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DISCnet HandBook

Page history last edited by Susanne Bell 21 hours, 19 minutes ago



Welcome to the DISCnet Handbook! This handbook provides a practical guide to all students and supervisors as to how DISCnet runs.

If you are looking for a more externally facing view of DISCnet please go to the DISCnet public website at: www.discnet.co.uk



About DISCnet

DISCnet is the Data Intensive Science Centre in the South East Physics Network. DISCnet is a centre for doctoral training, receiving funding from STFC and 3 universities in the south east of England (University of Sussex, Queen Mary University of London, and the Open University). We accept students from the South East Physics Network, SEPnet. We are focused on training in data intensive science techniques and their application to both academic research projects (particularly in particle physics and astrophysics) and also outside the academic sphere in industry and the wider society.


Academic Regulations

Since DISCnet students are registered at many different institutions, the academic regulations governing the supervision and progression etc. of students are covered by the local institutions. The DISCnet guidelines presented here do not supersede those regulations. We will aim to provide up-to-date links to the relevant regulations at your university, but it is your responsibility to locate the most recent versions of these and be familiar with them. If you have any problem with finding what you need at your university, then please contact the DISCnet Director or Manager.


University of Sussex


Queen Mary University of London


The Open University


Financial Regulations

The rules (particularly around funding) that govern how the multiple institutions interact are defined in the Consortium Agreement (CA) - anything written in this Handbook is intended to be consistent with that agreement but, in the event of any discrepancy, the CA will apply. The university finance offices should have access to the CA.


Supervisor Responsibilities

The PhD research project is an essential part of the DISCnet training. Each student has an identified primary supervisor (in most cases this will be someone who is in an STFC area). There will be a supervisory team of at least a primary and secondary supervisor. For DISCnet Scholarship and Registered students (see below) the supervisory team should include an expert from a data-intensive area outside STFC/PPAN.


The supervision team are responsible for:

  • Supervising the PhD student academic research project
  • Supporting the PhD student 
  • Understanding the obligations of the student
  • Management of resources for the student
  • Negotiation of placement arrangements between university and placement provider
  • Monitoring and supporting the student during placements (see below)


What DISCnet Provides

DISCnet provides a number of different benefits to students:


  • "Scholarship" Funding: some students will have their stipend and fees paid for by DISCnet (sourced either 100% from STFC funding, 100% from universities through our matched funding obligations, or 50% from each).
  • Core Training: DISCnet provides a core data intensive science training programme. This consists of six courses and is primarily delivered through residential courses.
  • External Placements: some students will be undertaking placements in partner organisations outside universities. DISCnet will arrange for placement opportunities to be advertised and facilitate the pairing of student and placement partner.
  • Additional training that goes beyond the core, e.g. attending PyData meetups, Science To Data Science (S2DS bootcamp), The Alan Turing Institute events etc.
  • Peer-to-peer network
  • Industry partner network with career opportunities e.g., through the DISCnet Showcase event and via Linked-In group.
  • Other events, e.g. hackathons


DISCnet Studentship Modes

Students may be involved with DISCnet in different ways:


  • DISCnet Scholarship Students are those who are funded by DISCnet and are obliged to undertake the core training programme and undertake 6-months of placements.
  • DISCnet Registered Students are those whose stipend and fees are not funded by DISCnet (e.g., students on an institutional STFC Doctoral Training Programme), but who register with DISCnet through the payment of a £2000 fee.
  • DISCnet Affiliated Students are those who have signed up to mailing lists to receive information about DISCnet training and have attended at least one training event.  Some students have also done placements as Affiliated Students.
  • Year of entry: DISCnet currently has two cohorts of students, who started in the 2022/23 academic year and 2023/24 academic year. Students from earlier cohorts have benefited from DISCnet as Affiliated students.


Summary of benefits by type of student


Student Stipend &

Institutional Tuition Fees 

 Funded by DISCnet

Duration of

PhD / years



membership fee

Annual Training


Year 1

Core Training

External Partner


Additional Training
STFC registered
RTSG Fieldwork Funding

4 years


6m placement)

No £600 Yes (Mandatory)
Yes (Mandatory)
£1230 p.a. £1885 p.a. (see below)
3-4 years £1,000 £0 Yes

Yes (where external

partner is funding)

Yes (subject to any

additional fees)


May vary, e.g.,

STFC-DTP £1230 p.a.

Varies e.g. STFC-DTP

average £1,075 p.a.

3-4 years No £0 

If space available;

£550 per course

If space available

If space available (subject

to any additional fees)


Varies e.g. STFC-DTP

average £1,075 p.a.


