ESRC Funded Overseas Institutional Visit to Monash University, Melbourne
By Joanna Elvy (Planning Pathway, University of Leeds)
Earlier this year I had the opportunity to spend 7 weeks in the Institute of Transport Studies at Monash University in Melbourne, on a WRDTC Overseas Institutional Visit. Australia was chosen in part because of its relevance to my PhD literature (particularly the work carried out by Karen Lucas, Graham Currie and Janet Stanley on transport and social exclusion), and in part because I was able to meet my academic hosts in person in advance of the visit (which laid some of the ground work for what we hoped the visit would achieve).
Whilst in Melbourne I was under the care of Graham Currie and Alexa Delbosc, two leading academics based in ITS Monash. During the visit I was given the opportunity to consider the implications of my PhD research from an Australian policy perspective. I therefore took the opportunity to meet a wide variety of government organisations, community groups and academics in Melbourne (and attend a number of events similar to my own case study processes back in the UK) in order to understand participatory transport planning processes in Australia and consider the lessons I can learn from these contexts in my own research.
The visit made an immediate impact on my PhD, giving me the space to take a step back and reflect upon my findings, whilst considering opportunities for alternative perspectives that could otherwise have been missed by being so embedded in my own research. Taking time to look at this fresh case study in detail raised new, interesting questions and insights which I have introduced into my PhD research. During my visit I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to disseminate my findings in front of an international audience through the institute’s ‘Transport Research Workshop’ series.
After the visit Graham, Alexa, my supervisors (Frances Hodgson and Karen Lucas) and I were able to collaborate on a conference presentation which I then delivered at the American Association of Geographers Meeting in San Francisco on 31st March 2016. I will be able to foster further links between my Monash and Leeds colleagues in the near future, as I have invited staff and PhD students from ITS Monash to attend an ‘alumni and friends’ event being hosted at the World Conference on Transport Research in Shanghai during July 2016. I am hopeful that the visit will benefit my future career as it provided me with experience of an academic research environment outside of the UK.
In summary, I would wholeheartedly recommend the OIV scheme on both a personal and academic level. Taking time out of my PhD to look at my research from a new angle was invaluable. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting new people and making new contacts, and would welcome the opportunity to work with them again in the future. The trip was unforgettable and the amount of funding given gave me the time and space to meet lots of people and begin to understand the complexities of Melbourne’s transport problems, governance structures and participatory processes.