PubhD has a venue: Welcome to The Vat and Fiddle!

We are delighted to announce that PubhD is no longer homeless!  The lovely people at The Vat & Fiddle have welcomed us with open arms and provided a room that should be perfect for us.

Those of you who have attended Nottingham Skeptics in the Pub meetings will be familiar with The Vat, but if you’re not, this is all you need to know:

It’s the home pub of the Castle Rock Brewery and as such boasts a vast selection of ales at very wallet friendly prices.  They also serve some pretty decent pub grub and accept card payments if you haven’t had time to dash to the bank on the way home from work.

Castle Rock's Vat and Fiddle pub

Castle Rock’s Vat and Fiddle pub

The Vat is ideally situated 5 mins walk from both the Train & Broadmarsh Bus Station and there is some limited on street parking nearby. There is a new multi-storey car park at the station that is easy to walk from as well.

In the next week we’ll be seeing which of the speakers are free for January’s talk and organising the inaugural meeting, keep your eyes open!

Please also join the PubhD Facebook group so we can notify you about upcoming events.

Can you explain your PhD with just a whiteboard and some coloured pens?

In the previous post, we asked a question: Projector or no Projector? Should PubhD events provide a projector for PowerPoint presentations.

There have been lots of Facebook comments, Tweets and comments added to the original blog post.

Summarising the responses from students that have volunteered to speak to us, we get the following:

  • I don’t need a projector to explain my PhD: 11 speakers (65%)
  • I need a projector to explain my PhD: 6 speakers (35%)

It was generally thought that complex concepts would be easier explained with a PowerPoint, but the majority of speakers said “no projector”.

Throughout the discussions, however, a common theme did emerge: it was thought that a whiteboard or flip chart would be useful.

So, at least initially, that is what we are going to go for. For the first few PubhD events we will only provide a whiteboard and coloured pens (for optional use). And then we’ll see how it goes.

There are a few reasons behind this decision:

  • We like the low-tech approach. It fits in with the “this is an informal chat” look and feel we are after; this is not a lecture or a presentation to peers at a conference. This is a friendly chat in a pub. This is backed up by a comment from one student: “we should avoid things like PowerPoint, etc. that give it a university feel.”
  • One comment likened PubhD to explaining to someone at a party what you do. You wouldn’t have access to a projector in this situation – but you would have a napkin to scribble on.
  • Logistically, with 3 speakers getting just 10 minutes each for the actual talking bit, the no projector option is far simpler.
  • It’s different: providing a whiteboard rather than a projector could be a distinguishing feature of PubhD. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a talk in a pub where there was just a flip chart. I’ve been to hundreds with PowerPoint presentations – but never one with a flip chart.
  • It might actually provide a useful skill for the students. One comment stated that this would be a “useful exercise in developing public speaking and brevity skills”.
  • We want a well defined format that anyone can quickly reproduce. We hope PubhDs start appearing around the country. Having a simple low tech format means someone can quickly set a PubhD up in another city.
  • Errr….we don’t own a projector! Yes, we could buy or borrow one, but let’s see how we go without one first.

Of course, if it looks as though this format isn’t working, we’ll change it. Or perhaps we will just have “one-off events” and group the students that need a projector together into one evening.

Very shortly we will be contacting our speakers to find volunteers for the first event on Wednesday January 22nd 2014. We’ll stress that there will be no projector.

Then we’ll see how many students are willing to explain their PhD to a pub full of laypeople with just a whiteboard with some coloured pens.

Projector or no Projector?

Update: We have now made a decision regarding this.

We’ve been discussing if we should be providing a projector and projector screen for our speakers. Indeed, will the volunteer speakers expect there to be a projector available at the PubhD events? Will they be bringing their PowerPoint presentations on a USB drive?

At each event we expect there to be 3 PhD students, each speaking for a maximum of 10 minutes (with up to 20 minutes Q&A). We’re currently leaning towards the “no projector” option – it seems that it could become a hassle trying to swap presentations over for 10 minute talks.

Also, we are trying to make this event as cheap as possible. We hope to be in a position to just ask the audience to put 50p to £1 into the kitty to pay for the speaker’s drinks. We may be able to initially borrow a projector – but ultimately, we don’t want to have to charge more so that we can build up a kitty to pay for and maintain our own projector.

So, what are your thoughts? Can a PubhD speaker talk for 10 minutes about their research without the need for a projector? Or are there some academic areas that just cannot be explained to an audience of laypeople without a PowerPoint?

Gonna Be An Engineer

Firstly, Kash and I have been stunned by the response we’ve had to the idea for PubhD. I’ll admit I wasn’t certain that we’d have enough volunteer speakers to go round… but with over 20 already we’re set for some amazing meetings.

The topics suggested so far are wonderfully varied and range from History and Bio-fuels to Robotics and Disease. We will also be taking in Criminology, as well as Portuguese and American literature.

A Smorgasboard of interesting things for interested people!

In keeping with the range of subjects we saw a recent blog post from the Association of Engineering Doctorates, who shared both our enthusiasm for the idea and awful puns:

We like this idea, but think it needs to extend to Engineering Doctorates (EngDs), so would like to propose that our friends in Nottingham also allow some “InngD” talks by EngD research engineers.

So, to demonstrate our commitment to all flavours of qualification and in solidarity with our brother and sister Engineers…here’s Peggy Seeger.

Next steps are to confirm a date (Probably 22nd Jan) and a venue (Probably the Vat & Fiddle) and organise the first PubhD.

In the meantime please share the idea with people who might like to speak (PhD students or EngD students) or listen; or if they aren’t a Nottingham resident – start up one in their home town.

Introducing PubhD

Can you explain your PhD to a layperson?

Can you explain your PhD in a pub?

We have an idea for a new event, hopefully starting up in Nottingham in 2014.


Can you explain your PhD in a pub?


A monthly event at which 3 local PhD student speakers, from any discipline from Art History to Quantum Mechanics, explain their work in a pub to the general public.

We also welcome Engineering Doctorates (EngDs), Doctorate in Education students (EdDs), etc. Basically – anyone doing any research that they would like to talk about!

The talks would be about 10 minutes long and would be followed by up to 20 minutes of (friendly!) Q&A.

The “friendly” aspect is important. This isn’t about bringing students into a “lion’s den” to be grilled about their studies. The audience, we hope, will be genuinely interested in hearing about a wide variety of academic areas.

The same event could also host post-docs.

What the students get out of it

A pint or two!

Plus public speaking and public engagement practice.

What the audience gets out of it

Something interesting to listen to on a Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday night.


We want to make this as cheap as possible. We’d get in touch with local universities for the students (so the travel costs will be low). And we would just have a whip-round to buy each of the speakers a pint or two. Perhaps, £1 into a pint glass passed around?

Next steps

The first step was to ensure that there is an audience that would be interested in this sort of event. From various Tweets and Facebook comments we’ve received, we think there is an audience for this sort of event.

The next step is to approach the University of Nottingham and Nottingham Trent University to see if we can find some willing students! Contact Us!

And looking further ahead, we’d hope PubhD events start happening at various university towns and cities around the country.

Contact Us

If you are a PhD, EngD or EdD student, or post-doc (or involved in any research that you can talk about), and are interested in explaining your work to an interested audience in a pub in exchange for a pint or two, please contact us!


Image adapted from images created by Wiki Commons users Will Murray (Willscrlt) and Stannered.
Thanks to Xamonas Chegwé for the name: PubhD