Researcher Wellbeing Event: Working with difficult materials and subject areas – 3rd May 2023

Wednesday 03 May 2023, 10.00 – 14.00

Online and in person at Woodland 2, The Student Centre, University of Sussex

The session will be simultaneously online and in person, and can be accessed via the following link:
Meeting ID: 947 1511 0577
Passcode – 106993

Registration at subject-area-tickets-482972181797

(Please note that the speakers will be recorded but due to the nature of the event, the discussions and follow up questions will not be recorded.)

These panel sessions are for members of the Sussex community whose research involves distressing or problematic material; working with participants who have experienced trauma; and/or a subject area of which the researcher has had prior experience and may need to consider their own wellbeing when encountering the experiences of others.

Hear researchers discuss real-world experiences of working with difficult materials and share the practical steps they’ve taken to protect their own wellbeing. Topics include: researcher loneliness and wellbeing, safeguarding vulnerable participants, the ethics of working with marginalized participants, researching the far-right. The Ethics team will also be on hand, and there will be time for questions.

This event will take place simultaneously online and in person. Lunch will be provided for those attending in person. A recording of the presentations will be available after the session.


09.45 – 10.00 – Tea, Coffee (provided)

10.00 -10.05 – Welcome
Ruth Stirton – Chair of the Social Sciences and Arts Cross Schools Research Ethics Committee

10.05 – 10.30
Heather Williams
Safeguarding vulnerable homeless women and the challenges and opportunities of conducting research in a high-risk context.

10.30 – 10.50
Shalini Nair
Ethics of research with marginalized participants.

10.50 – 11.20
Tom Cowin and Rob Dickinson
The Kids are Alt-Right: Researching PragerU, the Alt-Right and the Mainstream

Break for tea and coffee

11.40 – 12.00
Natalie Edelman
Working with researcher vulnerability using the Trauma and Resilience Research Principles and Practices framework’

12.00 – 12.20
Deborah Brown
Creative methods in researching wellbeing: the process of connecting the paths, knowledge and action. Teacher educators perceptions of wellbeing and the influences when supporting students.

12.20 – 12.40
Marcia Christina Ferreira BDes, MSc, PhD
Academic Isolation: Towards a field-level discussion on early-career researchers’ isolation

12.40 – wrap up

13.00 – Lunch (provided)


Heather Williams is a doctoral researcher at the Institute of Development Studies, Sussex University. She has a 30-year professional career working in homeless, social housing and research settings. Her research looks at the role of gendered social stigma in the lives of women experiencing Multiple Exclusion Homelessness (MEH). MEH describes a subset of homeless people, with multiple and complex needs (including substance misuse, compromised physical and mental health, histories of institutional care and street culture; begging, drinking, survival shop-lifting and sex working) who experience deep social exclusion. The research process involved recruiting participants on the street and ‘deep hanging out’ over a 12-month period with homeless women within the wider homeless social network of a UK city. Heather will talk about the issues surrounding safeguarding vulnerable homeless women and the management of risk for participants, their associates, and a lone researcher ‘hanging out’ with them. Heather will reflect upon the opportunities and challenges of conducting research in this context and the implications for broader debates around research ethics.

Shalini Nair is a Doctoral Researcher in Gender Studies, and her research is on sexual violence in India. She is the recipient of the University of Sussex’s School of Law, Politics, and Sociology scholarship 2019 and the Adam Weiler Doctoral Impact Award 2022. Prior to this she was a national journalist in India, reporting on policy breaks from its social sector ministries and the Parliament as well as stories from the grassroots. Her work, focused on gender, social justice, and rural-urban development, has been recognised by several prestigious international and national journalism awards. Her research carries forward this work as she uses ethnography and extensive interviews to document speak-out movements against sexual violence from the margins of Global South and its learnings for policies and transnational feminist movements.

Shalini is also a trustee with Survivors’ Network, the rape crisis centre for Sussex.

