15th December 2017

FAQs

Here are some frequently asked questions about PubhD!

PubhD was a pub conversation that turned into something! It started with the question: “Do you think we could persuade local Ph.D. students to come and tell us what they do if we buy them a pint?”

From that conversation, @Kash Farooq and @Regan Naughton (who are non-academics and are not connected to either of the local universities) started PubhD. The first event was in Nottingham in January 2014. Since then there have been events in 20 other cities around Europe.

Basically: the idea works and it is spreading!

Note: It is called PubhD. Not PubHD! (Because it combines “Pub” with “Ph.D.”, and so needs a lowercase ‘h’).

PubhD has a very simple (and easy to replicate) format :

  1. Three PhD student speakers each have 10 minutes to talk about their subject area to an interested audience in a pub.

  2. There are up to 20 minutes of (friendly!) Q&A per speaker.

  3. Each speaker gets at least one pint (or other drink of their choice).

 
 

Firstly, it’s important to note that PubhD event is not just another science thing. We encourage researchers from all subject areas to tell an audience about their work. See the previous events pages for examples of subjects areas we’ve covered at PubhD Nottingham.

When we first started PubhD, we wanted researchers to “bring their research to the public”. We wanted “pub level” talks so that you do not have to be an academic to understand them. This has happened at Nottingham, but we do get a lot of academics in our audience too. We estimate our audience is 50-50 academic/non-academic.

Since the format has spread to other cities, we’ve found that some PubhDs are more academically focused. They are more about building a PhD community and allowing academics to get public speaking practice. That’s obviously fine too! These PubhDs still ensure that the talks are at a “pub level”, as even if a room is full of academics, you still may have, say, a physicist needing to explaining their research to say, a historian (and vice-versa).

As an organiser, it’s up to you which way you want to go. However, note that many speakers add their PubhD appearance to the outreach sections of their CVs. This may not be possible if you have a 100% academically focused PubhD.

 

Where you have your venue impacts the type of audience you get.

If your pub is in the city centre, you’ll get more non-academics in the audience. If your pub is a student pub near the university, your audience is likely to be mainly academics and students.

If you want your PubhD to be for public outreach opportunities, we feel that a city centre pub is a way to go.

 

Here are some tips on how to set-up your very own PubhD. This page includes advice on setting up a website, a Facebook group, creating Facebook events, etc.

Note that you don’t have to be an academic or be connected to a university in any way to start a PubhD. In Nottingham, both organisers were not academics and not connected to either of the universities there.

There is a Facebook group for organisers. Somewhere to post questions and get hints and tips from other groups. If you are thinking about starting a PubhD feel free to join this group and ask any questions you have. You can always leave the group if you are no longer interested!

Please help yourself to logos, banners, etc here.

  • We went for the no projector option so there is no hassle swapping between speakers. That’s gone well and the speakers like it. Also, having a projector may result in presentations being pitched at the wrong level. We want “Pub Level” talks. The analogy we use to explain this decision is: “Imagine you are at a party and someone asks you what you do. You won’t be able to get out a projector. All you may have is a pen and a napkin”. That’s the level we expect the talks to be based on.
  • We went for much longer Q&A than talk as the speakers may not necessarily know what the public wants to hear about the research. This has worked well. Speakers have just enough time to give a high-level overview of their research, which prompts plenty of questions during the Q&A.
  • We’ve emphasised from the start that it is a friendly, welcoming atmosphere with “Why the hell are you studying that?” questions not allowed. And that has happened. Speakers realise they are not entering the lion’s den, and the audience asks genuinely interesting questions.
  • We’ve found plenty of speakers via Twitter – just by searching for Postgraduates and researchers from various colleges and following those accounts. Anyone that followed back got a personalised Tweet in response encouraging them to get in touch via the “Contact Us” page. We recruited a lot of speakers by simply Tweeting them with “Thanks for the follow. Would you like to talk about your research in exchange for beer?”.
  • We occasionally pick up new speakers that come to other research events and hear an announcement about the next PubhD event. At the start, we also sent a few emails to academics we knew, to email their colleagues internally.
  • All academic areas are welcome (PubhD is not just a science thing). We’ve had subjects as wide-ranging as Biology, Music, Politics, Neuroscience, Media, Medical, Philosophy, Astrophysics, Literature, Physics, History, Psychology, Art & Design, Geoscience, and Archaeology. We’ve been stunned by some of the local research going on, and are often surprised by what our favourite talk of the evening turns out to be. See the previous events pages for a full list.
  • Having a big pool of speakers to choose from up front means you can plan several varied events months in advance, and this takes the pressure off event organising. This also seems to have the pay off in that it helps you get speakers booked up for later months. For example, you are fully booked for, say, Event 1, 2, 3 and 4.
  • A speaker comes to Event 1, enjoys it, tells their colleagues, who then may volunteer for Event 5. This seems to be happening in Dublin – we are constantly booked up several months in advance and are receiving volunteer emails at a sufficient rate to keep creating events without us having to do much recruiting.

