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by on September 20, 2013

The University’s 600th birthday festivities have finished (for now), students are back, teaching has resumed, mayhem ensues, normality returns. I love the start of term, the corridors are alive again and my colleagues have returned (mostly) refreshed from a summer of writing, conferencing, fieldworking and holidaying.

Fireworks over East Sands to mark the end of the 600th birthday academic celebrations

Fireworks over East Sands to mark the end of the 600th birthday academic celebrations

This week was an interesting one for me, not least because of the usual frenzy the start of term brings, but because I’ve been out and about at some external events. On Wednesday I went to Edinburgh to a meeting at the Scottish Graduate School about changes in the ESRC funded Doctoral Training Centre. The SGS is the organisation responsible for the allocation and training of ESRC PhD students in Scotland, with which 16 Scottish higher education institutions are associated. One issue amongst many that we discussed was the allocation of studentships across 24 ‘pathways‘ which are broadly analogous to academic disciplines. In 2013, Human Geography did exceedingly well securing well more studentships than other pathways, indeed, when one also considers the additional pathways which may be regarded as related to geography (e.g. Environment, Energy and Climate Change), it seems that there is considerable appetite within the DTC, in addition to demand from students, to undertake research in these areas. Partly this success is the legacy of an historical alliance between Scottish geography departments, but also possibly something to do with the quality of the applications to the pathway. This is quite heartening for the geography discipline (however defined). For me, as I’m now the St Andrews DTC representative for the human geography (and other) pathways, it’ll be really interesting to see how this year goes and if/how the allocation changes in future years.

Kindrogan Field Centre

Kindrogan Field Centre

Another thing that the alliance of Scottish geography departments has resulted in is a weekend training course at the Kindrogan Field Centre in Perthshire. This is a long standing arrangement which pre-dates even my own PhD and this year’s event takes place this coming weekend. As a student I never attended Kindrogan as it clashed with my annual internship in the Scottish Government however this year I am going to Kindrogan as a member of staff, and giving a presentation on social media…. We’ll see how it goes. Having heard a lot about it as a student, I’m intrigued by the whole thing (and am slightly apprehensive about what the students have in store for us!).

The other highlight of my week was going to the Scottish Government‘s Victoria Quay for a meeting with an analyst there.

Victoria Quay

Victoria Quay

This was the first of hopefully many meetings to discuss my not-yet-started ESRC grant ‘Smarter Homes’. I’m counting down the days until this begins next month.

Largely our discussion surrounded the ongoing initiatives that the Government is funding in relation to domestic energy efficiency, behaviour change, and building regulations. It reminded me that not only is the project important from an academic perspective but also from political and practice ones. With the new Energy Bill and associated Green Deal and Energy Companies Obligation (ECO), the policy environment is certainly dynamic, and I have a lot to learn about how all of these are being rolled out. Indeed, it seems that there is considerable opportunity to get involved in and contribute to these policy agendas, although how I’m going to balance this with the academic contributions I also want to make is something that will probably be tricky to manage. I guess only time will tell.

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