Robert Dickinson is a Doctoral Researcher in Global Studies. His research focuses on the Trump Administration, exploring to what extent it was distinct from previous administrations or whether it instead fit into historical patterns of neoliberalism. Professionally, he also contributes towards the ACPED and SPICES projects at the University of Sussex. Although American, the intense precarity of living in the contemporary United States has driven him to live elsewhere, and to study the US from abroad. He can be reached at

Tom Cowin is a Doctoral Researcher at the University of Sussex, UK. His doctoral research investigates the endurance of Neoliberal hegemony following the Global Financial Crisis, and the role of the Tea Party in fomenting the growth of the contemporary far-right. He is particularly interested in the mobilisation of stigma power, hegemony, and mainstreaming processes. Both Tom and Rob co-founded the FRAMES Project, in which we research the ways the Far-Right seeks to radicalise the mainstream through alternative media sources.

Natalie Edelman is a principal research fellow at the University of Brighton and BSMS. Her interests include the interface between sexual and reproductive health with psychosocial issues, public health, community delivery of sexual health interventions, Point of Care Testing for STIs, problematic substance use and anti-microbial resistance (AMR). Methodologically she is interested in screening tool development, clinical prediction modelling, development and evaluation of complex interventions, the evaluation of public involvement in research, and researching disenfranchised populations. Natalie has been developing a critical epidemiology approach to sexual health research and more recently Trauma and Resilience Informed Research Principles and Practice (TRIRPP).

Marcia Christina Ferreira is a Senior Lecturer in Digital and Social Marketing at The University of Essex and holds a PhD in Management from Royal Holloway, University of London. Her research interests lie at the intersection of creativity, materiality, and media technologies, following a research agenda that explores social, material, and digital contexts of consumption, calling into question consumers’ roles in shaping contemporary market forms and practices. Christina’s work has been published in leading international journals, handbooks, and book collections, as well as presented at prestigious academic conferences. She had several years of industry experience in marketing communications prior to entering academia, working for multinationals and local companies in South America. Christina is also a founding member of The Scrutinizers, a peer-learning group formed by international academics dispersed across five continents. The group recently published their research on academic isolation in a world-leading journal and is currently delivering professional development workshops to help early-career researchers overcome integration barriers in their research field.

Deborah Brown trained and worked as a nursery practitioner before gaining a degree in Primary and Early Years teaching (3-7 years) with QTS. She worked in schools in East Sussex for 15 years and taught both full time and part time in Years 1, 2 and Early Years Foundation Stage and was the Foundation Stage Leader.

In 2015 Deborah was a mentor for students at the University of Sussex and was approached by the University to help support in the creation and set up of the year long, Post Graduate Early Years Teacher Status course. For the past 7 years Deborah has worked on MA in Early Years Education (with Early Years Teacher Status 0-5 years). During the first few years Deborah was seconded to Sussex whilst still working part time in school.

A central part of Deborah’s teaching is the building of positive professional relationships. Deborah has now worked on the MA in Early Years Education (with Early Years Teacher Status), MA in Early Years Education, BA in Primary and Early Years Education with Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) and the Postgraduate Certificate Education (Primary) courses at Sussex. The professional courses Deborah works on require her to both tutor students and work with a variety of university colleagues. More broadly Deborah works closely with mentors (in the partnership and external mentors) and leaders in local schools and nurseries, actively growing the Partnership and welcoming over 80 new private, voluntary and independent nursery settings into the Sussex ITE Partnership. Deborah completed a Master’s Degree in Education at the University of Sussex in 2019. Her research and dissertation thesis focused on Higher Education teacher educators’ perceptions and support for the wellbeing of trainees. Deborah commenced in the role of External Examiner for ‘PGCE Birth to Five with Early Years Teacher Status’ at Kingston University in 2021. This role allows her to contribute collegiately to support delivery and student assessment at a different HE institution. Deborah has also completed the Post Graduate Certificate in Higher Education (University of Sussex) and was awarded Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy. In June 2022 she was appointed as an Area Lead for West Sussex in the DfE Early Years COVID recovery program. Deborah acts as a first point of contact for experts and mentors, and provides face-to-face support to setting leaders. The focus of the program is helping children recover from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, including narrowing the gap between disadvantaged children and others.