From 21-23 April 2022, the Department of Social Policy hosted the first major international conference to take place in person at LSE since the pandemic. This was the first in-person meeting of the RC28 (Social Stratification and Social Mobility) of the International Sociological Association since its Summer 2019 meeting at Princeton. The conference had been long in coming: first proposed in 2017, it was planned to occur in 2021 but was postponed to 2022 due to the pandemic. Over 420 submissions were received and as many as could be accommodated were accepted. The organisers determined from the outset that this should be an in-person-only conference to ensure the benefits of interaction equally for delegates, even if anticipated drop-out meant it ended up as a somewhat smaller conference as a result. In the end, it turned out to be the biggest RC28 conference held to-date.
The major 3-day conference on the theme of ‘Social Stratification and Social Policy for a Post-Covid19 World’, held in LSE’s New Academic Building, welcomed over 360 researchers at all levels of seniority, from emeritus professors to PhD students, from over 20 countries across the globe ranging from US to Poland, from Australia to France, from the Czech Republic to South Korea, and from disciplines including Sociology, Social Policy, Economics, Social Epidemiology, Social Psychology and Demography. The conference showcased a range of new, stimulating, rigorous, socially-relevant research on topics relating to education, the measurement of social mobility, the nature of work, neighbourhood and geography, health, migration, the impacts of COVID-19, income and wealth, intergenerational transmission, the role of genes, and the relevance of institutions. Seven plenary sessions covered topics ranging from climate-related migration to occupational segregation to disability and COVID.
In total, delegates contributed over 300 papers (around 260 oral presentations and around 50 posters), in a packed programme that also allowed ample time for questions, exploring the posters, and informal exchange over croissants, coffee or prosecco. The conference dinner took delegates down the Thames, under Tower Bridge and towards Canary Wharf and included the announcement of travel award recipients and the first RC28 Walter Müller Best Poster Prize.
Berkay Ozcan, Associate Professor in Social Policy, took overall responsibility for the conference supported by a scientific committee of Lucinda Platt, Thomas Biegert, Shuang Chen and Vicente Silva, as well as the Social Policy Events Officer, Maria Schlegel, two excellent conference administrators in the form of Social Policy PhD students, Grace Chang and Michaela Šedovič, the LSE events team, the NAB catering team, and 10 Social Policy students and 3 LSE stewards, who provided support during the conference itself.
As well as the array of eminent and rising social stratification scholars from across the globe, local researchers were well-represented: around 10 past and current Social Policy PhDs had papers at the conference; and, as well as a number of Social Policy faculty, several visiting, teaching or research fellows from the Department and related centres (CASE and III) also presented their research at the conference. The Social Policy MSc students who provided support throughout the three hectic days also benefitted from the opportunity to interact with a range of social science researchers and were openly appreciative of having gained some insight into PhD and further academic life.
This very successful event provided a welcome opportunity for delegates to re-engage in person with the latest research from the international scholarly community. It demonstrated the great appetite for the stimulation of in-person interaction around very high-quality papers, whether among the ‘old hands’ who had not caught up in-person with their colleagues for years or the newer researchers for whom this was the first face-to-face presentation of their career.
It also highlighted the excellence of LSE as a venue for such an event with the campus looking its best in the Spring sunshine, and delegates able to enjoy the excellent facilities, share compliments on the catering, and admire the new buildings.