Did you enjoy our annual conference? I hope you did! This year we had almost 100 abstracts submitted from delegates across 12 countries. It has been the largest and most international PAC Annual Conference in many years.
People often ask me why I do it. Why be Chair of the PAC? Why convene the annual conference? I know that the drive within academia is towards more and more instrumentalism – and the time it takes to do these things I could be writing research bids or journal papers. But I hope that you can see, having participated in the sessions, heard from Professor Barbara Crosby and Rt Hon Baroness Grey-Thompson, and had fun at the conference dinner, why I feel it is a great privilege and honour to serve as your Chair.
The Joint University Council is the UK Learned Society for pubic administration, public policy and social work. As such we have a very important position as the voice of the public administration community. We therefore have the ability to inform and shape the nature of our subject. At this conference there have been many great ground-breaking pieces of research presented but also three things that will help to shape our subject in the future:
1. The conference theme
We made the conscious decision to include marginalisation within the conference theme. This was in recognition that we need to do more to include aspects of marginalisation within our subject. And it was great to see some papers exploring issues related to BAME communities, LGBTQ+ issues and alternative methodological approaches such as post-structuralism and critical realism. For some time now public administration has been a marginalised subject – particularly within business schools. We are lucky that, at Northumbria University, the subject is valued but that is not the case for many of our colleagues and so we have an important role to play in both advocating for more public administration but also pushing the boundaries of what public administration is and who it involves.
2. REF Post-2021
Within the conference packs you will have seen our REF Post-2021 Position Statement. This was developed with the PAC together with colleagues from the special interest groups from the Political Studies Association (PSA) and British Academy of Management (BAM). The statement sets out how important public administration research is and how, in particular within the Unit of Assessment C17, it forms a large part of the submissions.
3. QAA Subject Benchmark Statements
Alongside our position statement on the REF Post-2021 we also have developed a position statement on the QAA Subject Benchmark Statements. Again this was developed with colleagues from the relevant special interest groups from the PSA and BAM. This statement highlights the importance of public services to the economy and for employment. In order to ensure undergraduate students, particularly those graduating with management degrees, are equipped for employment in the mixed employment it is important that public services feature more widely in management degrees.
All these developments highlight how public management and administration is changing. How many people are attending the conference here for the first time? I can see many new faces. You also represent change and by working together, within our learned society, you can play a role in shaping the nature of our subject in the future. We also have two new members of the PAC executive – Dr Karin Bottom is our new Vice-Chair for Teaching and Learning and Dr Russ Glennon is our new Vice-Chair for Research. We are growing and we are changing.
This leads me on to our doctoral researchers. On Monday we held our Doctoral Conference. It was well attended and I was incredibly impressed by the quality of the papers presented. Across the board there were excellent presentations. This made it a very difficult task for both Karin and I in coming to a decision on the Richard Chapman Prize for best doctoral paper. We judged this on a number of criteria including the currency of the research, how it contributes to the field, the quality of the paper and how it fits with the overall conference theme. It was a difficult decision and in the end we have awarded the Richard Chapman Prize along with two additional Highly Commended awards.
Winner of the Richard Chapman Prize in 2019 is Dayo Eseonu from University of Manchester for her paper on “Co-production as social innovation: new wine or new skin for the inclusion of “hard-to-reach” groups in service delivery’.
We award ‘Highly Commended’ to Sean McCulloch from Northumbria University for his paper on ‘Facilitating change from within complex systems: the impact of individual change agents in the NHS’ and to Emma Reith from University of Birmingham for his paper on ‘Research at the margins: the trials and tribulations of stepping outside of one’s disciplinary norms’.
The quality of these papers, and all those presented at the doctoral conference, represent how bright our future is as a subject. We are the only UK Learned Society to represent public administration and social work and it we have a vital role to play in ensuring that our doctoral researchers, early career researchers and academics at all levels are supported. We have a strong position in doing this. We have two journals: Public Policy and Management and Teaching Public Administration, we have our annual conference, we have successfully nominated REF panel members to both the Politics and Business Management panels, we have nominated fellows of the Academy of Social Sciences, we have nominated fellows to the JUC, we also provide funding and other support to those within our member institutions.
I am delighted to confirm that the two funding competitions – for a research seminar series and for a small research grant – will be announced to all member institutions very soon. We also have an opening for treasurer of the JUC. So there are lots of ways to get involved – please contact me or either of my Vice-Chairs if you would like to find out more.
Thank you colleagues for all your participation over the last three days. I will now hand over to Alistair Jones, from De Montfort University, who will introduce you to the PAC Annual Conference 2020!