Recruitment and Registration

All students are recruited to their host institution. The DISCnet Senior Management Team will review applications to check that the student's PhD project and supervisory team are a suitable match for DISCnet. Students can apply for Registered or Affiliated status using the following form: DISCnet 2023-24 Application Form


Student Stipend and Institutional Fees

For Scholarship students, the student stipend and institutional tuition fees are funded from DISCnet. Ultimately the funds for this come either from STFC, or the host institution, or some combination of the two. This should be transparent to the student who should receive their stipend in the same way as any other PhD student. However, the balance does affect whether the student can be considered as an STFC student, and students and supervisors should contact their institutional PGR student administrator to find out their funding source.


STFC Registration

Students in DISCnet may or may not be registered as an "STFC student". The benefits of being an STFC student are that you have access to Long Term Attachment Funding (see below) and you can attend STFC training events for free. The assessment depends on where your funding comes from. The rules for STFC Data Intensive CDTs (like DISCnet) are slightly different than for normal STFC DTP studentships. You will need to check this with your host institution. For DISCnet Scholarship students, if (over the course of your studies) 50% or more of your funding comes from STFC then you will be counted as an STFC student.


Data Intensive Training Programme

Details of our core training programme, including learning objectives, course structure and prerequisites, can be found on our website: www.discnet.co.uk/training. Attendance at the "Core" courses is mandatory for Scholarship students. 


The 2023/24 programme will be outlined below as the details are finalised. The DISCnet manager will email all students the full details when they are confirmed, along with links to Eventbrite pages for each course, for students to book their place. All accommodation and meals (on training days) are included. Students will need to arrange their own travel to the training and claim these costs back from their RTSG budget using their host university expenses process. 


Year 1 - core modules:


Course  Brief Description  Format  Dates  Location
Introduction to Big Data  In-person 3-day course to explore how big data techniques can be used to solve massive scale data analysis problems.  Residential  29 April-1 May 2024 Old Thorns Hotel, Liphook 
Statistics and Data Analysis  In-person 3-day course to acquire the skills needed for analysis of experimental data and model fitting.  Residential  14-16 May 2024  Sussex Innovation, East Croydon
High Performance Computing  In-person 3-day course to introduce high performance computing (HPC), high-throughput computing (HTC), parallel computing, and cloud computing.  Residential  TBC   
Machine Learning

In-person 5-day course to introduce machine learning in a practical way. Students will be familiarised with the basic concepts and led towards using machine learning techniques in their own research.

Residential TBC  
Software Carpentry Using Udemy, students progress through a DISCnet recommended pathway of courses via self-directed study in their own time and at their own pace. Online     



An important consideration in DISCnet is the student's future career. DISCnet places equal value on academic and non-academic career paths and recognise that students may move from one to another. Specific careers training will be provided as part of the DISCnet training in years 2-4.


Careers training is also provided through host institutions and in particular supported through the SEPnet employability advisors:



An important part of any career development path is networking and DISCnet facilitates this through a large network of partners. Networking is supported with the DISCnet Showcase event and through our Linked-In group.


Science to Data Science (S2DS)

DISCnet students will be eligible to apply for Pivigo's Science to Data Science course, S2DS. This course is five weeks of intensive, project-based training turning exceptional analytical PhD and MSc students into Data Scientists. This course is extremely focused on employability and students work with a company on a commercial data science project designed to kick-start a data science career! For DISCnet Scholarship students this course is free for students accepted onto the course.


Health and Welfare

We take the health and welfare of our DISCnet students very seriously. As a distributed organisation it can be hard for us to provide direct support. The host institutions have well structured systems in place to support student health and welfare. They can be contacted via the following links:



If any student is concerned about their health or welfare (or those of another student) and they cannot or are not sure how to resolve that at their local institution, then they should contact the DISCnet Director or Manager.


Mental Health Support


Additional resources:


Code of Conduct

In response to student feedback and following good practice in other organisations, we have adopted a code of practice for our training events and other meetings. The principles of this code of conduct also apply to all other DISCnet activities: DISCnet-Code_of_conduct_meetings.pdf


External Placements

This section is currently under review and will be updated shortly (March 2024).


The external placement policy is in the following documents






The procedure for placements in 2019-2020 is in the following document.


Process_DISCnet placements_20192020.pdf



Guidelines for students undertaking a placement


Employer Registration Form (2023/24)



Requirements Upon Securing a Placement

When a student has successfully agreed a placement they should inform the DISCnet Manager, Susanne Bell, at s.c.bell@sussex.ac.uk.


They should then contact their PGR student administrator at their host university (details in the Key Contacts table below) as soon as possible and well before starting their placement. Students will need to submit an application for fieldwork/interruption of studies and ensure that their registration status, stipend/salary arrangements, insurance requirements and any intellectual property issues are clarified, agreed and in place before they start their placement.


