The Role of Conferences in PGR Community Building

The Role of Conferences in PGR Community Building

Andreea-Camelia Bocioaga is a fourth year PhD student in the Adam Smith Business School, and this year she helped plan the upcoming College of Social Sciences (CoSS) Graduate School conference. In this post, she discusses her experience with conferences and their importance in community building among researchers.

This October, the CoSS Graduate School is hosting a PGR-led Conference born out of a desire to strengthen the research community across the university. While I have now transitioned into post-academic life, I helped with planning the conference over the past few months, and I will be seeing you there!

In preparation for the conference, I have been thinking about my experiences over the past four years of how conferences helped me find community in academia. I have been lucky enough to attend almost a dozen conferences, symposiums and colloquiums, and I valued most the sense of community they fostered.

First of all, I always felt that conferences were a good way to rehearse being an ‘academic’, so in that sense it was an introduction into the academic community culture. It was a good way for me to familiarise myself with the language of presenting, of feedback and of communicating with PhD peers and leading academics. 

Secondly, I love that academia is an international environment and it allows for building a wide-ranging community that crosses borders. Technology especially improved my conference experiences as many of these events set up online groups where we could update each other on interesting opportunities and a range of other events. As a result of one of these groups, I applied and got accepted into another conference this autumn. 

Most importantly for me, conferences were an opportunity to check in with other PhD students or academics and realise that a lot of the challenges I had experienced over the years were common. I am glad that Impostor Syndrome is increasingly talked about and my conference experiences were opportunities to normalise these discussions. The events were a good way to understand the range of PhD experiences and see how people negotiate these difficulties. For example, I met an academic who had had to resubmit her thesis, and it was refreshing hearing about her experience as I felt this eventuality was never properly talked about in our administrative processes. 

Black and white photo of people on chairs framed by a window.

What I wished I had seen more in these conferences and what I’m hoping the CoSS PGR Conference will do is bring forward the reflective process of doing a PhD: how we navigate dead-ends and difficult decisions, whether they be methodological or conceptual, and the overall messy back-end of research. I chose the themes of the conference – research methods, research ethics, and interdisciplinarity - based on my own PhD experiences and reflecting on those dimensions I felt were communal across the social sciences. I hope this conference gives PGRs in CoSS and related fields the opportunity to present their work in a reflective and supportive way and to take part in discussions that are relevant to our shared PGR experiences across the social sciences.

The CoSS PGR Conference aims to include both academic presentation sessions and parallel panel discussions on each of the themes to allow PGRs to present their work in different ways. For those more creative PGRs, you can also submit your research for a Poster Showcase to celebrate research impact in the CoSS. More details about the conference and its themes can be found on the conference webpage (the call for papers deadline is the 15th September). You can also register to attend without presenting and participate in the discussions.

If you’re interested in submitting an abstract to the CoSS PGR conference (or any other conference!), we have some advice for you about writing a conference abstract, creating a research poster, and preparing for a PGR conference.

What are your conferences experiences? What do you wish you had seen more of at the events? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter or Instagram @UofG_PGRblog!

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