Academic conferences

Part of my PhD work is "training" which I find a little bit lame. There should be some sort of opt out that you get assessed for and then don't have to do it.

Most of the 'training' that is offered by my department is so lame and obviously geared at people who have never left university and never had a job. One of them was 'write your CV' and not even academic CV. Having been in the workforce for about...ohh...15 years now, it wasn't something I'd actually get anything out of.

A lot of the other training offered is for much later in the degree process; how to get published, applying for grants etc. I'm not even remotely close to that.

There seems to be a massive gap for 'training' that is relavent and useful for those who are fairly competent or have been in the workforce before. Also, if you are part-time you are essentially not catered for. It's a bit frustrating to say the least. It doesn't help that I'm not near campus either (as it is in Oxford and I am in London).

So, I need to find other things to basically satisfy this very lame condition attached to my PhD. I'm pretty sure they don't even really check up on it. I had to fill in all my training for my registration and no one actually asked for proof of any of it. So in that sense, what is the point?

Since I don't really go to campus or do classes, I need to get intellectual stimulation and inspiration elsewhere. For this, I mostly turn to the Institute of Historical Research. I have to wait until after summer for seminars but there are a profusion of conferences available and some of them look interesting enough (and relevant) for me to go to. But I'm just blown away by the sheer volume of conferences I could go to. One days and two days (one three day in Leiden!) but all super narrowly focussed. I guess that is the point of them but in a sense it is a bit disheartening.

Perhaps it is a romantic notion but I thought conferences were more...unique? Perhaps growing up in North American they were just really hard to get to and so more rare. In the UK and Europe with everything being relatively close and easy to get to - there could just be more.

I have a sneaky feeling though that there are just so many because of the pressure to publicise your research and justify your academic position. This in principle is not a bad thing but I think in practice it is. The one conference I've been to so far was pretty awful. It was just for PhD students but it was so dire that it basically put me off any for the rest of the year. Perhaps it was a bit too art focussed and a bit too post-modern but it was just...lame. I didn't get anything out of it other than my renewed hatred for post-modernist history.

I don't want to have to spend my weekends being more disheartened then when I arrived. Doing research on your own is hard enough. Doing research where you are arguing against most of the historiography (or lack of historiography) makes you constantly wonder if you are just plain wrong. Going to these seminars and conferences should be that intellectual stimulus that propels you forward, where you get to meet other people who are doing the same type of overturning of established ideas.

Instead, you get conferences and colloquia organised by tired PhDs and tired academics that will be a line on their CV or yearly report. It's depressing and apparently my future. What is even worse is that most of them don't actually focus on my area - all the conferences that I am planning to go to are only tangentially related to my topic.


It's going to be a long training year.