Dr Gustavo Curcio and Dr Gil Barros, Assistant Professors in the Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism, University of São Paulo, review a recent UK-Brazil collaborative workshop series, hosted by the Centre for Design History.


Writing may be the most appropriate way to share some thoughts on the amazing experience that it was to participate in the virtual workshops “Design Writing: Words and Images, Objects and Histories” co-organised by the Centre for Design History, University of Brighton (CDH) and the Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism, University of São Paulo (FAUUSP), and funded by the British Academy’s Writing Workshops 2021 Programme. Articulating writing and design is a great challenge, even more so for early career researchers. And it was precisely this lack of confidence with English writing skills, and the particular demands of academic writing, that led us to participate in the workshops and join the team of researchers from the CDH and FAU USP.

The schedule which took place between October and December 2021 was carefully and precisely organized. The thoughtful planning of the sequence of activities contributed to the meetings being extremely interesting and thought-provoking. The precise dynamics alternated content inputs, textual production by the participants, and feedback by the academic reviewers. During all the meetings we witnessed a rich exchange of experiences, based on high-level technical rigour. These exchanges certainly contributed to the encouragement of all participants to engage and to improve their academic writing in English. The time invested in the workshops was very pleasant thanks to this accurate preparation and the high quality of the presentations and discussions.

The coordination of the events was brilliantly conducted by Dr. Annebella Pollen (CDH) and Dr. Priscila Farias (FAUUSP), both experienced researchers who mediated the discussions in very enthusiastic meetings. After presentations of technical content – that alternated academics from both research centres with external contributors – all participants had the opportunity to produce texts and presentations and to receive feedback on their drafts.

Two main themes were the basis for the discussions, productions and analyses carried out during the workshops: ‘Writing for Journals’ and ‘Writing Funding Applications’. And these are perhaps the main challenging topics for researchers at the beginning of their careers, such as ourselves. The experience made it clear that even for those who are comfortable with the English language, writing scientific and academic texts presents challenges. Practicing, experimenting and going out of our comfort zones is the right way to improve.

The drafts of both articles for journals and funding applications circulated to two academic reviewers who gave personal feedback during one-on-one meetings. This individual and personalized feedback made Writing Workshops a unique opportunity. After the scheduled meetings, participants were invited to prepare a Pecha Kucha style presentation on their individual research topics, to be shared with all participants and contributors, plus further invited researchers from both Brazil and the UK. The workshop ended with a showcase of ongoing research. Each participant presented their Pecha Kucha slides, followed by a great final discussion.

Undoubtedly, the Writing Workshops were a powerful kick-start for scientific writing in English. In addition to the precious content that was presented and discussed, the event strengthened the relationship between the two groups of researchers and promoted synergy between similar works carried out at CDH and FAU USP. We look forward to the next edition of Writing Workshops and similar initiatives.

Thanks, Dr. Pollen and Dr. Farias, for this amazing opportunity. It’s time to write!