December is the month when we think of winding down, planning a break and some time to rest a little after that busy first semester. Whether you have just joined a doctoral program or are deep into the final years of your own research, the period between September and Christmas is at best hectic. However, before you tune out too far Mark Smith, director of the Doctoral School, points out that you should not forget the important round of January conference deadlines for your Summer 2016.
Choose your destination
We are not saying that you cannot take a break but think about where you would like to be next Summer and who you want to talk to about your work – Naples for the European Group on Organizational Studies (EGOS)? Anaheim for the Academy of Management (AoM)? Berkley for the Society for the Advancement of Socio-Economics (SASE)? Cambridge for the Research & Development Management Conference (RADMA)? Paris for European Academy of Management (EURAM)? Or any other of the multitude of conferences in management research taking place next year. These are not just an opportunity for travel (a nice perk all the same) they are the chance to share your work, test your ideas and progress your own subject-specific knowledge with peers who are interested and experts in the field. But how do you get there?
A key element is to choose the right conference and get your contribution in shape to be accepted. Here your supervisor is invaluable. Supervisors will know which conferences are right for your subject area, your approach and your stage of progress. They will also help you prepare your submission in the right format in order to get a good response from the reviewers who stand between you and your conference place. Following her first EGOS conference Neha CHATWANI (DBA graduate 2014) recalls that “the best way for novices to go academic conferences, like myself, is to work with an accomplished professor … and in my case it was one of my supervisors”.
A conference paper in fact provides a new dimension to the work of a doctoral student with their supervisory team. As Costas PHOTIOU (formerly Grenoble-Newcastle DBA, now PhD) explains “by attending these international events I had the opportunity to cooperate more closely with my supervisors. I gained hands-on practical knowledge of how to submit an effective research abstract, how to complete a full paper, and how to deal with reviewers comments effectively”. Attending conferences is part of business of academics but even if you see your future outside academia there are major benefits from the perspective of a doctoral student.
Conference styles also vary and it is good to have an idea about what is expected. Some conferences demand a full paper for the first January deadline – for example AoM or EURAM. Others require a shorter abstract detailing what the final paper will look like and then give you a bit more time to finalise the document, if you are accepted – EGOS or SASE for example. Neha points out that for her EGOS conference : “I submitted the paper with data derived from my doctoral research… and at acceptance time, around March, a gentle murmur develops in the corridors of business schools around the world”. Then work begins for the second deadline when that final paper will need to be submitted. Costas points out the advantage for a thesis of these staged dates for deliverables and that they “can actually speed up the process in completing the doctoral program. Think about it, writing a paper involves meeting deadlines, so things get done! In essence, every paper is like a small-scale thesis”.
Broad or Narrow
At a more open conference like EGOS or AoM there is a wide range of subjects being discussed. There is the chance to meet experts in your own field but also those from other disciplines in management research where you may have commonalities. Here you will need to choose a paper theme in order to hang out with people doing similar work. For example at EGOS there are over 71 sub-themes in 2016.
In contrast a more dedicated conference is likely to be much smaller scale and can allow you to gain a deeper understanding of the details of particular research community and their research priorities. Costas attended the Dutch HRM conference to discuss his work on HRM strategy and he underlines that it “challenged my point of view, enriched my research and my understanding of the current ‘big issues’ and ‘big debates’ in my field… I had the opportunity to showcase my research, gain visibility and initiate the ‘process’ in positioning myself in the community”.
Other Learning Opportunities
There are other benefits of being at a conference. You will of course present your work and be subject to careful questioning while also hearing the presentations and discussions of other people working in a similar field. However, there are also other events. Again Neha points out “also on offer, a choice of paper development workshops, a session on the art of academic reviewing, a women’s network meeting and a chance to meet editors from top journals”.
Recharge your Doctoral Research
There are also the pre-conference workshops for doctoral students where expert reviewers will really get stuck into your work in a supportive environment. If you choose the right conference you can imagine it is like a theme park with multiple attractions and you will leave inspired and energized for advancing your research. As Costas says “Did I get empowered-YES, inspired-YES, and motivated-YES!”.
Connect with Colleagues
If you attend one of the main conferences you will undoubtedly meet up with other members of the Grenoble Ecole de Management Doctoral Community. At EGOS the Doctoral School regularly organizes a get-together for doctoral students attending and there is always a social event organized by the hosts. These many informal interactions can be as rich as the formal opportunities to talk about your work. As Costas says “as fruitful conversations also take place at lunch, and in the hallway I had the opportunity to have one-on-one conversation with leading personalities in my field”.
Expect the Unexpected
Finally there are also opportunities to learn about new topics and methods. Neha recalls from her earlier EGOS experience a post-conference workshop on the Saturday following the final paper sessions and describes as “amazing, innovative, insightful and fun” the session she attended on the use of photographs for qualitative studies – an “EGOS highlight”.
So the January deadlines are not far away and there is still time so what are you waiting for?