ECR 2012: Ecological Urban Design


The third Universitas 21 Early Career Researcher workshop was held at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, China, on the theme of Merging Theory into Practice: Ecological Urban Design on 5-6th December 2012. Thirty-five participants from 15 U21 member universities from Asia, Australasia, the Americas, and Europe attended this workshop. Five professors from Singapore, Australia, Malaysia and China were invited to give constructive speeches. Professor Xing Ruan from the University of New South Wales and Professor Thiam Soon Tan from the Singapore Institute of Technology made comments on presentations given by six groups and gave helpful suggestions to all ECRs.

The workshop aimed to provide a communication platform for early career researchers to share ideas with fellow researchers across the world. Through field trips and discussions, delegates constructed delicate designs of education parks with their understanding of multi-functional and open construction areas.


Shanghai Jiao Tong University invited a range of speakers from four different countries to give lectures at the event. They were all experienced academics, chosen because of the advice they would be able to give the ECR to further their research development. They gave lectures on the theme of ecological urban designs, encompassing the history, practice and future. 

The staff from the Division of International Cooperation and exchange as well as students from International Communication Association took charge of all arrangement of ECRs’ activities and accommodations. Their careful preparation guaranteed a successful workshop.

Workshop Programme

Ms Guo Liang and Ms Li Shushu from Division of International Communication and Co-operation of Shanghai Jiao Tong University developed the programme. The collection of posters for the poster session was coordinated by Gemma Marakas of the U21 Secretariat.

The programme was designed to include:

  1. Networking opportunities and site-seeing experiences
  2. Joint group work and academic interactions
  3. Career development advice from academics
  4. Keynote speeches
  5. Opportunities to present and discuss the ECRs' own research via a poster session


Feedback was gathered from twenty ECRs to assist future workshops:

The workshop received an overall approval rating of 3.2 out of 4. The evaluated aspects included invited speakers sessions, training sessions, networking sessions, time designs, and information preparation.

The score of invited speakers varied from 2 to 4. So some talks were deemed not deep enough or relevant enough while others received relatively high evaluations.

Mainly, programme design received a good score of 3 out of 4, but it was advised that a longer discussion time span and a tighter schedule would be more favoured.

The networking session and facilities preparations received a really high score of 3.8.

Main Challenges and Suggested Solutions:

  1. In line with the theme of ecological urban design, there were several site-seeing spots to visit within the two days’ workshop, so it was hard to spare enough time for ECRs to discuss and prepare their final presentations. An extended workshop span may be a solution.
  2. Not all speeches during the workshop were relevant or close to the needs of the ECRs. It would be better to collate interests from delegates in advance to make sure that they find them useful.
  3. Group work was the most important part of the workshop programme. SJTU separated delegates into several teams in advance according to their major and interested field, but from feedback, many ECRs would like to form groups themselves to fulfill a collaborative research programme. 
  4. ECRs would like to have more detailed information of the workshop schedule and programme in advance if possible.