In 2016, I bought an old folding bicycle (manufactured in the GDR in the mid-1970s) to use as a conference bike. I can transport it for free on German trains and am able to cruise around cities after a long day at a conference, which is great as a day at a conference usually means sitting around a lot and eating sweet stuff during breaks.
After being inactive since last year, my trusted “Conf Bike” (pictured below) was reactivated for the GfHf-Conference, the yearly summit of the German Association for Research in Higher Education. This was my first participation at a GfHf get-together, and my first foray into presentations on higher ed research. I did not present anything, but three colleagues of the HoF showcased their research projects.
It was an interesting contrast to the conferences in American Studies that I have known so far. Presentations often focused on quantitative research in still ongoing projects, ie. in many cases people presented graphs and numbers and correlations between different research variables.
Yet, what many shied away from were hypotheses or wider-reaching ideas that went beyond the mere numbers. In American Studies, conferences seem to be considered the approriate space to hypothesise or extrapolate –something you might not necessarily do in published work– while in higher ed research researchers are reluctant to venture beyond anything that doesn’t form part of their original research design.
This initial observation might depend on the fact that a high percentage of presenters were junior professionals, who might arguably feel uncomfortable to discuss anything wider than their hard-and-proper numbers. Still, sitting in presentations that sometimes (not always!) showed mere descriptive design, made me hunger for a more interpretative approach. Let’s see if an opportunity arises, where I can practise what I preach…