What do you get when you put ten PhD candidates on stage at a café?
Ragnhild Holmen Bjørnsen steps into the stage spotlight. She smiles and gazes over a beer-drinking crowd in the full café. She starts by telling us about globalization, how we move more across country borders, and about three of the informants from her doctoral work.
This is Forskerkamp – Battle of the Researchers. Ten PhD candidates have taken on the challenge of cutting back what they have been working on for months and years into a four-minute presentation. They are to do this on stage, be entertaining, maybe even funny.
Ragnhild receives both laughter and applause from the audience for her presentation about children who move a lot during childhood.
“This was downright awesome,” says Judge Merete Karma Lindstad when Bjørnsen is done. Lindstad has a stand up comedy background.
The PhD candidate receives top marks from all three judges.
“I was so captured and enticed that I shed a small tear,” says another of the judges, Sigrun Dancke Skaare from forskning.no.
One of the PhD candidates makes the entire room cheer and laugh at a story with little comic potential – toxins in fish. Another tells about how she got a silent kindergartener to talk using dice. A third boasts on how she is on stage and gets to hear that she is infecting the entire hall with her energy.
And then there is Ragnhild Holmen Bjørnsen, who is finally named winner of this year's Forskerkamp as part of the Research Days at INN University, and receives a prize of NOK 5,000.
Her field of study is psychological anthropology, and her doctorate revolves around children living abroad because of their parents' job. She has collected the life stories of 42 diplomats’ children who are now adults. Some of them found it difficult to move often, others not.
At first, Bjørnsen did not dare to join the contest.
“I have intense stage fright. I really didn't want to, but at the same time realized that I really needed to learn how to communicate. The story of the knowledge we have gained must be sent out into the world, or it’s worthless. We haven't had much training of this kind before,” she says.
It ended with rejoicing, and first prize.
“I was completely unprepared for that. I am very surprised,” she says after the announcement, with a flower bouquet in her lap.
Praised by the comedian
Judge Merete Karma Lindstad says Ragnhild was superior from the first moment.
“She was so confident, claimed her place right away, she had the energy and showed real passion for her research.”
The comedian says there was quite a bit of variation in how the researchers made the transition to the loose-cut form.
“They are not used to standing on a stage. It's good training for them. Some of them went into the classic lecture-mode, they were a bit in their own bubble, while some of them really shown through,” says Lindstad.