The 5th ECPR Graduate Student Conference took place in Austria, at the University of Innsbruck. 

Located in the heart of the Alps, in the Inn Valley on the German-Italian border, participants were able to experience the beautiful scenery and fascinating architecture of Innsbruck alongside a stimulating academic programme – all in glorious sunshine (as luck would have it).

The aim of the GSC is to give students their first taste of an international, academic conference. The 2014 conference format was designed to meet students’ need to discuss the most pressing political and social issues of our time in an academically stimulating manner. The Call for Panels was open to suggestions aimed at making the conference programme more in tune with current developments in political research and in the end resulted in a series of Panels covering topics that demonstrated the diversity and multi-disciplinarity of the ECPR community.

While students take on every role, from Section Chairs through to Paper presenters, their work is supported by the expertise of the ECPR’s conference organisers and Executive Committee members responsible for the area to ensure that every part of the event runs smoothly. This team, along with the local hosts, also plan an exciting complementary plenary programme, designed to give a fully rounded conference experience.

The Keynote Lecture was given by Alan Scott (University of Innsbruck). His lecture ‘Seeing like a Political Scientist’ examined some of the dilemmas that face social scientists in general and political scientists in particular. He spoke about the division of labour between the social sciences, how it is challenged by changes in governance of higher education and science; the growing demand for demonstrable ‘impact’ and barriers to innovation. All of these are pressing issues for planning to establish a career in the social sciences.

Alongside the Keynote Lecture, four Roundtables took place, each featuring high profile speakers and each looking at subjects close to the hearts of those at the beginning of their careers: ‘Being on the academic job market’ (looking at styles of interviews in both the US and Europe); ‘How to write a research proposal’ (strategies, skills, expectations and common pitfalls associated with writing a grant application); ‘Research funding from the European Union’ (discussion of funding options available); and last but not least, the ever popular ‘How to get published’ (how to present a manuscript to give you the best chance).

On top of these events were plenty of opportunities to make friends with future colleagues during informal drinks receptions and social gatherings all in the beautiful Austrian weather. The highlight being the opening reception and BBQ with the convivial atmosphere helped along by the music of an excellent local jazz band.

Not just an opportunity for graduate students to meet, talk and network, the GSC helps instil the academic ethic of commitment and mutual responsibility, and is supported by the Graduate Student Network, which nurtures the next generation of European political scientists. It is hoped that students leave knowing that they have contributed to lively debates, have learned something new about the world and have made contacts that will lead to fruitful professional collaboration at the next stage of their career.

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