Minutes of the Political Geography Research Group (PolGRG) AGM held at the Royal Geographical Society, Thursday 1 September 2016
1. Apologies for absence
Committee apologies received: Jonathan Rokem (JR), Marco Antonsich (MA), Krithika Srinivasan (KS), Matt Benwell (MB).
Committee present: Adam Ramadan (AR), Sara Fregonese (SF), Anthony Ince (AI), Sam Strong (SS)
- Approval of minutes from 2015 AGM
Minutes of 2015 AGM were presented and approved by the meeting.
- Matters arising/action points
3a. Early career conference bursary
SF conducted a review of other research group activities. There is a wide range of support offered by different research groups to postgraduate and early career scholars. These include: dissertation prizes for Masters students, PhD prizes, essay prizes, and conference bursaries. The standout ones in the last year were the Geographies of Children, Youth and Families research group, which funded two postgraduate bursaries, worth £250, to the International Children’s Geographies Conference in San Diego, and the Historical Geography Research Group which made grants totalling over £3000 for post-doctoral, unwaged and overseas members to attend the International Conference of Historical Geography.
However, only a few research groups seem to offer conference bursaries. PolGRG’s annual subvention from the RGS-IBG is in the region of £350. Of this, we spend £75 per year on our undergraduate dissertation prize, leaving £275. We therefore could, in theory, reserve some or all of this remainder for funding bursaries.
There was a discussion in the Group about which event to sponsor bursaries for. Although the Group has the flexibility to make one-off contributions to field-specific conferences, it was agreed that it’s more desirable to create instead regular bursaries to the biennial PolGRG workshop. Some discussion was also had about the need to establish eligibility criteria for these bursaries. One suggestion was to follow the RGS-IBG criteria for guest passes, i.e.: non-geographers OR non-UK geographers. Additional criteria could include: unwaged early career applicants; unfunded / post-funding postgrads; active participation through presenting.
Action: Bursary + Chair to look into instituting early career bursaries for the next workshop
3b. Annual book prize in coordination with Political Geography journal
Jonathan Rokem’s has had preliminary discussions with Jo Sharp about instituting a book prize sponsored by the journal. At the AGM, Fiona McConnell reported on behalf of Jo Sharp that the journal Political Geography is very happy to support the initiative in principle. Phil Steinberg has been in touch with the publisher, who is favourable to grant an annual sum of £250 for the prize. Jo sharp should be the first point of contact for the initiative.
The journal has a number of recommendations: a) that the selection process leads to a small number of shortlisted books, to make the reading process feasible. b) As the publisher is keen on seeing outputs, that an event (e.g. an author meets critics at the RGS annual meeting) ideally accompanies the award. A group discussion explored the possibility of a yearly prize to coincide with either the RGS or the AAG meeting, or both. However, the general feeling was that it might be more appropriate to hold both the prize announcement and the author meets critics at the RGS, the base of PolGRG. c) Shortlists should look broadly across the field, to include contributions from/about the global south d) there should be a precise window when the book has to be published in order to be eligible.
Action: Chair/Vice-Chair+Secretary to look at how other groups structure book prizes.
Action: Communication officer to draft and upload book prize brief for PolGRG website that includes context, rationale and eligibility criteria.
It was pointed out that the contributions from the Global South should be “strongly encouraged”, without restricting the eligibility and at the same time be clear about what is looked for in terms of contributions. It was also also pointed out that the panel of book reviewers should be chosen generously, including people from a diversity of regions and sub-disciplines. Technicalities like paying the expenses to send read copies to the reviewers also need to be taken into account. If we are looking at an author meets critics for the 2017 meeting, a decision would be needed soon.
It was also remarked that we need to look carefully at the timing of the prize and its coordination with the author meets critics, especially avoiding revealing the winner when designing the author meets critics.
Action: Secretary + Jo Sharp (+ Tresurer) to continue conversation and finalise details of book prize (including financial aspects), with view of having it in place next year.
