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:
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.
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