James Griffiths, Politics, University of Manchester, 2017 Cohort
What was the event?
‘Identity, Values, and Elections across Europe’ was a NWSSDTP funded one day interdisciplinary conference aimed at early career researchers (ECRs), co-produced by the Democracy & Elections (D&E) and Comparative Public Policy & Institutions (CPPI) research clusters at the University of Manchester. It was co-organised by James Griffiths and Louise Wylie (Politics) of the University of Manchester and took place on Friday 27th September. The event consisted of three panels of three ECRs presenting their work, with each panel centred on one of the three themes of the conference, and a keynote talk from Professor Maria Sobolewska.
Our goal for the event was to bring together individuals from a range of institutions with a wide variety of academic experiences and perspectives. In terms of institutions, our conference contained presentations from the Universities of Manchester, Liverpool, Strathclyde, and Durham, from individuals with a large range of academic experience. Across the day, we heard from attendees at the level of undergraduate, postgraduate Masters, early PhD, late PhD, and Professor. The event was attended by ECRs and academics, including two individuals who attended the conference from the Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies (Pisa, Italy), both of whom from the Law department. As a result, the discussions that took place after each panel contained a broad range of perspectives.
Feedback on the event was broadly positive, with the conference serving as a good opportunity for ECRs at a variety of stages to gain experience in presenting their work present their work, obtain feedback, and network with fellow ECRs and academics.
What would you say to someone organising a similar event?
- This might sound obvious, but time just disappears when you are doing your PhD. We started thinking about this event in March, but with teaching and PhD commitments, finding time when everyone was available to organise could be difficult.
- If you are looking at organising a keynote, ask early as commitments pile up.
- Starting early is particularly important for administrative tasks. Available rooms can disappear quickly and catering services may have different deadlines for externally funded events.
- In future, we would look at confirming our panels earlier. Doing so helps your speakers to organise their travel (and accommodation if needed), and allows you more time to re-arrange if people are unable to attend.
Publicise, Publicise, Publicise
- Building on the previous point, the earlier you publicise the better. We released our call for papers in early July, but we could have given ourselves more time to organise and publicise the event.
- We released the call for papers twice, the second time with an extended deadline and our keynote confirmed and attached, which attracted additional interest in the event.
How to publicise?
- I’m sure there are multiple other ways, but this was how we publicised the event:
- We publicised the event internally by sending the call for papers to email lists containing postgraduates and staff from the Department of Politics and the School of Social Sciences.
- Externally, we contacted academic associations like the NWSSDTP, EPOP, UACES, and the PSA ECN who agreed to either publicise our call for papers in their newsletters and/or retweet/share it online. We were grateful for this because it was invaluable in spreading the word beyond our own networks and to academics from the UK and Europe.
- We also approached the Social Science Research Administrators at the Universities of Liverpool, Sheffield, Newcastle, Durham, and the London School of Economics. Often, departmental administrators can be the gateway for people seeing the call for papers.
- Additionally, Twitter and Eventbrite were particularly useful. Twitter served to spread the word about the conference, whereas Eventbrite allowed us to gauge how many people were planning to attend (particularly useful when considering catering!).
Search for funding
- We were fortunate enough to obtain funding for our event from the NWSSDTP and the D&E and CPPI research clusters.
- As a result, we were able to offer to reimburse travel for our presenters (particularly important when aiming to bring together ECRs from a variety of institutions because personal research grants can often be limited), provide tea and coffee breaks, and provide lunch for our speakers and attendees. These touches were important in improving the all-round experience of the day.
- For information on how to apply for NWSSDTP funding to run your own Interdisciplinary Event, please visit https://nwssdtp.ac.uk/current-students/interdisciplinary-events/
Draw on the experience of your department
- We were lucky that members of the D&E cluster had organised a similar event last year, and consequently we had people to guide us. Senior academics were also very generous with their time, and had a wealth of experience in organising events. Ask around!
- Overall, the conference went well but unexpected things do happen. These ranged from small things such as helping confused undergraduates congregating for a tutorial that began the following week, to requiring detailed signs to guide attendees around the confusing building within which we were located. Try to think of what may happen, but be prepared to react throughout the day.