Category Archives: PGF-ACTS

PGF-ACTS 2016 – Reflections…

Also at the 2016 RGS-IBG Annual International Conference in London, PGF-ACTS or the Postgraduate Forum Annual Training Symposium provided training to postgraduate delegates. The pre-conference event gathered delegates based all over the UK and from a variety of backgrounds, all to receive relevant training and engage in networking in a supportive environment. The event featured three distinct training sessions with experienced academics explaining how to deal with a conference, getting the most out of the PhD experience, and discussing the post-PhD stage. Keep reading for a summary of the sessions, as reported by our delegates.

1. Getting the most out of the conference – Dr. Nicola Thomas 

By Greg Thomas – Aberystwyth University 

The first session entitled getting the most out of the conference was given by Dr Nicola Thomas (University of Exeter) and did not disappoint! The session, primarily aimed at those who had not been to a conference before, gave a fun, and highly interactive guide to what to expect at a conference and how to make the most of the experience.

Using the analogy of a carousel, Nicola discussed the highs and lows that everyone experiences throughout the conference journey. Personally I found it very reassuring to know that these perfectly natural, and are to be expected, and that even the most experienced of academics go through the same as those of us who are experiencing our first conferences. After this short introductory discussion came the return of arguably one of the biggest talking points of the 2015 Annual Conference, Top Trumps. The packs designed by delegates at the 2015 event were handed out and we split into groups and began to play. Using the 2015 Top Trumps facilitated further discussions around the good and the not so good aspects of our own conference journeys, as well as possible ways to overcome these.

This year’s activity was then revealed. We were tasked with designing our own nexus thinking board games, based around the highs and lows of the conference experience. When a high was hit you got to collect a piece of gold from the middle of the game; if a low was experienced you had to go back on the board. The person to get fifteen pieces of gold first won. Once the game was designed, we swapped boards, and we gave them a go!

The session was a fantastic icebreaker for the conference and got the whole room talking and interacting, and showed to delegates that we were all in the same boat sharing the same hopes and fears of the conference.

2. Making the most of the PhD experience – Prof. Klaus Dodds, Dr. Sarah Mills and Dr. Tara Woodyer 

By Amber Wilson – University of Sheffield 

The second workshop of PGF-ACTS was based around the theme of “making the most out of the PhD experience”. In advance of the workshop attendees were asked to book onto one out of three breakout sessions, in anticipation of stimulating a more detailed conversation on how to navigate potential opportunities which may arise whilst undertaking a PhD. These three breakout sessions consisted of: “engaging with the public and disseminating research to a wider audience”, led by Dr. Tara Woodyer (University of Portsmouth); “publications”, led by Prof. Klaus Dodds (Royal Holloway, University of London); and “developing your personal profile” led by Dr. Sarah Mills (Loughborough University).

On the day, the workshop began with all attendees of PGF-ACTS listening to a short overview of each of the three breakout sessions, giving the option to swap sessions if necessary. The overriding message from all of the session leaders was the importance of choosing opportunities which would add value to your own, individual PhD experience but not at the detriment of writing the actual PhD thesis. It was also highlighted, that in order to make the most out of each experience it was necessary to evaluate what impact each activity may have on future career development; be it academic or non-academic. After the brief introduction, the attendees split off (almost evenly) into the “three breakout sessions” making way for a more relaxed and appropriate environment to proper discuss the each topic.

After a good thirty minutes of discussion (although this could have easily been extended to an hour’s worth), everyone returned back to the Ondaatje Theatre for the final part of the session. A volunteer from each of the breakout sessions was given five minutes to summarise the key findings, with prompting from each of the session’s leaders. This then led to a more general discussion from the panel leading the workshop including their own “top-tips” and PhD experiences as well as some of the pitfalls of engaging with activities that are beyond the basic requirements of the PhD. All three of the session leaders gave a balanced and honest account of a whole host of “PhD related activities”, which included: teaching experiences; journal reviewer comments; unpaid “jobs”; volunteering in the community; conference presentations; organising workshops and other un-related events that enhanced their overall PhD experience and their on-going careers today. In particular, it was quite refreshing to hear that, it was acceptable to be selfish in some instances (e.g. saying “yes” to a ten minute slot in your PhD supervisor’s 2nd year methods module, but also saying “no” to ten hours of unpaid seminar facilitation).

Overall, this particular workshop seemed to be well received by all attendees and was deemed particularly useful for new PhD students. Furthermore, it was clearly stated that each PhD experience is unique and that there is no “right or wrong way” of undertaking extra-curricular activities of a PhD (as the main take away point of the overall workshop). Subsequently, this workshop seemed to drive the greatest amount of discussion at PGF-ACTS from the general audience, as they required very little prompting when volunteers were sought for and when questions were asked.

