What is nepos.net
Northern European Political Science Ph.D. Education Network
The Danish Political Science Research School (PolForsk) invites departments of Political Science in Northern Europe to join a network with the purpose of offering a wide and increasingly co-ordinated supply of Ph.D. Courses in Political Science in Northern Europe. A specific purpose is to establish a newsletter, which makes it easier to announce events such as Ph.D. courses and conferences in Northern Europe.
The background is that PolForsk was
established June 1st 2002 with the purpose of promoting
collaboration on the education of Ph.D.-students in the entire
field of political science in Denmark. The focus is on Ph.D. courses,
but the purpose is not to benefit economically from
supplying these courses. Providing Ph.D. courses is a task that
each department already carries, but often with the problem that beyond
the most general courses, few departments have enough students to fill
a course. Polforsk as a collaborative network, therefore supplies not
only courses in general political science, methodology and metatheory,
but tries especially to tackle the difficult part of
generating strong courses on particular, more
specialised, topics or theories within the discipline (covering
Comparative Politics, Public Administration, Political
Theory and IR). Ultimately, any Ph.D. student should at least once
during the course of her Ph.D. education attend a course that covers
the subject/field, she is writing about, and where it is possible to
discuss the state-of-the-art within the area of her thesis. This
further serves to network Ph.D.students early on with those who
work on the most closely related theses. While highly
successfull in terms of improving this dimension of research training
by moving from a departmental to a national level, PolForsk soon
realised that very often wider international collaboration
about the provision of courses on the highest level is needed, because
their subjects are relevant for too few Danish Ph.D. students if a
sufficient degree of specialisation should be achieved. From
consulting colleagues in other countries, we have the
impression that many are struggling with similar
challenges. Therefore, we now try to facilitate this kind of
coordination among departments and research schools in Northern
Europe. (For more information about Polforsk look here.)
Why Northern Europe?
problem is that it is hard to achieve a sufficiently broad range of
specialised courses, because each country has too few Ph.D.
students within a given area of political science. A Northern European
network could come closer to having enough Ph.D. students to offer a
broad specialised range of Ph.D. courses. In the Nordic contries,
there is a considerable interest in this, and the institutional
and educational systems are in broad outline compatible
enough for co-operation to make sense. In Sweden, for instance, a
similar national network as Polforsk is probably being
established. Polforsk has already started a co-operation with NIG
(Netherlands Institution of Government). And the volatile and
complicated situation regarding research education in
Germany makes cooperation meaningful for several
institutions. So, the outlook seems promising for establishing
gradually within a few years a Northern European Political
Science Research Education Network (NEPOSNET). Recently, Polforsk has
held a number of Ph.D. courses, that were attended by several foreign
Ph.D. students and seemingly very successfully so.
How could Neposnet be established?
Schematically three ways are possible:
The Polforsk model as a Northern European co-operation: The relevant institutions constitute a common organisation, put up dues, and try systematically to co-ordinate the offered courses in the network. The Danish Polforsk could possibly be converted into a North European network. Due to economies of scale it would probably be possible to get by with smaller dues than in the Danish network, though on the other hand travelling expenses will rise. This 'supra-national' model is politically and bureaucratically the most challenging, even if it might eventually be the most efficient and productive.
An enhanced Northern European co-operation in a more 'inter-governmental' shape, where the Danish PolForsk co-operates with counterparts in the other participating countries. However, as far as we know counterparts are not being established everywhere.
Informal networking. Everybody tries to enhance co-operation. Enhancing transparency with regards to the planning and offering of courses. All institutions encourage their students to travel to good courses in the other Northern European countries (but how is the economy in this?â�Š). Specific institutions might be particularly apt to co-operate, and these might form a core group of primary collaborators - a group that is not formally constituted, but is established as an informal network. Some of these 'members' might be departments, other research schools and yet other national bodies, depending on the situation in a given place.
The countries with whom Polforsk have so far established contacts are the Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, Norway and Finland. But, institutions from Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Russia, Iceland, Belgium and Britain could easily be integrated into the network. In practice, students for the individual courses come from all over Europe and beyond, but it is probably advisable to concentrate on the neighbouring countries where transportation costs are limited and the national systems are broadly compatible. However, future funding possibilities e.g. in an EU context could change this strategy.
The first initiatives that Polforsk take with the purpose of strengthening the international co-operation are: International announcements of conferences and Ph.D. events in a newsletter. If other North European departments show sufficient interest, we are also setting up a new website (www.nepos.net).
International offering of regular courses
The Ph.D. students have a considerable interest in a research school for political science that on a regular basis offers a core of specialised political science Ph.D. courses within their field of research. But, such a research school is faced with a need for cooperation in two directions, internationally within political science and (most likely) nationally across disciplines:
In those areas where the school has its primary competence, the demand is quite diverse due to specialisation and to some extent fragmentation within the discipline. Therefore a high number of Ph.D. students (certainly more than 250) is required in order to offer a fairly adequate core of specialised political courses. Alternatively, the courses can be offered internationally. This requires co-operation between the involved political science institutions to ensure that the wanted courses are actually offered in a reasonable rhythm so that each student has a realistic chance of attending it in her period of study.
