The AIRS Seminars

 

Building on the success of the AIRS workshops, we are pleased to announce a new funding initiative, The AIRS Seminar. The AIRS Seminar is seen as a way to diversify existing provision of the AIRS research/doctoral workshops and to raise the quality of the intellectual debate in the field of construction management research. The AIRS Seminar should be distinctive from the established AIRS research/doctoral workshops. To this end, the aim of the AIRS Seminar is to sustain high-quality intellectual debates that would push the frontiers of knowledge in construction management research. The main objectives are:

  1. To attract and engage leading scholars from the social science disciplines and fields of organisational and management studies who have an interest in, and can add value to, the field of construction management research;
  2. To bring together a range of researchers (from early-career to established Professors) to actively discuss and debate on cutting-edge thinking and to provoke fresh agendas for construction management research, and;
  3. To stimulate the production of scholarly outputs such as special journal issues and edited books.

If you are interested in hosting The AIRS Seminar, you will need to complete an application form and email the completed form to AIRS WEBSITE. It is important that you take note of a number of key principles of running the AIRS Seminar. Participation in an AIRS Seminar should be by invitation only. This does not preclude an open call, but prospective participants have to demonstrate the potential to actively contribute to the seminar discussion. Selection is typically made on the basis of an email application, with prospective participants stating their area of expertise, how their research interests and current work connect with the seminar theme, and what they hope to get out of the seminar.

Unlike the AIRS research/doctoral workshop where presenters have to prepare a six-page article for inclusion in a set of workshop proceedings, presenters at the AIRS Seminar need not produce a full paper. Presenters may choose to produce an outline of their thoughts in a range of formats for the seminar (e.g. an extended abstract, a full paper, presentation slides, poster etc.), but the emphasis is on producing a coherent set of outputs after the seminar. Thus, the AIRS Seminar should be viewed as a vehicle for stimulating further collaborative work (e.g. joint publications, special issue/edited book, research network etc.) after the event. However, any output that is subsequently produced as a consequence of discussions at an AIRS Seminar must acknowledge the financial support provided by AIRS. As the AIRS Seminar is designed to encourage active participation of attendees, it is desirable to maintain a lower number of participants (i.e. maximum of around 20 participants). There is no fixed format for the AIR

Seminar. A seminar can take place over a day or a residential weekend depending on interest and number of participants. A seminar can also be stand-alone or part of a coherent series.
Approval for the running of an AIRS Seminar will be sanctioned by the AIRS Seminar Working Group, based on (a) the contemporary nature of the proposal, and (b) its theoretical and provocative content. Proposers should also identify possible contributors, both within and outside of the construction management research community. Leading international scholars should also be invited where appropriate. Proposers should also work with the AIRS Seminar Working Group member(s), who will play an active role in the organisation of the approved seminar. Finally, proposers should indicate intended outputs that can be developed after the seminar. In return for support of an AIRS Seminar, proposers (who would normally be, but not restricted to, AIRS members) must provide a summary/record of the event(s) for publication on the AIRS website and/or newsletter. Please email AIRS for informal queries about the AIRS Seminar.

AIRS Seminar: The industrial strategy and construction management research
Guided and overseen by the Chief Construction adviser to the Government, Peter Hansford, the recently published industrial strategy for construction is underscored by familiar rhetoric similar to the Latham and Egan reports, but has an undeniable ‘futures’ orientation as it attempts to paint reform against a canvas for ‘Construction 2025’. The document is also not written as a review of construction but, rather as a strategy for reforming construction.

It differs from the Government’s Construction Strategy and previous reform discourses, as it is a joint strategy which sets out how industry and Government will work together. To what extent it reflects and resonates with conceptualisations of industrial policy or evidence based policy is not clear but, tacit connections to other multiple Government public and social policies are clear. What is perhaps less clear though is where the strategy fits within the policy landscape and what it means specifically for the research landscape and industry practice.

The seminar therefore aimed to encourage broad and critical scrutiny of the industrial strategy in an attempt to better understand interpretations of it as policy and how it connects with construction management research. In doing so, the seminar brought together 15 academics with an interest in policy and industry reform from within the UK and beyond to primarily address the following questions:

  1. What is Construction policy?
  2. What is the Industrial Strategy for Construction?
  3. Does policy matter and if so why and, to whom?
  4. What role is there for the research community regarding policy?
  5. What research is required?

An exhausting but very informative debate ensued that provided significant insights into the construction management community’s collective understanding of policy and the Industrial strategy for construction. Whilst I cannot report that the seminar concluded with widespread agreement and consensus, I can, from my own perspective, present a number of highly selective conclusions.

Firstly, there is significant mileage in developing a deeper grasp and understanding of policy and the policy landscape.

Secondly, what constitutes construction policy and how disparate public, social and industrial polices relevant to construction connect is necessary to help academic researchers both understand opportunities for analysing policy as well as informing policy with analysis.

Thirdly, our taken-for-granted assumptions about what boundaries constitute the construction industry need to be challenged as they are fundamental in both framing policy research and responding to disparate public, social and industrial policy.

Lastly, whilst there was agreement that policy matters, the importance and relevance of the industrial strategy was less clear cut. The role and type of research to unpick and address the strategy and its was debated and relies heavily upon the first three conclusions. Indeed, construction management research would be all the stronger if it could be positioned and located within policy if, for no other reason than to widen its case for impact.

A concluding thought: if the construction management community similarly responds to the industrial strategy as with previous reform agendas can we too, like the policy makers, simply be accused of ‘at it again’?.

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