 

  • Most PubhD locations use Facebook and Twitter to promote events. Dublin uses Meetup too.
  • For each event, we create a public Facebook event (which can be shared by Twitter and is accessible to people even if they do not have a Facebook account).
  • We also send an email reminder to our mailing list a few days before an event (some have a “subscribe” option on our website). You can use mailing list providers like MailChimp to send these, which is free for up to 2000 subscriber email addresses.
  • We’ve recently started asking our speakers to provide the images we use to advertise the event – we use them in the email reminder and in the Facebook event.
  • The speakers provide us with a description of their research that we use in each event description. We often have to dumb it down (being non-academics helps us here!). As we want the talks to be at a “pub level” we try to make sure the speakers know that the description also needs to be at “pub level”.
  • We often work with them to replace jargon, remove a complicated looking bacteria species name with simply “certain species of bacteria”, etc. This, we hope, will show the public that the talks are accessible. It also re-emphasizes with the speakers that they need to talk at a public understanding level.
  • The shorter the better for a speaker bio. We don’t want to scare the audience away with a long complicated looking description! At each event, we leaving a few printouts scattered around on the tables to advertise future events is a good idea.

Love it or hate it, Facebook is very useful for promoting events.

Using Facebook groups and pages for event promotion can be highly effective, rather than groups.

Also, public Facebook event pages can still be viewed by people that don’t even have a Facebook account. We share these Facebook event links by email and Twitter with no issues. We have a Facebook page and share with the facebook organiser’s group

Over many events, our event structure has settled down into the following routine:

  • Start about 7:00-7.30 pm with the introduction (explain what will happen over the evening, the format, the breaks, the subjects, the requested donation)

  • 10 min talk + 20 Q&A

  • 10-15 minute break (here we collect the donations and buy speaker drinks)

  • 10 min talk + 20 Q&A

  • 5-10 minute break (more drinks)

  • 10 min talk + 20 Q&A

  • End around 9:00-9:30 pm (we encourage the audience and speakers to hang around and chat; we often have people staying until closing time).

The pub appreciates that we have two breaks: more time for the audience to spend money at the bar! We feel that this is an important nice-thing-to-do for our pub, considering that we are getting our venue for free.

 
 
 

The startup has the most effort, which we’d say lasts about 2 weeks. It’s not a huge amount of time but does require some effort. Tasks involved include:

  • A few evenings setting up Twitter, email address, website. Then an hour or so a day drumming up interest, finding speakers, replying to emails, firing off emails and Tweets to departments/lecturers/tutors/students

 

  • We put in the initial effort to get a lot of speakers volunteering before any event had been arranged. Then we created several months worth of events in advance. This has a great payoff described in the “creating events” section above. So even if you find 3 speakers for the first event, we’d keep going and try to find more speakers to fill up more events.

 

  • With it all set up, it just ticks along with minimal effort. We spend no more than an hour per month (yes, per month! And, yes, obviously excluding the night out at the pub for the monthly event!).

 

  • We’ve had so much interest from PhD students, post-docs, etc that we are booked up way in advance. We spend very little time finding speakers. We get a constant trickle of emails coming in.
 

We occasionally fire off a tweet or email if we come across a potential speaker. e.g. if a PhD student follows our Twitter account, or joins the Facebook group, we encourage them to sign up to speak.

 

Some PubhDs are just run by one person, some by two or three.

Obviously, it’s always easier with more than one person, but they have been run successfully with just one person.

 

Look for pubs already hosting “pub based speaking events”. For example, the following groups exist in many cities and towns across the country. Also, ask in the Facebook organiser’s group of their experience in finding the ideal venue. Many pubs are very open to the idea of having events in their pub, as it brings in business for them.

Some things to look out for in a venue is the noise level of the room, the lighting, and obviously the size of the room in the venue.

Typically in Dublin, we get an average of about 40 people attending. It’s definitely a healthy enough audience to make it worthwhile.

 

We ask the audience for about €1, which we use to cover our costs and to buy drinks for the speakers. We usually get enough donated to pay for the speakers’ drinks all night. Also, to keep it as cheap as possible to run, we only go to local researchers (we don’t pay travel expenses). 

We are also actively looking for sponsorship from various institutions to help provide extras such as food platters for our audience and speakers.

 

PubhD Lisbon kindly bought the domain pubhd.org.

It can be used this to provide you with an email address like dublin@pubhd.org, cork@pubhd.org, or nottingham@pubhd.org. All this will do is forward emails to where ever you want them to go to (e.g. to your Gmail account).

We at PubhD Dublin have bought the pubhd.ie domain, and can offer @pubhd.ie emails to any of our Irish partners.

 

 

Anytime someone writes or speaks about us, we keep a track of it here. Let us know if we’ve missed something that should be on this page.