world

Brave Zoom World: Exploring engaged research in a strange, new, physically distanced world

Author: Virginia Thomas – University of Exeter, United Kingdom


  • Angela Cassidy – University of Exeter, United Kingdom

Building on the growing consensus across practices of interdisciplinarity and participatory research that collaboration is best fostered via regular sociality and shared problem solving, From ‘Feed the Birds’ to ‘Do Not Feed the Animals (DNFTA) was designed as an experiment in ‘engaged research’ (Holliman, 2017). Investigating animal feeding in the past and present requires sharing theories, insights, methods, and research data across multiple academic disciplines as well as with non-academic partners in the conservation and heritage sectors. The project was predicated on in-person contact and working with objects in archives and museum collections across the country. Before we even had chance to celebrate funding success however, COVID-19 arrived in the UK sweeping all before it and instituting a formal lockdown across the country by 25th March 2020. As with almost every aspect of life, COVID-19 has had profoundly disruptive effects on animal feeding and human-animal relations. This paper discusses these processes of disruption and the creative redesign of DNFTA, in which we have had to accommodate the ongoing uncertainties of the pandemic, the changed circumstances and priorities of our third sector partners, and the need to safeguard the health of all involved. We aim to share our experiences and invite dialogue with PCST colleagues about the challenges of undertaking engaged research in the midst of a pandemic.

This paper will address all three of PCST 2020’s themes:

Time –sticking to a research agenda through periods of lockdown, disruption and restrictions.

Technology – using old and new technologies to continue with a research programme predicated on in person sociality and collaboration.

Transformation – transmuting engaged research to effective interaction at a physical distance, and the ongoing transformation of science communication from ‘deficit’ to ‘participation’ and beyond.

The author has not yet submitted a copy of the full paper.

Presentation type: Insight talk
Theme: Transformation