There will typically be a relatively high demand for courses on methods and theories of science, but this is often outside the primary competence of a political science department. One should therefore collaborate with institutions that have these subjects as their primary competence on developing relevant courses for a wider range of Ph.D. students.
Both 1. and 2. require developmental work if the outcome should be courses corresponding to the needs of the Ph.D. students. Furthermore, it is necessary that there are more than 250 Ph.D. students within the network, and that the political science courses are offered internationally. PolForsk aims at supplying the following courses every 2 years: http://polforsk.dk/phdevents/threeyearsplan These are scheduled on the basis of knowledge about the interests and working fields of the Danish Ph.D. students. But, a number of important subdisciplines (e.g. political parties) are not offered as courses because there too few Danish Ph.D. students working in the field. Therefore, the courses will change as the interests of the Ph.D. students changes. But, as a rule the regular courses are expected to be repeated every second year. Moreover, some themes are not offered as courses, because European networks such as ECPR provide them and do this well. It is not all these courses which are designed for a Northern European market. It is the aim of Polforsk to promote most of the courses in political science internationally, together with a few courses within methodology and metatheory.
Polforsk hopes in the future to be able to cooperate internationally about offering regular Phd-courses internationally.
In addition to the regular and recurring courses, we try to coordinate and announce courses that are deemed relevant and useful at a given time where possible repetition is not a necessary condition. The main criterion here is that a teacher of solid standing within a given field of specialisation is willing to give a course to all interested students. Again here, cooperation on a wider scale is useful, so that we ensure that courses are offered where a given sub-discipline or specialisation is at the highest level in stead of each institution trying to teach all subjects where naturally we can't be at the forefront of research within each and every field.
A course should normally be planned so that the detailed program is finished a half year before the course runs. A draft of a course should be ready at least 6 months before the course runs. For the sake of the comparability, and to make it possibly for students from all over the country to join the courses, we operate primarily with intensive one week courses (given that they include preparation and deliverance of a paper these are typically credited with 5 ECTS points).
As a part of PolForsk's effort to ensure distribution of information within the network, we have issued an electronic newsletter to be distributed internationally. http://polforsk.dk/newsletter The newsletter is in English. Not only Ph.D.-courses and other Ph.D. events, but all kinds of relevant scientific meetings, conferences, seminars, workshops, etc. may be announced. The newsletter will be posted to Ph.D. students as well as senior researchers, every two or three weeks, depending on the timing and number of announcements.
For the Danish members of PolForsk, their input to the newsletter is announced by the PolForsk secretariat, but everyone can advertise events in the newsletter. The process will be moderated to so that only relevant stuff will be circulated (to prevent misuse). It is hoped that the newsletter should acquire a sufficiently large number of recipients so that planners of courses, conferences, etc. find it an attractive media for advertising events.
New members of Neposnet will have the opportunity to make announcements in Neposnews.
The format of a newsletter is advantageous in three ways:
First of all we avoid sending too many mails with information. By concentrating the information in a fortnightly newsletter we reduce the risk of imposing a veritable information overload on the recipients.
Second the newsletter can contribute to an institutionalization of the network as communicator. It is likely that a regular fortnightly well-organised newsletter will attract more attention than scattered, isolated announcements.
The newsletter should make it easy for researchers to gain access to a larger international audience. The newsletter is distributed in the Polforsk network and to others Polforsk is in contact with. The list of recipients will be expanded in the future with the help of the new partners in Neposnet.
We have deliberately chosen not to focus on Ph.D. courses exclusively. Ph.D. students have an academic interest in other events apart from Ph.D. courses. These other events will also be of interest for other researchers. This may also help reducing the isolation of the Ph.D. education present at some institutions.
The design of the newsletter in practice
The content of the newsletter will be stored in a database. On the webaddress http://polforsk.dk/newsletter/insertevent information about future courses, workshops, seminars, etc. can be filled in. The contents of the advertised events must be academically relevant. Approximately twice a month the database generates a newsletter from the inserted information and distributes it as mail. The newsletter is also available as a webpage. The newsletter consists of a contents paragraph with links to the following eight paragraphs with different academic and professional information:
Announcements from institutions
Other Ph.d. Events
Seminars and Workshops
The inserted events are automatically
grouped under the headlines above when the newsletter is published. To
prevent the newsletter becoming so extensive that the user-friendliness
is lost, the advertisement of various events concentrate on only the
most essential information. Advertisement is therefore restricted to
include information on advertiser, planner, speakers/lecturers, time,
place, subscription fee, subscription deadline and a short description
of the event. But. there will be a link to more information.
Dividing between Ph.D. oriented events and other events is justified by the fact, that there are so many seminars and conferences that it is impossible to cover them all. Our ambition is therefore to cover the specific area of Ph.D. events more or less completely, whereas the other types of events will be supplementary and - obviously to anyone - incomplete though still useful. If the Ph.D. events are not shown apart, the incomplete list of other events will obscure the overview of the Ph.D. events and thus hide the fact, that it is actually a rather complete and therefore useful list of Ph.D. events.