By Roseanna Doughty |
Last week I spent a couple of days at the archives carried out a survey of television programmes on Northern Ireland from the 1970s and 80s. It was the last of my archive trips- whoop, whoop- and I am so relieved to have got over this hurdle. Roll on writing up! Yet my excitement at finishing this stage of my research was somewhat dampened by the hit to my wallet. The pleasure of a week listening to the dulcet tones of Ian Paisley, costs over a hundred and fifty quid (This was the haggled down price!).
Archives, libraries, and other institutions are increasingly charging students to carry out essential research whether by selling licences for using cameras or even charging to view material. Whilst I understand that funding cuts have meant that they must find other ways of subsidising their incomes, should this be at the expense of PhDs? How can archives expect to promote education and quality research when their fees are unaffordable. This said, I would encourage people to question any charges for access to/ use of material. It is surprising how much wiggle room there is and while you can’t necessarily get them to waver the fee entirely, you can certainly get a reduced rate.
Similarly, some conferences are becoming increasingly more expensive. From talking to friends, this seems to be a particular problem for Archaeologists, who have found conference fees are increasing to match those of conferences in the sciences, whilst the available financial support has not been raised to the same level. I believe we need greater transparency regarding conference fees generally. True few organisers really want to charge attendees and their hands are often tied due to lack of funding, but this should be made clear as early as possible. As it is, many of us send in our abstracts and then get a bit of a nasty shock when we register. Excluding postgraduates that simply cannot afford the conference fees is a disadvantage to all of us as it means that new developments in the field are not always being showcased.
These hidden course costs can be hard to plan for. Of course, there is help available. I am incredibly lucky in that my institution offers some financial support to its students in order to fund research trips and conferences. There are also several external awards and funds I have been able to apply to and I am incredibly grateful for their help and generosity; without these bodies I would have no chance of completing my studies. However, the amounts we can claim are limited and subject to you being able to build a convincing enough case for support often before you have a good idea of what exactly is in the archive. The way these funding processes work usually means that you have to pay out before you know whether your application has been approved and it is often hard to find funds that will cover things like copyright licences or access to databases. We must be selective therefore, in what we use these funds for and when we apply to them.
The changing nature of academia has meant that not only do you have student fees and the cost of living, you also have to pay for archive trips, carry out field work, attend courses etc. And now it is no longer enough to just finish the PhD, you need to have attended and organised conferences and seminars, to have taught and to have published. This costs money as well as time, and PhD students aren’t exactly known for being flush. I know it can be equally as difficult for universities to acquire further funding but if they are to continue to attract talented researchers from all backgrounds these are issues that will need to be addressed. In the meantime, it should be made clear from the start what these additional cost are, allowing students to plan better and helping to ensure research can be completed and disseminated.
Roseanna Doughty is our outgoing Pubs and Publications Publicity Editors. As one of the founding members of the blog she has thoroughly enjoyed writing for Pubs and Pubs, but knows that she is leaving it in good hands. As she hurtles towards her PhD deadline at indecent speed she hopes you will check twitter occasionally to make sure she is still alive- @RoseannaJane.