• Audio recording of The Bonnart Trust's May 2023 Seminar

    July 18, 2023

  • Video interview with Dominic Reilly, Alumni, PhD in Psychology, Birkbeck, 2016 to 2019

    October 11, 2022

    “My name is Dominic Reilly. I was a Bonnart Trust PhD scholar between 2016 and 2019.”

    What was your research about, at the time of your scholarship with the Bonnart Trust?

    “My research proposal was about so called racial ‘preferences’ in sex and romantic relationships, something that I quickly came to reformulate as the racialisation of desire and sexuality. My starting point was the hook-up and dating app Grindr - which is used by men who have sex with men - and launched in 2009 and quickly became a sight of which racialised sexualities were asserted and contested and in various ways, produced and re-produced. I was interested in the ways in which race gets into sexuality, and how race and sexuality sustain each other. I’m particularly interested in the lived experience of these things. To that end, I proposed to interview people who self-identified as having a racialised sexuality, as well as analysing Grindr profiles and reading lots of theory about race, sexuality and their intersections.”

    How has the Bonnart Trust impacted on your life/studies?

    “The Bonnart Trust has impacted my life in numerous ways. Firstly, it gave me the time, space and freedom to be able to immerse myself fully in my research for three years, without the financial pressures of having to work full time. It also provided me with a community - both intellectual and pastoral - which I think is something that’s particularly important for postgraduate students. Doing a PhD in particular can get quite lonely, it can be quite a slog at times. It’s also provided a fantastic alumni network, and there are events every year that you can attend, and meet present and former scholars, and find out what everybody is up to, and how they’re applying their research. Lastly, it provided me with a platform and a financial impetus to write a report about my research, which was a great opportunity to think about what I could extract from my research, for different audiences.”

  • Video interview with Dr Brendan McGeever, Senior Lecturer, Department of Psychosocial studies, Birkbeck

    October 11, 2022

    “My name is Brendan McGeever. I’m a Senior Lecturer in Sociology, here at Birkbeck. I teach in the department of Psychosocial studies, and I also do work in the Birkbeck Institute for the study of antisemitism.”

    How important is it that students think about the applications of their research?

    “I think it’s very important actually. We live in a world that’s in crisis. It’s a crisis of climate, health, of economy, and of politics. If we look around us, I think we can all agree that this is a world that’s in need of change. And rigorous, serious, academic research can be part of that change, and in certain circumstances can be harnessed in a transformative and progressive direction. I think it’s very important that doctoral students and Masters students think about the way in which their research connects with the real world, and can possibly work towards the changing of that world as well.”

    Is it common practice for funding bodies to encourage students to think about applying their research, or is Bonnart doing something unusual?

    “I think it’s both familiar and strange. I’ll start with the first one. In academia, time and again these days, we’re told about the importance of impact, as academics, and to think about the way in which our research can have an impact in the world. So it’s no surprise to me that students now are being encouraged to think that way too. But it’s also strange and unfamiliar as well what the Bonnart Trust is doing. This focus that the Trust has on equality, on inclusivity and perhaps even antiracism strikes me not only as vital and important but also unique and very special, and something we need to protect in these dangerous and uncertain times.“

  • Celebrating 20 years of the Bonnart Trust

    June 30, 2022

    To celebrate our twentieth anniversary the trust organized a reception and discussion, held at Birkbeck on 17th May. The event was attended by Bonnart scholars past and present, academic staff, trustees and friends and supporters of the trust.

    How does research get translated into action?

    Freddie Bonnart established his trust to support research by postgraduate scholars. What particularly interested him was what we now call “impact”; in other words how research makes a difference in the wider world. In his words: “…it is the subsequent action that is the essential part”. What that “subsequent action” might consist of, and how to make it happen was the theme of the evening’s discussion.


    Keiran Goddard, one of our trustees, introduced the speakers and chaired the subsequent discussion. The evening began with presentations from two academic researchers and two “users” of research.