Visa Stipulations

Students who have a visa (such as a Student Visa) may have stipulations or restrictions around working, permitted hours of work or taking up a placement. Students should contact their PGR student administrator to discuss this and check if they have any restrictions before submitting their application for fieldwork/interruption of studies. 


Resources for Travel

Scholarship students are eligible for various resources for travel and conferences etc.:

  • Research Training Support Grant (RTSG) includes conferences and UK fieldwork. This is allocated at a rate of £1230 p.a. for each student. 
  • Overseas fieldwork. This is currently calculated at a nominal rate of £1885 p.a. per student (an amount of £600 p.a. is pre-allocated to the Student Cohort and Development Fund). The distribution is the responsibility of the host university. STFC has quite a broad definition as: "Overseas fieldwork is short term trips taken outside of the UK for observing, collaboration and workshops relevant to the student’s PhD training."


STFC students are also eligible for:

  • Long Term Attachment. This is for travel on trips for more than 120 days. (see STFC guidelines). Applications are made by institutions by the end of March of the student's first year of registration. 


Student Representation

A student representative will be appointed for each cohort of students. The student representative will need to be in regular communication with their cohort and collate any issues, feedback, ideas or questions from the cohort and report these to the senior management team on a regular basis. They may need to attend SMT meetings (online) on occasion. We will include the details of your student representative in this handbook. If you are interested in being a student representative for your cohort (or group of students at your institution) please contact the DISCnet Manager.


Access to HPC at different sites

There is an expectation that DISCnet students can access HPC facilities at any of the DISCnet university sites.


Publication, press and acknowledging DISCnet support

We hope and expect that DISCnet students will be productive in their research resulting in academic publications and press attention.  The following acknowledgement text should be included in any publications:


"This work was supported by the Science and Technology Facilities Council [grant number ST/W006839/1] through the DISCnet Centre for Doctoral Training". 


We also ask that you add a separate affiliation to your name, in addition to your standard University one, along the lines of:


"DISCnet Centre for Doctoral Training, [your university], [your city], [your postcode], United Kingdom"


eg: "DISCnet Centre for Doctoral Training, University of Sussex, Brighton, BN1 9RH, United Kingdom"


If you are considering any press release or similar for your work, you need to inform the Director so that we can ensure that the policy in the consortium agreement is followed.


Key Contacts


Email Address
Senior Management Team
Seb Oliver
Budget holder, strategy, liaison with Advisory Board, anything not covered below.
Deputy Director; Deputy Director Student Experience
Kate Shaw Student experience, alumni engagement, mentorship scheme, induction planning, case studies.  kate.shaw@sussex.ac.uk
Director of Student Experience
Stephen Serjeant
Student experience, recruitment and registration of new students, progression of students.
Director of Partnerships

Seb Oliver

Definition of placement projects with partners, advertising to students, oversight of process.


Director of Training and Skills Robin Laney Development, delivery and monitoring of training courses. r.laney@open.ac.uk
Deputy Director of Training and Skills Eram Rizvi Development, delivery and monitoring of training courses.
Member of Senior Management Team
Andrew Lundgren  
DISCnet Manager Susanne Bell Operation and delivery of DISCnet, first point of contact.
Chair of Advisory Board
Tom Babbedge
Chairing advisory board and informal advice to DISCnet Senior Management as required.
GRADnet Representative Stefano Moretti Liaison with Students on DISCnet vs GRADnet matters. s.moretti@soton.ac.uk
Student Representatives
2022/23 entry   Representing students to Senior Management Team, collating student feedback in reports, attendance at Senior Management Team meetings and Advisory Board meetings as needed.
2023/24 entry  
Representing students to Senior Management Team, collating student feedback in reports, attendance at Senior Management Team meetings and Advisory Board meetings as needed.  
2024/25 entry TBD
PGR administrative contacts at host institutions
University of Sussex
Sinead Rance
Assistant Research Manager (Postgraduate Researchers), School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences mpsresearchsupport@sussex.ac.uk
The Open University
School of Physical Sciences STEM-SPS-Admin@open.ac.uk
Queen Mary University of London Robert Miles
PGR Programmes Officer, School of Physical and Chemical Sciences




Our main method of communication with students and supervisors is via email from the DISCnet Manager (Susanne Bell at s.c.bell@sussex.ac.uk). We have a presence on some social media sites (listed below) where students can communicate with each other and with past alumni. Students may also choose to set up an informal WhatsApp group amongst themselves (please ensure all DISCnet students are included on this).




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