As we emerge from the pandemic restrictions, I feel that it is time to try to rebuild my research interests. To that end, I’ve begun looking for a mentor to help me move forwards quickly and effectively.

Who am I?

A 63yr old, who sees himself as having been a jack of all trades and [true] master of none throughout his life. Don’t get me wrong – I’ve been more successful than many of my peers in lots of fields, but I’ve not really majored in one. My PhD (nearly 40 years ago) was ultimately in behavioural science. I’ve written a handful of textbooks on its application in industry. Had a handful of international awards for my work. I have been reasonably well networked in the fields of climate adaptation, organisational behaviour, drowning prevention, and counselling and psychology.

What do I do?

  • A part-time tutor in psychology and counselling for the University of Oxford (HPL).
  • A part-time lecturer in psychotherapy and leadership for Abingdon and Witney College (HPL).
  • A part-time lecturer in photography for Activate Learning (HPL).
  • A part-time researcher in photography and psychology with the Ronin Institute (unpaid).
  • A volunteer with the Royal Life-Saving Society, the Royal Photographic Society, and various other smaller causes (unpaid).

What am I seeking to achieve with my photography?

I have a handful of related, though different, interests;

(1) To conduct academically rigorous research into the components of images that provoke predictable positive emotional responses. We know, from behavioural economics (BE), that social change can be achieved by the use of specific community-wide messages that prompt individuals to think differently about something in a positive way. Most BE work has concentrated on text-based messages. I wish to see whether the same (or better) results can be achieved through images alone.

To apply this work in two/three distinct fields;

  • (2) reduction of drowning globally (1/2M people drown around the world each year and many of these could be prevented if people in vulnerable communities did things differently)
  • (3) reducing the suffering of animals largely inflicted to serve human ‘needs’ – primarily as food
  • (4) reducing global population growth – the primary cause of climate change

(5) Generally, to use photography to explore a variety of psychological/social themes, such as human motivation and determination, discrimination, and empathic communication.

If successful, my concept could also be applied through AI to the commercial development of aids for the visually and emotionally impaired.

What have I tried so far?

Recognising that my weakest link was my photography, I signed up for an MA in Photography and then for an MA/PhD in Photography by Research. In both cases, despite earlier indications to the contrary, I felt that my supervisors/tutors did not wish to engage with my broader purpose, and were generally ‘inflexible’ in their approach in particular to working with a research-focused, older, white, non-career focused, male.

Networking with NGOs has prompted some interest, but they have an understandable reluctance to embark on primary research. Two projects were identified (one in Mozambique and the other in the UK) but both were shelved at the outset of the Covid pandemic. One of these, in the UK, does appear to be resurrectable and I am working on achieving this.

What am I looking for in a mentor?

My photographic skills are improving, but are far from good enough. I need help developing these.

Having spent nearly £10k on the two academic courses, and as I am now in low-paid ‘Hourly-Paid Lecturing’ (HPL) roles, I am no longer in a position to fund my work myself and so I need help obtaining research funding.

While I am pretty comfortable with the research skills and methods necessary, it is many years since I completed my PhD, and besides, I understand the importance of collaborative, collegiate, peer- or supervisor-support for any academic study.

Through my professional and Ronin relationships, I have access to both literature and a research ethics process, however, a stronger academic affiliation would, I am sure, provide better subsequent leverage. Ideally, a mentor and sufficient funding would achieve this too.

Early engagement with suitable sponsors for the application of research is widely recognized as key to its eventual success, so I am aware that I need help networking within these communities (for example, at the policy level in NGOs, and the development level of pattern-recognition/AI technology).