2013 AGM

Minutes of the Political Geography Research Group (PolGRG) AGM, held in the Drayson Room, Royal Geographical Society, Thursday 29th August 7pm.

  • Apologies for absence were received from Dan Hammett, Klaus Dodds, ,Gwyn Rowley, Jason Dittmer, Marco Antonsich and Alison Williams, those present from the committee included Al Pinkerton, Sean Carter, Nick Gill, Fiona Mc Connell and Joe Painter.
  • Joe went through minutes of last meeting and these were adopted by the meeting.
  • The officers’ reports were delivered. The treasurer’s report was read by Joe Painter in Dan Hammett’s absence as follows:
    “PolGRG Treasurer’s Report 2012-2013. The balance reported at the last AGM was £1232.23. Income: We received a subvention of £375 on 29 December 2012 (the same as for the preceding year) and accrued 11p net interest. Expenditure: £75 was paid to the winner of the Undergraduate dissertation prize on 7 September 2012. The balance currently stands at £1532.40”. The chair’s report mentioned the fact that the year had been a relatively quiet one (e.g. no mid-year workshop this year) and encouraged committee members to rejuvenate activities in the year ahead. One option could be the joint event on impact of which more below. Nevertheless the report noted the success of the conference programme. Conference officer’s report (Adam Ramadan) confirmed that all available slots for sponsoring conference sessions had been filled as there had been exactly the same number of applications of sessions as sessions available. He also reported that we were able to sponsor every delegate nominated to us. Communication officers report (Al Pinkerton): noted the historical geographers’ idea of distributing mugs with great interest, and noted that some other groups seem to have a comms strategy that is more multifaceted than ours. We have two main communication channels: the website and the JISC mail, and the meeting briefly considered other communication initiatives, although reached no conclusion.
  • Lifetime Achievement Award. Joe raised the possibility that we could bestow a lifetime achievement in political geography award every year or two. The award could be international and bestowed upon senior political geographers for sustained contribution to political geography. The meeting discussed what was to be awarded (e.g. a plaque, or a mug?!) but came to no conclusion. A few more suggestions were also made: there could be a panel in honour of the recipient at the RGS conference, or perhaps a roundtable, although would have to make sure that the activities labelled political geography elsewhere in the programme (e.g. in relation to the journal political geography) were not duplicated or overwhelmed. It was noted that the pool of people to receive such an award was quite small, so the meeting considered getting rid of ‘lifetime’ and awarding for simply an outstanding contribution, although no conclusion was reached. Then it was suggested that we could have multiple awards e.g. a lifetime, book and ‘early’ (i.e. less than 10 years out of PhD) award, the award of which could be split between midterm and RGS conferences. The possibility of collaborating with the journal political geography was raised, and Phil Steinberg confirmed that the journal would be receptive to suggestions of sponsored sessions or other forms of collaboration. It was recognised that the issue requires a bit of thought but the meeting agreed that they were happy for the committee to go ahead and draw up a procedure for bestowing the awards. Action Point: Committee to draw up a procedure for bestowing political geography awards.
  • Undergraduate Dissertation Prize. Alison, Fiona and Joe are this year’s judges. They were not in a position yet to report the winner but the meeting agreed to allow them to decide. We discussed the amount (currently £75-00) and agreed that this amount is in line with the other research groups (£75-00 to £100-00) so it did not need changing at this point.
  • The possibility of a joint event on impact. Joe introduced the idea that we could run a shared event on impact, post-REF. Other groups who have expressed interest include EGRG, DARG and SCGRG. The idea wuld be to combine and event rather than reproducing common themes, although part of the event could be split into streams according to the groups involved. The RGS was mentioned as the most promising venue. It was suggested that senior figures involved in the assessment of impact during this REF cycle could be involved in some way. Fiona reported that there is talk of an event that would interest political geographers in Glasgow around May 2014 organised by the geographers there, and the group considered briefly whether there is scope for two events over the next 12 months. Al Pinkerton agreed to take a lead on organising a sub-committee to take things forward in relation to the event on impact. Action Point: Al Pinkerton to lead on organising PolGRG’s involvement in the event on impact.
  • Response to the discussion of political geography in the UK in the International Benchmarking review. The meeting had been provided with the follow extract from the international benchmarking review in the agenda:“Overall the review was positive about political geography, but it did raise the following issues of concern: “political geography faces several unique challenges. The generational distribution means that there are few senior scholars available to sit on appointment and promotion committees. Political geography thus risks being under-represented in decision-making bodies. The discipline-wide challenges of UK Human Geography facing early career scholars are of particular urgency. International field research is limited and regional or area studies scholarship in particular struggles to find publication venues. While methodological innovations- ethnography, visual methods, participatory research – have been critical to the resurgence of the field, practitioners now frequently look to collaborators in other fields for quantitative expertise. Finally, political geography is less well-represented in major funding initiatives than other sub-fields, an issue that could hinder further development” Section 2.3, see http://www.esrc.ac.uk/_images/Human-Geography-Benchmarking-Review-Report_tcm8-25257.pdf”. Joe introduced the item, reiterating that the political geography cohort at the moment is very vibrant but also young and that this has implications for how well-represented the group is on committees. Also reiterated the challenges facing early career scholars, and also reiterated the importance of field research and nurturing this at an early stage among early career scholars. Also noted the relative dearth of quantitative skills in political geography given that electoral studies is quite a small sub-section of political geography. The issue was raised that there may be many more ‘hidden’ political geographers who may not self-identify as political geographers, and so there may be more political geography going on than the report gives credit for. The conversation then turned to field research, especially overseas and in languages that need to be learnt before the fieldwork commences. It was noted that there is relatively little support for this, and discussion turned to what PolGRG could do to support it. It was suggested that the workshops that PolGRG might be involved in organising over the next 12 months could include a session on field research, possibly including discussion from senior figures about how important their investment in field research at the time of their PhD proved to be over their programme of research. It was noted that the RGS provide grants to support field research, and that the PolGRG group could do more to make these grants more widely known and accessible. It was noted that the event on impact could include a session or workshop on this issue, and that the RGS conference next year might do the same. A toolkit could then be produced on the basis of such a session. It was suggested that the next RGS guide could be on this theme. Action Point: committee to take forward the idea of a session on field research at the conference next year or at the mid-year impact event.
  • Conference location of the RGS, 2015. A cruise ship was suggested, but the group settled on Birmingham as a fairly central location.
  • Staggering elections of the research group committee. The following change to the way elections are organised to the committee was proposed by Joe and seconded by Nick:

