Presidential Statement of Objectives – Prof. Marianne Kneuer
Publication date: Thu, 26 Jul 2018
IPSA is a special community. This is what I experienced when I got in touch with IPSA for the first time: there is veritable and inspiring internationality in the encounters with colleagues, there are opportunities for contributing with new ideas like founding new Research Committees, and there are a lot of offers for academic activities. This was my experience, and this is what drove me to engage in the IPSA community and to commit myself to several roles in the past as Chair of a Research Committee, participating several times as member of the Council, serving two terms in the Executive Committee, organizing the IPSA Mid-term conference and serving as First Vice President. In fact: Maybe more than other international organizations IPSA reflects a global anchoring in the scholarship across all continents. And more than in any other organization that I know IPSA provides relatively easy access for any scholar – be he or she a junior or senior – and an inclusive approach to participate and to provide input in the academic programs.
This positive and inspiring experience with IPSA, of course, also constitutes an obligation for IPSA and for us all: global outreach, an inclusive approach for all scholars and a thriving academic offer for the members of our organization. This is a task we continuously have to work on. And of course, for IPSA – like for all organizations of this kind – there is always room for evolution and there is also the need for constant adjustment to new challenges that we find within or outside our scientific community. And I think we all agree that there are some external challenges.
And this brings me to the objectives that drive my presidency. Three objectives refer to internal aspects, namely 1) extending and deepening our engagement across the globe, 2) creating synergies between the main pillars of academic program – Research Committees, journals, Summer Schools and MOOCs, 3) continuing the administrative reform for a more efficient and professional organization. Another three objectives are linked to more general challenges that IPSA faces: 4) focusing on academic freedom, 5) developing additional measures regarding gender and diversity, 6) developing norms and procedures concerning ethical conduct.
Extending our reach
One of the most inspiring and meaningful missions of IPSA for me is the global mission and the inclusion of all regions. As First Vice President, I had the opportunity to put more weight on this global mission implementing already the important first steps in this direction by developing closer contacts to with the Latin American and the African communities. From my encounters in these regions I learned that often scholars perceive IPSA as distant. We have to engage more in transmitting IPSA’s advantages I mentioned in the beginning but also to be more present and visible for our members. Therefore, we will continue strengthening the regional networks and the nexus between the regions and IPSA. For me, the Global South mission of IPSA is center piece for my presidency.
IPSA will enhance the engagement with its members by intensifying relations to the regional organizations like in Latin America ALACIP, in Africa AAPS, and in Oceania OCIS and others. First, by incorporating them into collective membership, by more intense presence in the regions on conferences; by encouraging and extending support for establishing new national associations in the regions; by more communication with the NA.
And finally, IPSA also needs to reach out for those regions where political science is still in development and where IPSA does not yet have so much representation as in the Middle East and Northern Africa. IPSA is a thriving organization, but we have to continue our efforts for expanding collective as well as individual membership.
Synergy between the IPSA pillars
For pursuing this global and inclusive mission the IPSA pillars – namely the Research Committees, the MOOCs, the Summer Schools and the journals - play a crucial role. Synergies between these pillars will increase their impact and visibility. IPSA as a global community will more and more deploy digital forms of interaction in order to support teaching and learning, publishing and editing etc. The State-of-the-art-Conference that we organized in December 2017 was an important step in this direction. IPSA demonstrated with this conference that it is at the pulse of the current debate and offers a platform for scholars to discuss challenges for research, teaching and our professional life. Further steps are a closer collaboration between the Summer Schools and the MOOCs. Moreover, we will search to expand the focus of the Summer Schools beyond methods and here the RCs will be an important source of expertise. So mainly, IPSA will work on developing more linkages between its academic pillars.
IPSA has been undergoing crucial developments in the recent years. One reason for that are the reforms initiated by the former ECs (e.g. change from the three year cycle to the two year cycle of the mandate, and most recently the new system for the presidential election; moreover the EC for the first time presented a Strategic Plan and conducted an external audit). Most of the initiated reforms have addressed the improvement of transparency, clarity and efficiency of rules and procedures. I consider this effort as paramount for the continuing modernization and professionalization of IPSA’s governance structures. Like other institutions and organizations, IPSA’s success depends on efficient performance, be it in its administrative structures or its academic projects.
IPSA now will implement the Strategic Plan that you approved on Monday, and we will implement necessary adjustments that derive from the external audit. Moreover, the experience of the last years is that IPSA has to be prepared for upcoming challenges. Thus, in reacting to such challenges, the Executive Committee needs flexible means. For example, to implement the Strategic Plan and the audit an ad-hoc committee on administrative reform will be set up.
Now coming to the challenges.
Academic freedom by far is not a new problem, but the challenge for our community has increased in recent years, and not only in authoritarian usual suspects but also in democratic countries. Moreover, the methods of limiting academic freedoms and the freedom of speech have become somewhat more subtle. In 2016, IPSA had created an ad-hoc committee on academic freedom that now will be transformed into a permanent committee overseeing the issue, offering support for colleagues. What we found in our work in the ad-hoc committee is especially a lack of information, a lack of overseeing the multiple forms of violation.
In order to get a better and more comprehensive picture of these problems, IPSA will take up an exchange with other organizations on the issue of academic freedom. IPSA will seek ways for cooperating more closely with international and regional organizations that are confronted with the same problems, we aim to building networks in order to exchange, to bundle efforts and be more efficient jointly. But likewise, our national associations are confronted with problems of academic freedom, even more and concretely – sometimes not only individual members, but also the association as a whole. Thus, IPSA will involve them and consult their experiences and practices.
Gender and diversity
IPSA’s global and inclusive mission cannot be separated from the objective to ensure balanced representation not only in terms of region but also of gender and insufficiently represented scholars. IPSA up to now has conducted and published Gender Monitoring Reports on a regular basis (every four or two years). We must develop additional measures regarding gender balance and diversity issues. Therefore, I will set up a new post in the Executive Committee and appoint a member to be Special Representative for Gender and Diversity.
Other challenges facing the academic community derive from ethical misconduct and other ethical problems emerging in our professional life. Again, this is not a new phenomenon, but an issue with increasing relevance and also with new forms, such as harassment, bullying, etc... This development requires codes as well as complaint-redress procedures and implementation bodies. IPSA will tackle with determination these problem areas on the basis of a well-coordinated approach. A newly created function as Special Representative for Ethics will steer this process, in which the Research Committees should be involved.
Additionally, there appear new ethical questions, like for example in the context of digitalization, not only for teaching, but also for our professional life; f.e. in terms of predatory publishers or other practices in editing. The scope of the topics like academic freedom, diversity and ethical conduct necessitate cooperation and coordination with other international organizations and their pertinent organs.
Next year will be the IPSA’s 70th anniversary. This is a good reason to organize a special celebration of its founding by UNESCO in Paris in 1949. As a post-war product the founding of IPSA embodied the idea of promoting mutual understanding and of establishing a dialogue between political scientist all over the world. This farsighted and ponderous mission remains an obligation for IPSA since then.