COST Action CA15207

Professionalization and Social Impact of European Political Science

WG 1 Institutional and Individual Developments and the State of the Discipline

WG 1 held three working sessions at the Valletta Campus of the University of Malta on 26 January and 27 January  2017 during the ProSEPS meeting.


First priority: offering a grid to identify political scientists in Europe

Following the objectives described in the ProSEPS-COST MOU, participants exchanged views and discussed how to offer ‘a first grid of variables for the definition of a directory of European political scientists’. In an encompassing approach, political scientists are apprehended as individuals who perform teaching and/or research about politics and/or policies from a social and human science perspective. The strategy recommended by WG1 relies on the assumption that ProSEPS scholars should be inclusive rather than exclusive in identifying political scientists, at least as the first step of the research. Thus it was agreed that country experts would be in charge of the search for political scientists (country-by-country analysis). In doing so, they should use the following identifying criteria:

  • when available, existence of a legal criteria used to define political scientists (e.g. national accreditation schemes)
  • when unavailable or not sufficient, combination of the following criteria:
    • institutional affiliation in terms of department, faculty, Doctoral School, research institution or other relevant body, or self-presentation by the individual (e.g. Webpage)
    • research record
    • teaching activities
    • training and titles (PhD in political science or neighbouring discipline, ‘habilitation’, ‘academy of doctor’)
    • any other relevant criteria that should be duly mentioned and whose relevance should be explained

Those criteria are indicative and should be weighted depending on their relevance/applicability in each national context.

  • in case of doubt, direct contact between country experts and individuals or/and department chairs (or relevant structure).

Eventually country experts will assess if an individual should be considered whether or not as a political scientist, provided that his/her choice is explained explicitly.

Political scientists should be looked for not only in political science departments but also in neighbouring structures, i.e. departments/faculties/schools/institutes of political studies, international relations, public administration, public policy, political theory, law, EU/European studies, area studies, geography, economy, sociology, psychology, management, communication, history or any other relevant structure.

Individuals might be tenured on non-tenured political scientists but should have a PhD – although in specific cases (if the other above mentioned criteria are fulfilled) lack of PhD should not exclude the given person from the cadastre. .

Country experts should check if any privacy concern is raised by their research.

These recommendations should be submitted to ProSEPS decisional bodies and discussed with other WGs.

It is important to note that the country representatives all agreed that on the basis of the above criteria political scientists could be easily identified in their respective countries.


Further investigation

While the most urgent task for WG1 was to propose a set of criteria that may be used by country experts to identify political scientists in Europe, discussions were also held to tackle other issues that WG1 will have to address (as listed in the MOU)

Views were exchanged regarding the institutionalisation process of political science in Europe. The importance of national contexts (not only the higher education and national research systems but also the political context because of the more or less recent democratic transitions and consolidations in Europe but also because of the rise of illiberal trends with political pressure on higher education institutions, especially in some central and eastern European cases) was stressed by all participants. The need to compare the institutionalization process of political science as compared to other disciplines (especially in social sciences and humanities) was underlined as ell.

Possible indicators of institutionalization were discussed, with a distinction between endogenous efforts (creation of national political science associations, journals, book series) and external recognition (for instance through departments, faculties, research centres, doctoral schools, academies, universities; autonomous capacity to define the curricula).

Other important issues were listed as to include:

  • the role played by evaluation procedures, accreditation bodies was mentioned as relevant issues
  • financial context, resources, national science foundations as constraints and opportunities
  • the situation of degrees in political science in terms of program numbers, levels (BA, MA, PhD), relations with other disciplines, number of students represents a substantial sub-topic as well
  • the dominant features of political science in terms of ontology, epistemology and methodology
  • the number, nature and organization of subfields in political science, taking into account the challenges raised by cross-European comparisons
  • the understanding of career patterns for entering joining the profession (as junior scholars), stabilizing oneself in it (how to become tenured) and evolving in it (how to improve one’s professional situation).

These issues and problems might help us develop a framework of the institutionalisation patterns of political science exceeding mere national descriptions and responding to questions, like: is it convergence or divergence that we can witness; do general standards prevail or country /regional specificities can be observed; are fragmentation, specialisation or syntheses the decisive trends; and overall can we identify broadening or shrinking institutional and personnel context?


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