2013 AESOP PhD Workshop in Belfast REPORT
by Ender Peker, University of Reading 

2013 AESOP PhD Workshop took place in the Metro Arts Centre in Belfast, Northern Ireland from the 10th to the 13th of July 2013. The workshop was jointly organized by AESOP, the AESOP Young Academics Network, ACSP and the School of Geography, Planning and Environmental Policy at University College Dublin.

There were 92 applications from 23 different countries including Australia, Belgium, Canada, China, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Singapore, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, UK and USA. 32 successful applicants, 5 of which were awarded an AESOP bursary, were invited to participate in the workshop.

The workshop comprised interactive plenary sessions, mentor workshops and a field trip. The plenary sessions involved students and mentors in addressing key transferable skills, such as publishing, research ethics and research design, while mentor workshops provided the opportunity for participants to get detailed feedback on their work from mentors. The mentors for the workshops were, Robert Freestone (University of New South Wales), Benjamin Davy (Technische Universität Dortmund), Heather Campbell (University of Sheffield), Deborah Peel (University of Ulster), Greg Lloyd (University of Ulster), Geraint Ellis (Queen’s University Belfast), Paul Maginn (University of Western Australia); and from the host university, Mark Scott (University College Dublin), Declan Redmond (University College Dublin) and Enda Murphy (University College Dublin). We would like to express our most sincere thanks to all mentors who provided very constructive and useful comments on participants` research.

The workshop started on the 10th of July with an evening reception which provided a warm welcome for participants getting the chance to know each other. The following day, Dr Mark Scott from University of Dublin provided the official introduction, outlining the main aims and objectives of the workshop.  Following Dr Marks` opening speech, Prof. Deborah Peel from the University of Ulster gave a seminar on “Ethics in planning research” and the first session was rounded-up with a seminar focusing on “Publishing”, which was presented by Prof. Heater Campbell from University of Sheffield. In the afternoon session, participants were divided into four groups in which they worked more in-depth with the help of their mentor. Each student was also asked to referee the submitted papers of the other participants in their group, which provided all participants with the opportunity to give and receive feedback not just from mentors, but also from their colleagues. The second day also started with a plenary session focusing on the “Qualitative and quantitative research design in planning research” co-moderated by Dr Enda Murphy from UCD and Prof Paul Maginn from the University of Western Australia. After the plenary session, four working groups continued their in-depth workshops, and the day was closed with a panel discussion focusing on the topic of “Preparing for an academic career”.

For the final day of the workshop, a very interesting mobile workshop was organized to the “peace line” in Belfast. The mobile workshop was led by Dr Jenny Muir from Queen`s University of Belfast.  In the mobile workshop, participants explored the contested nature of space in Belfast as a legacy of 30+ years of political conflict.