‘How Critical is Research Impact?’ Graduate Conference for New and Emerging Human Geographers

Thursday December 10th & Friday December 11th, 2015 

School of Geographical and Earth Sciences, East Quadrangle, University of Glasgow, Glasgow G12 8QQ


In a very short space of time, impact has become an inescapable feature of research culture in UK higher education. Impact attainment is now a benchmark that all universities are expected to meet, and so is part-and-parcel of institutional strategizing at all levels, from senior management committees, to school or department working groups. Identifying a pathway to impact is a required element in any grant application submitted to UK research councils, and features as a standard element in PhD research project design and delivery. The status that impact will hold in the REF2020 exercise is already an academic preoccupation.

 So, like it or not (and many in the profession remain equivocal at best), the impact agenda seems here to stay!

 This two-day PGR conference, hosted by the Human Geography Research Group and School of Geographical and Earth Sciences, University of Glasgow, offers a dedicated forum for consideration of questions that are crucial to an emerging, aspiring generation of graduate researchers:

– What does the production of impactful research mean for a current generation of UK graduate students in human geography?

– How is impact to be variously understood, appreciated, approached and subject to critique?

– How does the prefiguring of impact affect PhD research design and project direction?

– What place exists for disciplinary traditions of critical and creative praxis in an evolving impact agenda?

– Is intellectual integrity a victim of “impact-instrumentalism”, or, is impact the trigger necessary to ensure that research makes a real difference beyond the academy?

– Can the future shape of impact actually be defined by new and emerging researchers, rather than simply becoming another expectation that they must meet?

– Are adaptive strategies or radical responses necessary to prise open (even to ‘Occupy’) impact?

The conference programme will comprise a series of case study-led commentaries based on recent/ongoing “impact experiences”. Commentaries will be intercut with dedicated workshops sessions for small-group conversation and experience sharing, and a panel session leading into an open debate.

Commentators and panelists include: Kye Askins, Deborah Dixon, Caleb Johnston, Hayden Lorimer, Hester Parr, Chris Philo and Jo Sharp.

Conference contributors will have differing levels of research experience (academic staff; ESRC ‘Future Research Leader’; recently completed and current PhD), and in projects involving international and national collaborations, and interdisciplinary links with the biological sciences, social sciences, and arts and humanities. Presentations will combine critical reflection with practical guidance, exploring the tensions that exist between impact ideals and impact realities.

Student-led breakout workshops will offer advice and seek opinion on partnership building, evidence gathering, narrating and communicating impact, the use of impact to advance careers (in academia and beyond), and existing mechanisms/media available to offer individual opinions and collective responses to the emerging impact agenda.

Conference Registration:

The conference is free to attend for any student registered for PhD studies in Human Geography at a UK university. The event will begin at 1:30pm on Thursday 10th December and end on Friday 11th December 2015 at 1pm.

Pre-registration is required. Please note: conference capacity is capped at 80 students. Delegates can register direct at our EventBrite site at: http://tinyurl.com/p9wfw67

Any conference queries should be addressed to: Jean.McPartland [at] glasgow.ac.uk


Bate, J. (ed.) (2011) The public value of the humanities (Bloomsbury, London). 

Driver, F. (2014) ‘Historical geography at large: towards public historical geographies’, Journal of Historical Geography, 46 (3), 92.   

Pain, R., Kesby, M., & Askins, K. (2011). Geographies of impact: power, participation and potential. Area, 43(2), 183-188.

Phillips, R. (2010). The impact agenda and geographies of curiosity. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 35(4), 447-452. 

Rogers, A., Bear, C., Hunt, M., Mills, S., & Sandover, R. (2014). Intervention: the impact agenda and human geography in UK higher education.  ACME.  http://www.acme-journal.org/vol13/Rogersetal2014.pdf

Slater, T. (2012). Impacted geographers: a response to Pain, Kesby and Askins. Area, 44(1), 117-119.


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