GRONEN PhD Consortium

GRONEN PhD Consortium

When a lecturer in my school suggested I apply to the Gronen PhD consortium, I admit I was none too confident. Although my topic centres on issues of corporate ethics and sustainability, I don’t come from a management background and I wasn’t sure what I would be getting myself into. Would I be good enough? Did I have the necessary experience and material? Would what I was going to say go down OK? Would anyone even like my topic?

As it turns out, I had no need to worry: some of us were just starting-out and wanted guidance on where to go, others (me included) were half-way through, had some data, but were uncertain about making the leap from data and analysis to producing a paper, a few had the makings of a great paper, but wanted further input on how to maximise the originality and relevance of what they had to say.

The prospect of presenting to Ed Freeman, Frances Bowen, Nicole Darnall, and Tima Bansal was thrilling and terrifying in equal measure. On the plus side, they are leaders in their field. On the minus side, they are leaders in their field… How could I possibly impress them?! As it is, I shouldn’t have worried: all of us benefited over the course of two days from their considered, thoughtful and insightful input. Ask yourself: other than your supervisors and your viva examiners, who else is going to read, critique, and help develop your work in great depth? It doesn’t happen in conference, for sure. If you manage your time and present well, you might be lucky to receive some useful feedback and/ or questions… but equally you might not. Peer review is (often painfully) detailed but lacks the interactivity that a one-hour slot dedicated to presentation and discussion of your paper can take.

In the Consortium we were primed for each other’s topic, and presenters had the opportunity to consider suggestions at length. Don’t be fooled: this wasn’t an exercise in self-congratulation. We all faced searching questions and criticisms, sometimes for assumptions about bodies of literature or audience interest in a particular topic, sometimes for the choice of terminology, or method of analysis we had planned or were planning on using. I was no exception, but I came away feeling more positive about my work than I had been beforehand. Doubts about the strengths and weaknesses in my work were much clearer to me afterwards, and I had the basis for mapping-out where my work should head.

Now, with the 2018 Gronen PhD Consortium and Conference on the horizon, I can safely say that I am in a far better position having taken time-out from fieldwork to apply. If you have doubts about your suitability, my advice is to place them to one side and go for it. At the very least you’ll benefit from meeting peers from around the World who have interests intersecting with your own, and you’ll learn about so many different things. Just ask anyone in our group about broiler chickens in Denmark and lessons for corporate sustainability.

In 2018 there will be celebrate a PhD Consortium at GRONEN’18.

Tom Smith

PhD Candidate

Sustainability Research Institute

School of Earth and Environment

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