“Proposal for Officer Elections

At present the Group’s officers are all elected on the same three-year cycle, so all the officers take office and complete their terms at the same time. A system of staggered elections in which one third of the officers are elected each year would have a number of advantages. It would provide continuity, it would avoid the need to find six people willing to stand for office at the same time, and it would be consistent with the RGS-IBG’s expectations of Research Groups.

We therefore propose switching from the current electoral cycle to a staggered system. This will require a transitional period using terms of varying lengths. We propose the following:

2013 AGM
Elect Chair and Conference Officer to serve for three years to 2016
Elect Secretary and Vice-Chair to serve for two years to 2015
Elect Treasurer and Communications Officer to serve for one year to 2014
Elect Postgraduate representative to serve for one year (as usual) to 2014

2014 AGM
Elect Treasurer and Communications Officer to serve for three years to 2017
Elect Postgraduate representative to serve for one year to 2015

2015 AGM
Elect Secretary and Vice-Chair to serve for three years to 2018
Elect Postgraduate representative to serve for one year to 2016

2016 AGM
Elect Chair and Conference Officer to serve for three years to 2019
Elect Postgraduate representative to serve for one year to 2017

Thereafter two officers (three year terms) and the postgraduate representative (one year term) will be elected at each AGM”

The proposal was adopted by the meeting with the following additions:
– The ordinary committee members’ 3 year cycles would not be affected.
– Where someone has served on the committee for two terms they should still step down, but some flexibility can be applied if we are dealing with terms shorter than three years.
– If a post holder wants to stand for a different post during their term they should be allowed to do so.

  • Elections to the committee, 2013. A new committee was elected as follows:
    – Chair – Adam Ramadan (Joe proposed and Al seconded)
    – Treasurer – Dan Hammett
    – Secretary – Kerry Burton
    – Conference Officer – Sara Fregonese
    – Communications Officer – Al Pinkerton
    – Vice-Chair – Andy Burridge
    – Ordinary Member – Matt Benwell
    – Postgraduate representative – none elected, Action Point: put out a call for a post-graduate representative and elect at the mid-term event.
  • Having elected the new committee the meeting was able to decide who would judge the next undergraduate dissertation prize. Al Pinkerton, Sean Carter and Phil Steinberg kindly volunteered.
  • Fiona McConnell announced that the political geography section of geography compass was accepting written paper submissions and would welcome high quality work from group members.
  • The outgoing committee were thanked for their tireless dedication, unfailing enthusiasm and exemplary leadership.

Nick Gill (Secretary), Exeter, 3rd September 2013