The 2014 Research Sessions were held at the University of Essex
The Research Sessions are one of the oldest ECPR events, first taking place in 1978. After a short hiatus they were re-established and now provide a unique opportunity for new and established groups to meet to further their work together.
Six groups of up to eight scholars met at the University of Essex in June for three days of intensive work. With the ECPR providing the space to meet, food and accommodation for the duration, the Research Sessions are a key membership benefit which can get new projects off the ground, or provide an opportunity to bring the last strands together and hone a publishing proposal. Below are details of the six groups that met and their different research agendas.
Talking to the Party: A Cross-Country Collection of Intra-Party Debates
Group one used the Research Sessions to establish a new cross-national research group. The project aims to collect cross-national data on intra-party actors’ policy goals, and then develop tools to analyse this data and apply it to test theories of party politics. The group’s primary innovation lies in its interest in speeches and documents oriented towards an intra-party audience. In particular, it will aim to collect and analyse data on intra-party debates at parties’ national meetings.
Parliamentary Activities, Career Tracks and Accountability (PACTA Project)
Group two met to work on the PACTA project, which analyses the interactions between legislative behaviours and incumbent MPs’ career tracks. The project will more precisely deal with the effects of parliamentary performance on the re-selection and re-election of legislators, with one important goal being to identify the factors mediating on these interactions, especially electoral rules.
Beyond Jobs for Votes: Party Organisation, Patronage Forms and the Quality of Democracy
Group three used the Research Sessions to examine the above theme. They note from their abstract that ‘scholars increasingly recognise clientelism as one of the central challenges to the quality of democracy in developing and emerging economies. Within this literature, a subset of studies has focused on the exchange of one particular type of benefit – public employment – in return for votes or electoral support more generally.’ This was the focus of their discussions.
Rights and Imperfect Duties in Political Philosophy
Endorsed by the Standing Groups on Political Theory and Kantian Political Thought
At the forthcoming General Conference, the Section ‘Political Theory: Issues and Challenges’, organised by the SG on Political Theory, includes a Panel on imperfect duties. The relation between rights and imperfect duties is also one of the central issues in Kantian studies today. The respective Standing Group convenors have therefore used the Research Sessions as an opportunity to start a framework for long-term collaboration between members of the two groups to carry out in-depth analyses of these issues.
Anti-Politics, Depoliticisation and (Re-)Politicisation
Group five is an example of the Research Sessions also supporting the work of other, national, political science organisations. The Anti-Politics and Depoliticisation Specialist Group (APDSG) is part of the British Political Studies Association (PSA) and is in the very early stages of a new research project. The group used the Research Sessions to draft a proposal for submission to a funding organisation.
International Institutions and Public Opinion in Interstate Conflict
Group six used the Research Sessions to discuss the following abstract: ‘Recent events such as the invasions of the Crimea and Georgia suggest the importance of public opinion in shaping uses of force. Yet, evidence of the impact of popular preferences is difficult to distinguish from other factors, such as elite foreign policy decision making and the role of supra-national institutions. Researchers have begun to apply survey experiments of public opinion in an attempt to better understand the effect of international institutions on decisions to use force. Extensive theoretical research identifies the approval of international institutions as a key factor in determining popular support for war.’