Action: Secretary to liaise with Communication Officer regarding publicizing the brief on the website
- Treasurer’s report The balance reported at the last AGM (25 June 2015) was £823.18
We received a RGS-IBG subvention of £370 on 30 December 2015 (£20 more than last year). A net interest of £1.73 (Gross £2.16) was added on 30 June 2015, a net interest of £0.79 (Gross £0.99) was added on 31 December 2015 and a net interest of £1.36 (Gross £1.36 – no tax collected) was added on 30 June 2016.
A cheque of £50 issued on 16 June 2015 to cover the expenses of one of the participants to the Post-graduate conference (Birmingham 24-25 June 2015) was not cashed and therefore the same amount of money went back on the account on 28 August 2015.
On 28 August 2015, we paid two dissertation prizes of £75 each. These were the only expenditures made during the financial year.
The balance currently stands at £1097.06
AR remarked that PolGRG subvention from the RGS-IBG is based on paying members and fellows who tick the box to join PolGRG when they join the RGS. He also encouraged those who are not already fellows, to consider joining. If we increase our membership, we can increase the scope and ambition of our activities.
- Conference Coordinator’s report
Outgoing Conference Officer SF presented data for submission and allocation of session slots and guest passes for the past 3 years.
Number of session proposals submitted: 2016:13; 2015: 12; 2014: 13.
Number of session slots requested: 2016: 16; 2015: 21; 2014: 25
Number of slots assigned: 2016: 12; 2015: 12; 2014: 12, maxing out the available number of slots every year.
Number of day/passes applied for:
2014: not recorded (SF on maternity leave), but seemingly in the region of 1 or 2;
Due to the exceptionally high number of guest passes requested in 2016, SF requested and obtained from RGS 2 extra day passes. A total of 8 day/passes were assigned. SF also requested and obtained from RGS advice on further criteria for prioritisation besides the ones provided, to help the selection. Among these 22, there was a particularly high number of postgraduate, as well as a high number of applicants based in Greece.
Co-sponsorships in 2016 included: Gender and Feminist Geographies Research Group; Geographies of Justice Research Group; Historical Geography Research Group.
Members of the group encouraged PolGRG’s collaboration with groups we have never worked together before.
àALL: explore and encourage further inter-group collaborations when organising sessions for the conference.
- Ideas and proposals for 2017 mid-term workshop RHUL is interested in hosting the 2017 workshop, while Oxford expressed an interest in holding the 2019 one.
Klaus Dodds remarked that the political geography group at RHUL is growing and the HoD is supportive of hosting the event. FIELDWORK has been suggested as a theme. Possible dates are June 2017, or a pre-conference workshop before the RGS, although it was noted that it might be tricky due to the bank holiday before the conference.
- Undergraduate dissertation prize
KS coordinated the competition entries on behalf of the committee.
We received 10 entries. The winner: ‘Constructing an Arctic Laboratory: Oil Spill Simulations at the Hydrocarbon Frontier’ by Ben Ayres from UCL.
Judges’ comments: “We have selected Ayres’ dissertation because it was incredibly well-written, conceptually sophisticated, and demonstrates an engagement with theory that is far beyond the undergraduate level.”
The committee is looking for volunteers across the whole of PolGRG membership to review dissertations. During the meeting, Antony Ince and Olivia Mason offered to act as dissertation reviewers.
It was remarked that, due to the often high standard of several dissertations, we could have a commendation category besides the main prize, rather than an “all or nothing” system. This category would benefit the CV of the student, although would not involve money.
à A “highly commended” category to be considered by the reviewers for the next prize.
- Elections to the Committee
Posts vacant: Chair (Outgoing: Adam Ramadan), Conference Co-ordinator (Outgoing: Sara Fregonese), Postgraduate Representative (Outgoing: Rosanna White & Sam Strong).
Chair (3 years): Sara Fregonese was elected
Conference Co-ordinator: Diana Martin was elected
Postgraduate Representative: Three postgraduates came forward, and were seconded and elected: Olivia Mason, Ian Slesinger, Jonathan Harris.
- Any other business
Fiona McConnell encouraged PolGRG to organise – similarly to what other research groups are already doing – a regular RGS session on “emerging voices in political geography” for postgrads.
à All (esp. Postgraduate representatives) to look into organising a regular PolGRG-sponsored postgraduate session at the RGS.