Academic Involvement in the Edinburgh International Book Festival

A blog post from Claire Wu

As a third year Sociology with Quantitative Methods student, I undertook the 2022 Q-step Summer Work Placement at the Binks Hub under the supervision of Dr Jimmy Turner. During this six-week placement, I conducted a small social research project investigating the participation of academics in the Edinburgh International Book Festival (EIBF) between 2017-2022.

Collecting data on the Edinburgh International Book Festival

The research primarily involved collecting data from public information on the EIBF website through keyword searches. The annual programme brochures were incredibly useful, but unfortunately these were only available up to 2019. 

2020, having been severely impacted by Covid-19, saw all events run online, and the programme itself was much smaller than in previous years. 2021 was a hybrid festival, but with only a handful of relatively small in-person events held due to measures such as social distancing. This shift towards the virtual meant that both the 2020 and 2021 events were recorded and available to watch online, allowing me to gather further data. 

The 2022 programme was published on 8 June, and all the events were therefore advertised on their website at the time of my research.

Research findings

My research brought about several intriguing findings. Firstly, the 2019 EIBF appeared to be the peak year for academic involvement, with the highest number of academics participating in the form of presentations, panel discussion and workshop teaching. Secondly, the six-year institution participation ranking showed that The University of Edinburgh had the highest number of academics participating, followed by University of Oxford with a similar number, then University of St Andrews and King’s College London with smaller numbers. 

Finally, and less positively, there were no academics listed from institutions in the Global South, although there were some participating academics who were themselves from the Global South but were affiliated with institutions in the Global North. 

It is worth noting that distance cannot be considered an excuse, as there were participants from European and North American universities every year, and that travel ceased to be a consideration after the shift towards virtual events in 2020 and 2021. 

More than any other findings from this research, I would suggest that this absence of Global South institutions is an issue which requires further consideration from the EIBF.


As a student researcher with limited practical experience, I learnt a lot throughout the process. My most profound reflection was that flexibility – the ability to readily adapt research plans to circumstances, such as available time and resources – is an important skill for researchers. 

It is therefore crucial to develop a mindset that there can never be a perfect study; rather, recognising and discussing the limitations of a study is just as valuable as presenting the findings. 

All in all, I am truly grateful for this opportunity and believe it will greatly benefit my future studies and work!


The Binks Hub will work with communities to co-produce a programme of research and knowledge exchange that promotes social justice, relational research methods and human flourishing.

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