SPRU - Science Policy Research Unit

The 21st DPhil Day a success

Overview by Josh Hutton, SPRU PhD student and conference co-organiser

On 5 of May, DPhil Day was opened by Director of SPRU, Prof Johan Schot and proceeded into a full day of talks on the interaction between ‘uncertainty’ and the whole process of research; from design through to having impact. The first session even included a discussion on self-doubt; an interesting introspection into the ways in which not only young but experienced researchers doubt themselves and how the self-doubt dimension may also contribute to the absence of women in the upper echelons of academia.

An intense programme fostered a large amount of discussion and questioning from the audience, with presentations from:

  • Professors Andy Stirling, Mariana Mazucatto, and Paul Nightingale of SPRU
  • Ken Guy (Co-Founder of Technopolis, retired Head of Science and Technology Policy Division at OECD)
  • Professor Luigi Marengo (LUISS, editor; Structural Change and Economic Dynamics), DSkills Day.

The next day kicked off with Professors Ben Martin and Martin Bell exploring the history, utility, and future of Science, Technology and Innovation Studies. This moved straight into 25 postgraduate presentations; encompassing a range of subjects from ‘Energy Transitions’ to ‘Scientist Emigration’, and from ‘Scientific Misconduct’ to ‘Pandemic Disease Response’. At each presentation, a member of SPRU faculty provided constructive feedback to the presenters. On both days, stirring speeches by Professor Steinmueller served to synthesise and reflect back, and culminated in an inspirational close.

However, an equally important aspect of the conference (at least in the view of this author, an organiser of the event) was the ability to form and foster friendships and ties between postgraduate students and to share research ideas and thoughts with one another. Nothing was more successful at achieving this than the dinner held on the evening of the 5 May at Bill’s Brighton restaurant. Taking up 5 tables for about 60 people, food and drink was shared by all ,and all delegates socialised and networked in a relaxed atmosphere.

SPRU’s DPhil Day started 22 years ago. Initially, students would make separate presentations, which were subject to review by members of the faculty at SPRU, over the course of a few weeks as part pf their normal progression through SPRU’s DPhil course. A group of students took the initiative to organise a full day in which all these presentations would take place, which could be attended by both faculty and students. Today, however, SPRU’s Annual DPhil Day has evolved into a renowned international conference drawing postgraduates and speakers from far and wide. This year, for the first time in its history, the conference drew in presentations from more external postgraduates than internal.

The conference was a true pleasure to organise and run, and on behalf of the organising committee I would like to thank all that attended, contributed, and helped to organise such a wonderful event. Combined experiences over both days truly made for a memorable conference and formed ties that will last and create interesting partnerships and collaborations to advance the field of Science, Technology and Innovation Studies