Geography, Serving Society and the Environment: RGS-IBG Annual Conference, London 2003

Geographical, November 2003 | Go to article overview

Geography, Serving Society and the Environment: RGS-IBG Annual Conference, London 2003


The Society's London headquarters ere a veritable hive of activity in September as we welcomed more than 1,100 delegates to our international annual conference. This year, the long tradition of holding the conference at a university was broken as, for the first time, it was held at the Society's Kensington home. Continuing a recent trend, the conference increased its international profile, with 20 per cent of the speakers and delegates travelling to the conference from overseas.

With Alan Werritty (the conference chair) and Lorraine Craig (RGS-IBG head of research and higher education) at the helm, the conference's three days were packed full of plenary and parallel sessions covering the leading edge of geographical research. More than 750 research papers were presented and a selection of field trips explored themes ranging from sea-level changes and occupation in the Lower Thames to security and surveillance in London's financial heartlands.

Many sessions were coordinated by the Society's 23 research groups, which span the scope of geographical interests (www.rgs.org/research). Among the high-profile keynote speakers that the Society was pleased to welcome were Len Cook, director of the Office of National Statistics, and Sir Peter Hall, the Bartlett professor of planning at University College London, both of whom appeared in the Guardian newspaper's recent list of the 100 most influential people in public service. Other top names from the world of geography, including William Cronon and Jim Knox (both University of Wisconson-Madison) and Doreen Massey (Open University), took part in the plenary sessions and evening lectures.

The research presented at the conference received plenty of media attention, with more than 40 related articles appearing in the national daily papers, along with a slot on the BBC news. Much of the other research played an equally important role in furthering understanding of geographical issues--for example working to explain emerging patterns of trade and migration in Europe, furthering knowledge on flood modelling and understanding geographies of medical health--all of which will have an influence on policy decisions and agendas for overcoming some of the world's most pressing issues. The research also illustrated how, in a very practical way, geography serves society and the environment--the key theme of the conference.

Not only were the delegates able to sample the new seminar and conference facilities at the RGS-IBG but were also able to refresh themselves with a wee dram of whisky courtesy of Dalmore--the main conference sponsors. More than 200 delegates joined the Society as new Fellows and the success of the conference paves the way for many more conferences, seminars, teaching sessions, debates and other events at the Society as it continues to develop as a world centre for geography.

Glasgow 2004--a festival of geography

Next year's conference, to be chaired by eminent UK geographer Ken Gregory, will see another format change. It will form part of the wider International Geographical Congress. This, the 30th Congress of the IGU, will be held in the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre and Glasgow Moat House Hotel from 15 to 20 August. Everyone is welcome. A call for papers and registration details can be found at: www.meetingmakers.co.uk/ IGC-UK2004

Conference news round-up

The following is a sample of the research that hit the headlines during the conference. You'll find more details of the research that was presented at www.rgs.org/ACLondon2003. You can also obtain a CD-Rom containing speakers' abstracts by emailing rhed@rgs.org.

Census and society

Geographers have been among the first to analyse the 2001 census results, unearthing some fascinating results of UK demographics. For example, there has been a 40 per cent increase in the black and ethnic minority population since 1991, while the white population has showed little growth. …

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