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ESA PhD Summer School 2020 – Separate but together!

Issue 46: Pandemic (Im)Possibilities vol. 2 Sat 1 May 2021 0

Hamide Elif Üzümcü, University of Padova, Italy

The ESA PhD Summer School 2020, “Enhancing Sociology – Strengthening Sociologists”, was accomplished despite the severely challenging conditions of the outbreak. Notwithstanding the instabilities of the regulations on international travel and event organisation, and on top of that the demanding technicalities of adopting a hybrid model, it was a remarkable success.

A true hybrid spirit characterised this year’s summer school. Its home was in Ljubljana, but it was also connected to the homes of most of the participants across Europe – from Finland to Turkey, from England to Lithuania. While only a few of us could make it to Ljubljana, ESA embraced an innovative approach to make this summer school available for all attendees. In my case, respecting the border-crossing measures, I was fortunate to reach Ljubljana with only a 3-hour drive from Padova, where I study. A hybrid mode of participation being novel for many of us, thanks to Milica Antić Gaber, the Director of the Summer School 2020, and Nuša Knez who worked diligently to make sure of a smooth technological mediation, we had two full days of working on the papers in a vivid and stimulating environment.

Celebrating the opportunity to network with both online and on-site participants, we benefitted from new possibilities of enhancing a team spirit, with some of the colleagues updating the progress in the sessions and sharing the real-time experience and photos of the ‘separate but together’ attendance on social media platforms. Sadly though, our virtually-participating colleagues could not take part in mid- and post-event socialisation occasions. Through a thought-provoking Guided Feminist Walk, and the coffee and meal breaks across the city, we were truly immersed in Ljubljana’s autumnal vibes. Sharing in person the same time and geography also privileged us to go for further discussions and exchange of opinions on each others’ papers in unscheduled time slots.

PhD session

Collaborating with academics who are willing to invest time to review a 7000-word manuscript is an essential opportunity particularly for young scholars at the onset of their academic path. The ESA PhD summer school fills a critical gap in this respect. It not only engages the peers themselves in reviewing, but also provides each author with a published mentor’s feedback and opens the paper to a wider discussion. With this unique opportunity, I found out that peer-reviewing is tremendously instructive. It made me relate to the hardships that the peer author went through in writing, and to reflect on my own process of formulating my paper. Sharing a similar experience of facing the multiple challenges of producing an article, the comments of the peer-discussants were invaluable. In addition, our papers were assigned to tutors who conveyed elaborately their constructive insights and tips on improving them.

The scheme further included a keynote speech by the ESA president, Marta Soler Gallart, offering professional advice on publishing in top sociological journals. She invited us to consider the significance of the quality of the paper content, as well as from a wider perspective the journal’s ranking and its impact. Moreover, the talks by the editors, Michalis Lianos and Paul Blokker, enriched our understanding about how to prepare a paper for publication.

ESA PhD summer school traditionally offers a genuinely dynamic program that is devoted to enhancing young researchers’ academic writing and publication. This year, even under such unfamiliar circumstances, it ensured a safe and technically well-equipped setting to achieve its objective. At the end of the final session, Prof. Antić Gaber said farewell, wishing that this summer school had helped us become better sociologists. As a participant, I know by experience now that the mission was accomplished!

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