The award of the John Guest Phillips travelling scholarship enabled me to attend the 2005 Annual meeting of the Association of American Geographers in Denver, Colorado. The event drew over 2000 academic geographers from throughout the World and provided and unrivalled opportunity to both present my work to a diverse and specialist audience whilst also learning about the work of others. It also allowed me to nurture valuable relationships with other scholars, something that will undoubtedly be valuable in the future and allow the collaboration and pier-review central to academic life.
During the conference I presented a paper in a session specifically targeted at my research speciality, the globalization of firms. The paper outlined one element of the research findings from my PhD. This was beneficial as it allowed me to receive feedback about the strengths and weaknesses of the arguments made in my paper, compare my theorisation of my findings to others approaches and consider how my work fits with the wider interests of my piers. In particular it highlighted the strength of my empirical findings but the need to more critically appraise the spatiality of the processes highlighted. This will allow me to more effectively develop the argument put forward in the paper before submitting a written version for journal publication. The new contacts I made also means I will be able to get feedback from piers on the written paper before the official pier review process associated with journal publication.
As well as presenting my paper attendance at the conference also allowed me to participate in sessions organised by other economic geographers. Of particular interest were sessions on (a) finance and globalization; (b) the organization of service production across space; and (c) global production networks and the role of foreign direct investment. These sessions provided me with the chance to find out about the cutting edge research being undertaken by others and the research avenues and theories investigated. It also allowed me to canvass the opinion of others on important areas of future research. This has already helped me identify a number of ideas that could be developed in future research projects.
In addition I attended a day long session scrutinising priorities and practices for teaching economic geography. This session allowed me to gain a greater appreciation of both the differing approaches to teaching the subject and also the most successful techniques for achieving student engagement with the subject. I gained a number of useful insights from more experienced scholars participating in the session that will certainly be useful in my future academic career.
Combined these opportunities, afforded by attendance at the conference, were of great value and only possible thanks to the scholarship award. There is undoubtedly no event within the UK that attracts such a wide and prestigious array of geographers and therefore the ability to travel to the USA was most beneficial. The rewards of the trip will therefore undoubtedly be reaped in the near future.