Johannes Geith, WASP-HS PhD student in Political Science at Stockholm University, shares insights from his experience of taking part of the WASP-HS Winter Conference in Gothenburg on 15-17 February, 2023.
After a successful summer school in Lund last year, it was time for the PhD students from WASP-HS to meet again. This time in Gothenburg for the annual WASP-HS winter conference. The WASP-HS winter conference is specifically geared towards the ever-growing WASP-HS PhD community and is a great opportunity to share and discuss their research.
Even before this year’s conference, one could foresee three intense and stimulating days given that the conference proceedings for this year’s meeting included more than 50 pages of project reports. In this blog post, I would like to reflect on several aspects that made this a successful and enriching conference, first and foremost for the participating PhD students but also for the whole WASP-HS community.
The first aspect concerns the pre-conference process. The PhD students submitted their abstracts through a peer-review process for PhD students. While this does not involve any onerous rejections as in most peer-review systems for scientific publication, it does allow students to always receive an invitation to “revise and resubmit” if needed. This process helps graduate students become familiar with the academic peer-review system for both publications and conference participation. It also allows us graduate students to closely engage in each other’s research that is often outside of their own comfort zone given the interdisciplinary nature of the WASP-HS Graduate School.
The second aspect concerns the arrangement of the conference. As mentioned earlier, the WASP-HS PhD student community is highly interdisciplinary, involving two cohorts to date, and are located at 14 different universities and research institutes around the country. Despite this, smooth travel arrangements were made all the way from Umeå in the north, from Malmö in the south and from Stockholm in the east. This was all thanks to the careful and thorough arrangements by the Graduate School organisers, namely Eva Sjöstrand and Christian Balkenius. Other members of the Program Office also deserve praise for their hard work in running the WASP-HS program and supporting this conference. Thanks to their dedication, attending this conference was not another burdensome note in the calendar but rather an event to look forward to and a time to step back from the daily dissertation work, laboratory tasks and teaching obligations. The conference provided a space for students to develop and learn about how other academic conferences are organised. When mentioning the arrangement of the conference and the graduate school as a whole, one should also highlight the work of the doctoral students’ self-organisation, in other words the student council. Having an active and engaged student council is not self-evident but underlines a) that students care about the working environment they are involved in and b) strive to bring out the best in this unique research environment.
The third aspect, as mentioned earlier, is that more than 50 pages of conference proceedings suggest that there was a lot of content to cover in a limited period of time. Graduate students could choose between presenting posters, giving a presentation or participating in a panel. All three forms were successful and equally stimulating. It was remarkable how much the presented projects have evolved in the course of just one year (since the WASP-HS Winter Conference in 2022) and the range of topics discussed by this inter-Swedish program project is truly astounding. To complement the PhD students’ discussions, two talks were given by Malin Rönnblom, Professor of Political Science at Karlstad University, and Peter-Paul Verbeek, Professor of Philosophy and Ethics of Science and Technology in a Changing World at the University of Amsterdam. No matter the background of the PhD students, the talks aroused the interest of all who listened. The lectures were followed by a panel discussion with the WASP-HS Assistant Professors who shared valuable academic advice. Receiving this type of advice and guidance is an opportunity that all PhD students dream about.
Finally, alongside all the professional aspects of this conference, there are the personal aspects of networking. WASP-HS conferences, summer schools, and courses give graduate students the opportunity to reconnect with colleagues in a friendly environment. Thanks to this environment, the PhD students have organised their own meetings and workshops in different cities and stay in touch with each other even after the dates of the graduate school meetings – this last point cannot be emphasized enough. After this fantastic winter conference, we are now looking forward to the WASP-HS Summer School in Stockholm!