Universitas 21 Graduate Research Conference 2008
- University of Birmingham
- National, Midlands, International
- Date first submitted:
- 30 Jul 2009
- Date last modified:
- 24 Aug 2009
- Researcher-led activities
- Personal effectiveness
- Research project skills
- Academic practice
- Knowledge exchange
- Career development
- Postgraduate researchers
- Doctoral researchers
- Research staff
- Research masters
- International (open to HEIs outside the UK)
Rationale, aims and outcomes
What is the rationale for doing this?
How does it fit with institutional strategy?
What are the main features of the provision?
What are the aims and expected outcomes?
The key driver for a research-led institution is activity that will enhance the quality and impact of its research. Two attributes that we aspire to embed in our postgraduate researchers are the abilities to work in both an interdisciplinary and an international context. The conference was designed as an experiment in how these objectives could be achieved while presenting excellent science in a context which would also develop a wide range of transferable skills consistent with the Roberts criteria.
Aims and Objectives
- Postgraduate researcher led – postgraduate researchers (PGRs) were involved in organising and running the conference so that they developed an understanding of the processes involved and the project management required to deliver a successful event
- PGR focused – PGRs were the primary focus, it was their work that wad concentrated on and their needs and requirements that were the key driver
- PGRs were encouraged to develop their communication skills through an oral presentation, a poster and a written paper. Also PGRs were involved in peer reviewing the written papers, as well as giving feedback to each other on talks and posters
- To provide a truly interdisciplinary approach to the chosen topic (in this case “Water”) and create a context in which there is dialogue across the discipline boundaries to create innovative approaches to major issues
- To invite a small number of high profile speakers from a range of backgrounds to inform and stimulate the attendees
- To develop a number of non-standard elements in order to make this more than a research conference: Music was provided by PGRs including a new composition on the conference theme; art was present, including a tour of relevant pictures in a gallery conducted by PGRs from the History of Art department; and a drama event on the theme of the conference was organised by a PGR from the Drama department.
Are there any pre-requisites for engagement, e.g. levels of skill, years of experience, essential pre-activities?
How many participate in each 'activity'?
Attendees must have research to present; they must prepare a talk, a poster and a written paper in advance.
Evaluation: benefits, challenges and next steps
How do you monitor effectiveness?
Who do you seek feedback from?
Do you have benchmarks?
Benefits include improved communication skills, the development of wide-ranging (and international) networks of contacts, as well as the embedding of skills development within an international research event. Universitas 21 has decided to use the conference as one of its flagship research events.
The main challenges associated with this event are finding venues and finance to keep it going, topics to keep the concept fresh and finding people with the time and energy to make them happen. The solution to these challenges is long term planning so that people commit themselves well in advance and have time to apply to a diverse range of funding sources.
Planning for next year’s event is already underway. It will take place at the University of Melbourne and a contingent of PGRs from Birmingham will be presenting at the conference. The PGRs selected to attend the 2010 conference will take part in pre and post conference activities, for example working to produce group presentations in advance (a digi essay for example).
Potential future developments:
- Postgraduate volunteering
With the Water conference we set up opportunities for PGRs to volunteer at the Kingfisher country park on projects around the river Cole. Many other Conference topics may lend themselves to other types of volunteering opportunities. There is potential to coordinate volunteering activities across the world through the international U21 partners.
- The development of a U21 website providing news of associated activities
This would facilitate research projects and joint PhD programmes arising from the annual conference theme. This may also bring supervisors together and they may then set up joint projects.