Research Forum WIFO
European research communities in VET and HRD
Comparative analysis of two annual conferences
This comparative analysis, which is based on the author's active involvement in various European partnerships and networks, has been carried out in connection with project work supported by Cedefop and the University Forum for HRD.
Trends in participation point to the predominant function of ECER and the HRD conference to facilitate dissemination and extend contacts, while the potential for building or strengthening conferences communities seems to be less pronounced.
Both ECER and the HRD conference show similar patterns of attendance:
The UK and the Netherlands may be regarded as the European pillars of participation in the two conferences. However, with regard to parallel participation in ECER and the HRD conference, the Dutch researchers are in the lead, while the UK researchers are only modestly represented. Consequently, the UK participants are the strongest force - by sheer quantity - in the divided conference communities.
There is a remarkable similarity between presentations at the two conferences, according to the distribution of thematic descriptors. This outcome contrasts with the low degree of linkage between the two conference communities.
Transnational presenters and transnational sessions play a greater part at ECER than at the HRD conference. A major reason for this difference can be found in the specific context of European project partnerships and networks in which many ECER participants are involved.
The mailing lists operating for the two conferences have mainly the effect of maintaining the community of previous participants while contributing little to attracting newcomers.
The following email messages have been received by the author - further comments are welcome!
Jim Stewart, Nottingham Trent University, UK; Chair of UFHRD (22 Dec 2005)
Two initial thoughts - First, I wondered whether the two communities shared their participant databases for publicising their conferences. I think I have suggested contacting EERA to UFHRD/AHRD conference organisers in the past but I am not sure if it has ever been done and I don't know either if any organisers of ECER have ever used the UFHRD/AHRD conference or membership databases. My second thought arises from my experience of
Tarja Tikkanen, International Research Institute of Stavanger (IRIS), Norway (3 May 2006)Concerning the relationships between the two subjects - VET and HRD - I think it will be important that we will take care of a better focusing of our papers on both, trying to demonstrate the implications of our arguments in each one of the two fields.
The role of language is pointed to in several places. As a non-native in English I still feel like underlining the issue - which I believe is particularly pronounced again in relation to extending conference attendance to the new EU countries. It is crucial for participation – and particularly for non-participation. Much of it of course boils down to resources, but even more so than for native speakers. It can be both highly time-consuming for a non-native to write a conference paper in English and expensive (and even more time-consuming/ laborious) to have it proof-read (those who have it done). Partnerships in EU projects, naturally, give both an impetus and additional resources for dissemination through conference participation. But there is more to that than money. Attending the conference can be a real challenge, as the native speakers very rarely pay attention to the fact that most of the listeners are trying to make sense out of it as ‘foreigners’. Furthermore, participating in the discussion can be even more challenging for non-natives - as it can be a challenge to natives to listen to a non-native. Every now and then this issue has been taken up in international conferences, but with relatively little impact, as to what I have observed. Oftentimes, then, writing a paper to a journal can be a more attractive alternative to reach the international research community. However, I admit that my perspective may be coloured by my Nordic background – we tend to be more timid and sensitive in regards communication than the southern Europeans, as you may have noticed. An example from the Nordic adult education conferences: While the Scandinavians pretty much are able to understand each other, there is often translation available to the Finnish attendants. However, and somewhat surprisingly, Finnish participants have commented that they find this (particular attention to them) uncomfortable and prefer using English. When organised in Finland last time, the official conference language was English!
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Set up: 15/12/2005
Latest update: 30/06/2006
Contact: Sabine Manning