The Annual International Conference is the largest event in the Society’s calendar, and this year’s is the biggest yet.
In excess of 1,800 delegates from more than 50 countries will take part in more than 400 sessions at the Society and at Imperial College London between Tuesday 26 and Friday 29 August.
Conference Chair Professor Wendy Larner of the University of Bristol chose the theme ‘Geographies of co-production’. Co-production involves academics working with non-academic partners to create new knowledge. This involves working together from the very outset of the research, so that the research partners play a role in setting the research agenda.
“Academics are increasingly working on co-produced research projects in all sorts of innovative and exciting ways,” Wendy says. “This is happening right across our discipline, from cultural and economic geography to environmental and physical geography. Academics are working with a wide range of government agencies, corporations, Non-Governmental Organisations, cultural institutions, community members, artists, activists and others.
Wendy opens the conference with a panel session asking ‘what are the opportunities and challenges for geographers working in more engaged ways?’ Many of the conference sessions also focus on how co-production relates to a particular aspect of geography, and Wendy has been delighted by the response so far.
“This does seem to be a theme that has struck a chord among the research community. I am flabbergasted by the diversity of things that can be co-produced!”
The co-production of knowledge isn’t entirely new and Wendy is quick to point out that themes like citizen science and participatory methods are well established within geography. “What we are now seeing is a sustained move towards the co-production of knowledge across our entire discipline.”
It’s not hard to like the idea of co-production. But there is an awareness that the idea of co-production can be “romanticised” and these new relationships can often be more challenging than expected. In this respect, Wendy ultimately hopes that the conference will “put some tough questions on the table.”
That’s why she’ll be paying particular attention to the implications of these more engaged research agendas. “I am interested in exploring which academics are practicing co-production, with what motivations and to what ends,” she says.
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Dr Kenneth Y T Lim is a Research Scientist at the National Institute of Education in Singapore.
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