Melissa Pepper

BSC. PGR. PHD. OMG. The British Society of Criminology conference is a highlight of my academic year. High quality papers, thought provoking debate, insightful keynotes, a chance to nose around a new campus, a helluva-lotta socialising with friends old and new. There's very little to dislike about this annual early July meeting. I'm no newcomer to the BSC. I've worked in government social research for over a decade and have represented my employer as a delegate on a number of occasions. However, the BSC conference has taken on new and exciting meaning since I stopped yarning on about 'doing a PhD one day' and actually started doing one - a decision I actually made while at the 2013 conference (yes I'm going to be Dr Pepper! No I'll never tire of saying it! No it's not the only reason I'm doing it! Sort of...).

I am now proudly part of the BSC PGR community – a supportive network that aims to develop criminology PGRs and help them get the best out of their early research years. PGRs are catered for in spades at the BSC conference. In addition to the top-notch regular conference sessions, a range of PGR specific seminars are offered to support us in those nerve-wracking early academic days. These sessions are important, they are valuable, and they are delivered by people who care about the criminologists of tomorrow, and remember what it was like to be starting out on the exciting but uncertain path to academia. All offered at a PGR pocket friendly price. Lovely stuff.

I attended my first BSC conference as a PGR last year. As usual, I was excited about going to the main conference but, to be completely honest, hadn’t given much thought to the PGR specific bit. I went because I could - and I was jolly glad I did. I was spoilt for choice in terms of what to attend (my only criticism BSC conference committee bods – we want to go to everything! Can we make next years conference three weeks, rather than three days?!) I settled on sessions around developing my academic CV, applying for my first academic job, and publishing. Each was packed with information and advice that was both thought provoking and practical (what should I include in my CV? Can I apply for posts when I am writing up my thesis? Is it ok to call up for an informal chat before applying?). I even took some ‘real’ actions directly as a result of these sessions. I set up a Twitter account to link in with others and develop my profile, and have built a few scrappy notes I’d been keeping in to a ‘proper’ CV (albeit a short one. From tiny acorns right…?)

The PGR network is warm and friendly, led by the quite fabulous Claire Davis and her very able committee – all current or recent PGRs themselves from institutions covering the length and breadth of the country. They like nothing more than welcoming new faces to the fold and hearing about the exciting research going on within our PGR community. Ditto the main conference folk. Networking is a bit of a ‘blah blah’ buzzword on paper, but in reality it seriously is A Good Thing. There are few other events where you will get so many people that you really want to meet in the same room. Don’t be afraid to say hello, strike up a conversation, tell others about your research, and ask them about theirs. They will be interested: being at the same conference means you’ve automatically got something in common. Being a part time student can feel a bit isolating at times, even when working within a crime and policing policy environment. Networking with other conference delegates is where friendships are made, working relationships are built, and ideas for academic projects are sparked. I am currently co-authoring a paper with fellow delegates from a panel presentation I was part of last year, for a special issue journal arranged by the panel co-ordinators. BSC conference is where the magic happens people! The conference (and the BSC in general) makes you feel part of the criminology community. It makes you remember why criminology is important (if you needed reminding), more so than ever in a fast-changing (and politically bonkers) world. It makes you remember why you fell in love with this discipline in the first place.

A few top tips for first timers:

  • Take part: Present a paper or a poster, or get involved in the conference in some other way (the PGR committee can let you know what opportunities are available). You put more in, you get more out. It’s proper exciting seeing your name in the conference programme too.
  • Talk to people: Have a few good opening lines up your sleeve to start conversations during lunch and coffee breaks. You’re both at the conference and you’ve both been to sessions. You’ve got something in common straight away. ‘What session have you just been to?’ could be the start of something beautiful. If all else fails talk to the lovely folk on the book stands. You’ll walk away with a new chum, a triangle shaped three-nibbed highlighter, and a stack of post-its.
  • Plan: Get acquainted with the agenda before you arrive and plan the sessions you would like to attend. Don’t wait until you’ve registered and are balancing a Yellow Pages of a conference programme (seriously, they are huge), a coffee cup, 42 slippery, slidey flyers for various other events and books, and a conference bag fresh from the logo printers (they always smell sooooo good…sorry, bit of a weird thing for ink…) Go to sessions that are relevant to your field of study, go to sessions presented by people that you’ve read and want to hear speak, and go to a few completely off-the-wall sessions that are nothing to do with anything you already know about (but could open your eyes to a world of research way, way beyond your own). We often get firmly lodged within our own niche field. One of the great things about the BSC conference is how it contextualises your own work within the vast landscape that is criminology in 2017. It makes us realise we are part of something bigger, something that we can learn and develop from.
  • Tweet: If you haven’t already got one, set up a Twitter account before you arrive. I was sceptical. I don’t have much of a social media presence. Face, Book, Snap, and Chat are four words that I am familiar with, but not necessarily in that order. I am pretty sold on Twitter though. Tailor your feed to your studies and academic interests, and all the good stuff that you really want to know conveniently comes to you in one neat place (under no circumstances follow WeRateDogs or ThoughtsofDog. An organised network of criminal doggos intent on stealing valuable hours). Your Twitter page becomes a valuable source of information, a method of keeping in touch (you can instantly ‘follow’ those you meet, and they can connect with your profile), and the ‘shop window’ for your research. You can also Tweet about all the awesome stuff you are doing at the conference. Day one of the BSC in 2016 trended at number two on Twitter!
  • Have fun: Join in with social events. There will be lots of other people who don’t know anybody and they will be very happy indeed to meet you. Get in touch with the PGR committee before hand so they can hook you up with groups going out and about during the conference. All welcome!
  • Say yes: To every session (even the first-thing-in-the-morning ones), every opportunity to say hello, every chat in the lunch queue, every chance to tell someone about your research and hear about theirs, every free highlighter, every invite to paint the town red….You can sleep after the conference…

About Melissa

Melissa Pepper is in her third part time year of her PhD at the University of Surrey working on a thesis tentatively titled ‘Doing More for Less in Changing Time: The Use of Volunteers in Policing’. Melissa has worked for the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC – formerly the Metropolitan Police Authority) for ten years. Based in the Evidence and Insight Unit, she contributes to a range of research and analysis across MOPAC policy areas, including violence against women and girls, substance misuse, and community engagement. Prior to this, Melissa was a researcher within the Home Office. Melissa’s research interests are largely focused around policing, in particular the citizen’s role in law enforcement and crime control.

Key Dates

Friday 23rd June 2017

Conference registration closes

Now closed

Monday 30th January 2017

Call for abstracts

Now closed

Monday 30th January 2017

Early bird registration opens

Now closed

Friday 12th May 2017

Early bird registration closes

Now closed

Friday 26th May 2017

Call for abstracts closes

Now closed