This post was originally written for the Glasgow Researcher Development Blog that can be found here

At the end of November, seven months of planning and organising finally cumulated in a two-day training event that gathered postgraduate researchers from most Scottish Universities and saw over 50 delegates attend papers, performances and workshops each day. Processes, Outcomes, Paths and Products (POPP) was hosted by the Centre for Contemporary Arts in Glasgow on the 20th and 21st of November 2012. It sought to collect practice-as-research postgraduate students and early career scholars from across the Arts and Humanities in Scotland.

POPP 2
POPP 2

POPP 1
POPP 1


POPP provided a forum for addressing issues particular to practice-as-research projects, which is an opportunity that is seldom afforded postgraduates working in the area, by offering training events tailored to the attendees’ needs. Workshops were led by Glasgow University’s Humanities Advanced Technology and Training Institute (HATII), Dr. Anna Birch from the RCS and early career researchers Dr. David Overend (UWS) and Karen McAuley (RCS). Dr. Georgina Collins from the University of Glasgow also held a skill sharing session wherein she addressed the changing role of practice-as-research in Translation Studies and the practicalities of implementing a practice-as-research postgraduate course, as exemplified by the new Translation Studies MSc. Delegates were further able to present their practice-as-research projects through live demonstrations or in panel sessions.

POPP was conceived and organised by six researchers from different subjects in the Arts Faculty and was supported by the New Initiatives fund. In the following, we have compiled some lessons we learnt in the process for the benefit of others planning similar events:

- Meet regularly and begin organising early: After securing funding we regularly met around every three weeks or so for seven moths. Starting this early left us with a lot of time to ensure that the decisions we made were informed and ensured that fewer last-minute issues piled up.

- Think about cost and time efficiency: Think about the cost and time factors involved in various tasks and whether they are proportional. For instance: having a nice poster is aesthetically rewarding but might not be the most effective way to contact your target audience. We found that promoting the event digitally through university departments and subject-specific mailing lists as well as having our own web presence on facebook and wikispaces was both cost and time effective.

- Be flexible: We found that flexibility in our plans and being able to react quickly was paramount to the success of the event. For instance finding a host for the main skill-sharing talk proved difficult as the speaker we had planned for had to withdraw last minute for private reasons. Thankfully, Dr. Georgina Collins, who we had been in touch with about POPP, was able to step in last minute and delivered a fantastic skill-sharing session.

- Stay-up-to-date and decide on how to work together: The ability to trouble-shoot unexpected events like this was facilitated through the organising committee having a dedicated means of communication: we set up our own moodle site. Thanks to this we were able to contact everyone quickly and were able to discuss matters as they arose. It also helps to discuss how you plan to divide tasks in the beginning: will everyone have dedicated responsibilities and be able to take decisions alone or should all major decisions be discussed everyone? Who is responsible for replying to emails? Who is the contact person for the delegates / workshop leaders / the venue?

- Think about where you are “placing” the event: The Centre for Contemporary Arts (CCA) felt like an appropriate venue because it allowed us to keep a balance between the academic and the practice elements of practice-as-research. We were very fortunate that the CCA allowed us to use their space without charge (though we covered technical and catering costs). There was a potential for difficulty in being the ‘middle men’, trying to reconcile the needs of our presenters with what the CCA could provide. This was made much easier by the fact one of the organisers worked part time for the CCA and arranged to have regular discussions with the venue.

- Make plans for sustainability: One of our main goals was to establish a network for postgraduates working on practice-as-research projects in Scotland. To make sure that the event would not remain a one-off, we held a network launch event during which we asked attendees what their expectations were for such a network and what kind of events they would like to see in the future. This has led to us setting up a mailing list via jiscmail (the list can be joined by going tohttp://www.jiscmail.ac.uk/POPP) and thanks to Glasgow University’s media department we were able to film some of the workshops and presentations which will be made available on our website (http://par-scotland.wikispaces.com) shortly.

- Know your goals: Our main aim was to was to launch a practice-as-research network and to provide training to practice-as-research postgraduate students. These goals drove our decisions in regard to the structure of the event, the workshop leaders we invited and how we promoted the event. To have a clear idea of our goals helps shape the event and devise a way to evaluate its success. So for instance, if further practice-as-research events are organised through the network, we know that our main aim was achieved.

- Know how to access your funding: One thing to bear in mind is that, like a lot of funding, the New Initiatives scheme requires you to pay certain costs up front and claim them back later. This means that it is important to think about how you will cover these expenses (for instance, a conference meal) before you have access to the funds.