The annual conference is intended to be a friendly and welcoming space, at which all attendees feel included and able to productively share knowledge and expertise. However, we know that this is not always the case for everyone, and that, particularly for those of you who are attending the conference for the first time, it can at times be an intimidating and overwhelming experience.
Here we describe a range of initiatives – new and old – undertaken both by us as conference organisers and by our Research Groups, that we ask you to engage with as a community of scholars. We know there is much more that is happening across the community on these issues too. We welcome your thoughts and feedback. Please get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We will be continuing our work to make the conference as welcoming and productive as possible over the coming year ahead of the rescheduled conference in 2021, supported by the Society’s Research and Higher Education Committee and Research and Working Groups.
You may also be interested in this best-practice guide to inclusive conferences from the School of Geography and the Environment at the University of Oxford.
Code of conduct
You can see our code of conduct policy here. More details have been added on procedures for reporting incidents, sanctions and appeals.
Choosing a venue and accessibility
The conference takes place in London for two out of every three years. In the third year, it moves to a UK university outside of London. In recent years, it has taken place at Cardiff, Exeter, Edinburgh and Manchester. When selecting a venue, we try to be attentive to:
how easy it is to reach for delegates, both those based within the UK and beyond
whether there is affordable accommodation located near to the conference venue itself
whether it has a range of suitable session rooms which are accessible, and located closely to one another
that there are appropriate catering options located near to the conference venue
In London, the conference takes place at the RGS-IBG and in rooms hired from Imperial College London (ICL). We work with our colleagues at ICL to ensure that rooms are accessible to the fullest extent possible, and are grouped closely together within the main four conference buildings. We have put together a guide to finding your way around the conference buildings, available through our website, conference app, and programme book.
The RGS-IBG building is a 19th century listed building which presents particular challenges. We work with our Facilities team to mitigate these to the fullest extent possible, including additionial signage and the opportunity for delegates to join tours of the building.
We ask delegates to let us know about all accessibility-related requests as early as possible, and have opportunities for providing this information when submitting proposals for the conference programme in February, and during delegate registration. Please take these opportunities so that we can do all we can to schedule sessions for suitable rooms.
There are gender neutral toilets located on the mezzanine level (up the blue carpeted stairs from the Main Hall), and opposite the Lowther Room.
The building also offers related challenges in terms of how welcoming a space is to all delegates. The history of the RGS-IBG, and the ways this is represented in the building, offer particular challenges too. In 2019 we made temporary interventions to the fabric of the building to better represent the modern organisation and the modern community of geographers, both within academia and beyond, as well as to add more extensive interpretation of the objects and images that visitors come across. We recognise that there is further to go on this. This is part of a wider programme of work underway to refresh the building and its interpretation, integrating more contemporary geography and geographers. We welcome your ideas on this.
Choosing date and time
The conference almost always takes place immediately after the last Monday in August (which is a public holiday in the UK). We keep this the same each year, to help delegates plan ahead.
This timing is chosen for the following reasons:
outside of UK university term time, so that colleagues are not prevented from attending by teaching and other responsibilities
affordable accommodation is generally available in university halls of residence, close to the conference venue
avoids other major disciplinary conferences
outside of the main summer fieldwork season
We recognise that this may not be the best time for international delegates and that there may be conflicts with the start of the school year. We offer a crèche, and have now done so for 15 years. This caters for children from eight months to 11 years old, and is offered to registered delegates on a first come, first served basis.
The conference programme is both ‘top down’ – the lectures and panels convened by the Chair of Conference, and ‘bottom up’ – the rest of the programme, which comes in response to a call for sessions, papers and posters from the community, both by Research Groups and by independent session organisers. We encourage open calls for contributions by prospective session organisers, which are inclusive of a range of scholars and interests.
We work closely with the Chair of Conference on their programme of invited plenary speakers to ensure diversity and balance across these lectures, recognising that with just three plenaries there are limits on what can be achieved.