3. Post-PhD: What next? – Dr. Ellie Miles, Dr. Virginia Panizzo and Dr. Matthew Rech 

By Maddy Thompson – Newcastle University 

The final session of the day brought three early-career geographers – Dr. Ellie Miles, Dr. Ginnie Panizzo, and Dr. Matthew Rech – into PGF-ACTS, to share their experiences and advice for the dreaded post-PhD stage in a panel setting. Ellie began by recounting her ‘lucky’ experiences of finding work at various prestigious museums and galleries. Despite her claims of luck Ellie’s unwavering perseverance was clear as she adhered to her father’s advice: ‘if you hang around long enough, they’ll eventually have to pay you’. For those looking to work beyond (yet not fully apart from) the academy, Ellie’s story, advice, and resulting success should serve as a motivator. Her interesting take on short term contracts was also a breath of fresh air – while they can be stressful, it also guarantees variety in your working life.

Ginnie followed, offering a perspective of a physical geographer. Similarly to Ellie, she claimed luck had contributed to her gaining her current position, yet again, it was clear that in fact hard work and flexibility were also at play. Ginnie stressed the importance in searching in less obvious places for jobs, the importance of creating and maintaining (international) networks, and the benefits that can emerge when willing to be geographically mobile and flexible.

Finally, Matthew recounted his numerous short-term contracts. While Ginnie and Ellie may be able to claim luck had helped them, Matthew’s story seemed instead to be plagued by a distinct lack of luck. Despite an impressive CV filled with post-docs and teaching fellowships, Matthew struggled to find the elusive lectureship for several years. Finally, an opening on the other side of the country gave him the chance to gain permanent employment, and a place to put his teaching and research skills to use. The resulting discussion gave our postgraduates the opportunity to question the three presenters on their regrets, challenges, and opportunities. A lively discussion was had, but perhaps the most important conclusion was that the post-PhD stage is stressful, uncertain, and precarious. It is not the light at the end of the PhD-tunnel that we may imagine. Yet with hard work and perseverance, combined with a clear idea of what your non-negotiables are, it was shown that success is possible, in a variety of post-PhD avenues.

RGS-IBG Annual Conference: Creative Evaluation

During the conference you are invited to share ideas, pix, comments, links, documents and messages on the createvaluate blog – researcher Sue Challis and Quaco Cloutterbuck will be trying creative and visual research techniques throughout the week – and we’ll share any interesting data with the RGS-IBG. We’ve designed two special online surveys for Postgrads – the first on the Tuesday page of the blog – we’ll feed the results back to you ! Come and say hello in the RGS Foyer during the conference. We’re also running a couple of workshops: Wednesday Session 2 Sunley Room RGS-IBG Hands on creative research workshop – with artist & researcher Sue Challis Friday Session 2 Nightingale Room RGS-IBG Critique of creative methods + ‘how to’ online blog with social justice researcher Quaco Clouterbuck


Please find outlined below the details for PGF-ACTS on Tuesday 27th

Venue : The registration and lunch will be held at the RGS-IBG, while the event itself will be in the Sir Alexander Fleming Building (Lecture Theatre G34 and Seminar Rooms 121 and 122), Imperial College. (Map).

We will gather at the RGS-IBG from Noon on-wards and then travel together to the Sir Alexander Fleming Building. Please note you have to register at the RGS-IBG first. For full directions to RGS-IBG, including public transport connections, please visit or view WSW7 2AR on Open Street Map.


Time Session title Further information
Midday to 12.50pm Registration and lunch Registration open for all conference delegates at the RGS-IBG, with lunch available for those attending PGF-ACTS, before walking to Imperial College (5min) for PGF-ACTS event.
1pm Opening Comments Sophie Yarker, Chair of the PG Forum and Jonathan Rigg, Chair of Conference
1:15 to 2:30pm Publishing strategies A workshop on publishing strategies during and after a PhD.

Contributors: Professor Klaus Dodds (Editor, The Geographical Journal) and Dr Madeleine Hatfield (Managing Editor, Journals, RGS-IBG).

2:30 to 3:30pm Word Café: Shared experiences Friendly discussion and networking opportunity, using World Café format.  Early-career researchers will be on hand to provide advice and information on a range of topics.

Contributors include: Teaching and learning – Prof.  Rhys Jones (Aberystwyth University); Creative Research Methods – Dr Libby Straughan (University of Glasgow); Online presence and work beyond the academy – Dr Hilary Geoghegan (University College London); Starting off on a research/academic career – Dr Paul Simpson (Plymouth University); Research Funding – Dr Sarah Mills (Loughborough University); Academic job applications – Dr Sara Fregonese (University of Birmingham); Writing, getting published and collaborating – Dr Harriet Hawkins (Royal Holloway); Creative Evaluation – Sue Challis (Community Arts Worker)

3:30 to 4:00pm Tea/coffee break  
4:00 to 5:15pm Transferable skills from a PhD: getting the job A panel discussion and Q&A session about identifying and exploiting the transferable skills acquired in the course of a PhD, and how they match the changing job markets inside and outside academia.

Panellists: Professor Bruce Braun (University of Minnesota); Professor Nina Laurie (Newcastle University); Kate Amis (Education and employment consultant).

5:15 to
c. 5:30pm
Closing remarks and evaluation  
Arrive for 6pm Walk back to the RGS-IBG for the conference opening plenary session and drinks reception.  