    • Radha Chakraborty, chair of the Bell Foundation, spoke about how Bell had based its programmes on high quality commissioned research, and how that had given it purchase in national policy discussions.

    • Alison Blunt, Deputy Vice Principal for Impact at Queen Mary University of London, talked about the important role research plays in her university’s local and national relationships.

    • Will Stronge outlined his work as Director of Autonomy, a think tank, and how they had forged networks and partnerships between researchers, policy makers and the media.

    • Brendan McGeever, from Birkbeck, described how he engaged students in discussing the effects of research. He raised the question of values and how they are inextricably a part of any research agenda.


    In the discussion that followed a number of key themes emerged:

    Impact is often thought of as the direct and traceable influence that a piece of research has on some subsequent change to policy or to practice. Important though that is, many participants were looking for a wider meaning, and the discussion illustrated the many different ways in which research could influence thinking and action, from the individual, through local communities, to the national stage. Alison, for example, drew attention to the link between teaching and research, and to the fundamental characteristic of universities, where teaching is done by staff who are themselves researchers. That on its own provides an enduring conduit by which research thinking enters the wider community.

    Similarly, the engagement of universities with local civic communities was an important mechanism. Whether through mainstream communication and dissemination, including the (much reduced) provision of adult education classes, or through joint projects with local groups, such engagement was an important but often overlooked mechanism by which the fruits of research entered public thinking.

    Brendan’s comments on the question of values also led to a lively debate. Accepting that social science research can never be value free leads to complex questions about how existing value positions can be characterised and made explicit. And if the purpose of research is to support change in a particular direction, as it is for the Bonnart Trust, what influence might that have on methodologies, and on the interpretation and communication of findings?

    All of these issues have salience for our programme. While it is unlikely that a student’s project will on its own bring about policy change, Bonnart students are active in their local communities and bring with them their developing understanding of research in their own field and others. The discussion raised interesting questions about the nature of postgraduate education, about the extent to which students should be encouraged to reflect on the impact of their research, and whether training in media and other forms of public communication should be part of the student experience.

    Anthony Tomei, chairman.

  • Video interview with Alison Blunt, Deputy Vice-Principal for Impact, and Professor of Geography at Queen Mary, University of London

    June 27, 2022

    "I’m Alison Blunt. I’m Deputy Vice-Principal for Impact with a particular responsibility for Culture, Civic and Community at Queen Mary, University of London. I’m also a Professor of Geography."

    How important is it that students think about the applications of their research?

    "I think it’s really important. I think PhD research has such potential to really make a difference in the world, providing new evidence, new ideas, new engagements, new ways of communicating with different audiences in terms of wanting to make a really positive difference, wanting to affect positive change beyond the academy. I think also it’s quite difficult, as PhD students sometimes to do that, in terms of the time constraints, the funding constraints of completing a PhD. Sometimes, I think - from the very outset of a PhD project - to think about what the desired impact of that might be, and thinking about what networks, what collaborations, what partnerships might help in beginning to achieve that impact, and to think about building these relationships all the way through a PhD programme. And also - hopefully with the support of the supervisor - to really value a sense of research being outward facing, being in and off the world, and really wanting to make a positive difference, and a positive impact on the world."

    Is it common practice for funding bodies to encourage students to think about applying their research, or is Bonnart doing something unusual?

    "I think the Bonnart Trust is really distinctive, and really inspirational in terms of the priority that it places on wanting to achieve a society that’s tolerant, and a society that’s inclusive, and seeing that as core to the research that it’s funding. I think that makes it really distinctive, and enormously inspirational, and valuable. I think there are other PhD funding bodies that fund - for instance collaborative projects - that have real potential in terms of working with collaborative partners, and providing some additional research capacity to make a positive difference through that embedding the process of collaboration all the way through from the very design of the project onwards, but those collaborative projects aren’t necessarily focused on particular priority areas. I think the Bonnart Trust, really drawing out the values, and the importance and the sense of why research matters - is really crucial and something to be hugely admired."