ESRC PGR Conference 2016
On the 16th and 17th June 2016, we were invited to attend the ESRC’s Postgraduate Research Conference, hosted by the North West DTC at the ACC Arena in Liverpool.
Although the conference was funded by the ESRC, it was open to all postgraduate researchers from any DTC and discipline, and as such was one of the largest ESRC conferences to date, attracting around 400 delegates across the two days.
The conference began on the 16th with a welcome lecture given by Sylvia Walby (Lancaster University), followed by a wine reception which allowed PGRs to find out more about each other’s projects and experiences. For many of us who stayed overnight (hotel expenses were kindly covered by the ESRC), this was followed by further exploring of the local bars at the Albert Dock with our new found friends and colleagues!
The next day was the main conference, and began with a welcome from the ESRC’s CEO, Jane Elliot. This first session involved hearing some career experiences of academics who had received ESRC funding at some point during their careers, and allowed PGRs to ask questions about these experiences, which many found extremely useful. The remainder of the day was made up of optional simultaneous sessions which we were allowed to choose in advance. These sessions included things like: putting theoretical frameworks to use for research; making impact with research; making use of statistics; writing for academic journals – and even how to maintain mindfulness during your doctoral studies.
An additional portion of the day organised all delegates into streams which catered specifically to their stage of study. As both of us were first years at the time of attending the conference, we attended a session which centred around ‘stories from the field’, where academics and researchers shared their experiences of fieldwork. Hearing about the obstacles that people experienced as well as how they overcame them, was extremely useful for us in particular, as we are both about to begin the empirical stages of our projects in the coming months. This also allowed us to ask questions about the more practical aspects of entering the field, which we were particularly apprehensive or unsure about.
All in all, this two-day conference was extremely enjoyable and informative. Speakers presented with a welcome honesty, about both their own backgrounds and the competitive nature of the careers that many of us aspire to. Although workshops were largely generic so as to cater for a diverse academic audience, it was nevertheless a very useful experience to hear about parallel PhD experiences and get ideas about how best to prepare for careers in academia and beyond.