Social Media 

Stay in contact during the conference:  @PGF_RGSIBG   #RGSIBG13


If you have any general questions relating to the event please feel free to contact me. For any questions regarding registration, payments and the rest of the conference please email

Postgraduate Training Symposium at the RGS-IBG Annual Conference

Postgraduate delegates are invited to attend a training and networking symposium on Tuesday 27 August 2013 (the day before the Annual Conference begins), hosted and subsidised by the RGS-IBG Postgraduate Forum.

PGF-ACTS is organised jointly by the PGF and the RGS-IBG to provide a training and networking opportunity for postgraduates attending the RGS-IBG Annual Conference. As it is held the day prior to the start of the Annual International Conference, it also provides an opportunity for postgraduates to get to know other delegates and the conference venue before the start of the full conference.

Workshops, panel discussions and opportunities for Q&A, led by established professional geographers and other experts, will enable postgraduates to develop transferable skills, whilst also enriching the experience and value of attending the conference.


The symposium will run from approximately 1.00pm to 6.00pm on Tuesday 27 August 2013.

A full programme will be published shortly, but the symposium will include:

  • A workshop on publishing strategies will explore elements such as: splitting a PhD into a series of journal articles, getting networked for/with academics, and getting your name recognised in the post-doc market
  • A workshop on the identification and use of the transferable skills from a PhD and how they match to the graduate job market inside and outside academia
  • A facilitated World Cafe networking session to share experiences on topics such as social media, job applications, research methods, dissemination and getting your research out beyond academia


The cost of the symposium is £15 (in addition to the conference registration fee), which includes lunch on arrival and an evening drinks reception on Tuesday 27 August 2013.

Due to high demand, attendance is limited to those postgraduates who are attending the conference. To register, please add the ‘PGF-ACTS – Postgraduate Forum Annual Conference Training Symposium’ session option when you register for conference. For more information about registering, please refer to the registration page.


RGS Annual Conference Programme

The provisional programme for the RGS Annual Conference is now online and searchable by session and by presenter. This really is a conference with something for everyone, with all of the research groups involved in running sessions on everything from Affordable Housing to Open Data to Climate Change and Resource Conflict. The earlybird booking deadline is the 14th June, and you can register here. The conference will be held at the RGS and Imperial College, London, from the 28th-30th August.

If you need any more tempting the postgraduate forum will be running our annual training workshop on the 27th. The symposium is a half-day networking and training event led by established geographers and other professionals and hosted by the Society’s Postgraduate Forum, covering such topics as publishing, career planning, and an opportunity to get advice from recent graduates, early-career scholars and senior academics across a range of topics. The £15 fee includes lunch, workshop costs and an evening drinks reception.

PGF Annual Conference Training Symposium (PGF-ACTS)







The PGF Annual Conference Training Symposium took place in Edinburgh the day before the RGS-IBG Annual Conference. This half day workshop provided an opportunity to learn useful skills and network with postgraduate students from around the country.

Summaries of the workshop sessions on ‘How to Publish’ and ‘Academic Careers’ are provided in the posts below, and there were also sessions on ‘Feeling Confident about your Phd’ (including a mock viva DVD), and ‘What I Wish I Knew’

We’re always looking for ideas of what to cover in out annual training session, so if you have any thoughts on what to cover, or feedback from this year, please use the interactive forum on this website!

PGF-ACTS 2012: Careers in Academia

This aim of this session was to consider how best to prepare for a career in academia and was run by three very experienced and successful academics:  Mike Bradshaw (University of Leicester), Michael Brown (University of Washington), and Rachel Spronken-Smith (University of Otago).

The session covered the importance of building up your portfolio in terms of teaching experience, research and generally getting involved in professional organisations and in the research culture of your own departments and universities. Also noted was the importance of a good covering letter with your CV, key elements of which include: how you fit the job specification, your publication strategy, your teaching philosophy and your awareness of the department for which you are applying.

The interview process was also discussed and top tips included: make sure you know the logistics of the interview (ie where you are going and at what time), do not go over allotted time if asked to do a presentation and ask questions that demonstrate ambition.

For more details see the slides available here. Thanks to the presenters for an informative and engaging session and to all the participants for their involvement. We hope you found it useful and enjoyable!

Final Programme for PGF-ACTS 2011

The programme for PGF-ACTS 2011 has been finalised and is available to download using the link below.
New for the RGS-IBG Annual Conference 2011, PGF-ACTS has been designed to deliver a unique training experience for postgraduates at all stages of their research. The symposium offers a supportive environment where you can begin to establish professional and personal networks amongst postgraduate peers.

Already registered for the RGS-IBG Annual Conference? It’s not too late to register for PGF-ACTS too! More places now available!

Due to overwhelming interest in PGF-ACTS we have secured a larger venue and can now accept further registrations for the event. Also, you can now register for PGF-ACTS even if you’ve already registered for conference. To do so is easy – just email and request that you want to register for PGF-ACTS.
Not seen the draft programme yet? Click here to download it.Any questions or queries? Please get in touch with the PGF by sending us a message via the contact form.