We also convene around 40 sessions from individual papers submitted under the open call (with a strong showing here by international delegates and newcomers).
We do our best to accommodate any requests for timetabling, special room set up and accessibility, and work with session organisers directly to facilitate this.
We ask session organisers to proactively contact those in their sessions and ask them to share any and all such requests while the proposal is being put together. We also ask them to make use of these spaces on the form. Changes can be accommodated at the provisional programme stage, but it is harder to do at that stage. Last minute changes to timetabling also happen – we do our best to accommodate these and to minimise disruption caused.
Food, drink and entertainment
We know that many of the social events at the conference often include alcohol, which can exclude some delegates, whether they do not drink, or prefer not to on that occasion. They also generally take place in the early evening which means that some delegates will not be able to attend for a range of reasons. To address this, we are working to:
ensure that a range of non-alcoholic options are available at every reception organised by the Society
encourage publishers hosting receptions to make these available too
adding other social events and opportunities to meet colleagues throughout the conference day, such as afternoon tea and cake, over lunch etc
As the programme develops for AC2020, we'll be adding more information about some of the events and activities that are taking place in and around formal sessions at the conference.
Name badges are printed with your name (first name/last name), and institution/country (as submitted by delegates during registration). We do not include titles and have not done so for around 10 years. We are also aware of differences between countries in how titles operate.
The conference is run on a cost-recovery basis. The overhead costs of running the conference (including room hire and venue costs, staffing costs (across the organisers, catering team, front of house, cloakroom team etc.), catering, and other costs) are distributed across the registration fees of all participants irrespective of duration of stay.
Subsidised registration fees are available for people who fall into specific categories, notably postgraduates, students, retired, and low-income.
We also operate the Research Group guest scheme to support attendance at the conference from those who might not otherwise be able to attend. This includes international delegates, those who are based in disciplines beyond geography, or who work outside academia in policy, third sector, the arts or more. Research Group guests receive complimentary registration for one or more days of conference, at the invitation of the Research Group and the conference organisers. Assistance with travel and accommodation costs is not included.
In 2018, we supported 70 colleagues to attend the conference through the Research Group guest registration scheme, including academics from the Global South and colleagues from outside academia, including artists and those working in policy and the third sector. In 2019 we expect the number supported to be at least as big.
We also have a scheme whereby postgraduate students can volunteer to work at the conference in exchange for waived registration. Up to six hours across the four days of conference (Tuesday-Friday), scheduled to avoid their programme commitments. Please contact the conference organisers for more information.
Please see our guidance on sustainability at the conference for more information on distance participation.
At the 2020 conference we will build on our work at AC2019 to ensure that quiet spaces are provided for delegates to use.
We have put together an informal guide to the conference for those attending for the first time, aiming to make clear some of the often-unspoken expectations at an event of this nature, and to share good practice. We’ve drawn on existing guides from other similar events, to help shape the content. Feedback and suggestions for additional content are warmly encouraged.
Conference attendance can present particular challenges for those with caring responsibilities, whether it’s childcare, parents, siblings, other family members and/or others.
We do our best to accommodate all reported scheduling requests around caring responsibilities. It is easiest for us if these are made at the contribution proposal stage, but we do what we can to accommodate later requests too.
For registered conference delegates a crèche service for children between eight months and 11 years old is provided at no additional cost. This is something that has been in place for the last 15 years. The crèche is provided by Little Hens Childcare, an OFSTED-registered provider. The staff are all first aid-trained, reference-checked, and DBS registered. The crèche will operate from 08:30 until 19:00 daily, allowing delegates to attend sessions with time for drop-off and pick-up at the start and end of each day. The crèche is located close to the conference session rooms.
Prospective delegates may make enquiries about the crèche to the conference organisers at email@example.com. Places will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis to delegates who have completed their registration to attend the conference.
We provide free conference guest passes for carers attending the conference, whether to support a delegates with disabilities, or to assist with childcare. Please contact us with any questions.