News from Project A01

Dr. Nils Düpont
Dr. Nils Düpont
Nils Düpont spent several weeks in Göteborg for project A01 in order to foster cooperation with the Swedish democracy research institute. In an interview, he tells us what he expects from it.

You were visiting scholar for some time during the summer at the V-Dem Institute in Gothenburg , which aims to measure democracy worldwide. Your stay in Gothenburg has resulted in a cooperation between our CRC and the V-Dem Institute. How did this come about?

One of my tasks at the CRC is to collect information on national and especially political variables. My personal interest is above all in the parties and their ideology or positions and the question of what influence this has on the introduction and spread of social policy. So far, there is little data that reaches back far or has a global scope. For this reason, I had begun to work with Holger Döring, a colleague at Philip Manow's chair, to collect data, first on election results and parties in all the countries we study at the CRC - from 1880 until today. Holger had been in contact with Anna Lührmann from the V-Dem team for some time. She is Deputy Director there and had initiated a new project where they wanted to go all the way to the party level in their investigation. It quickly became clear that the data that we had collected at the CRC, most of which had already been validated, was actually the basis for what V-Dem had in mind. And it was through this connection that the cooperation came about.

So what does the CRC contribute to the cooperation?

We provide information on elections, parties and election results from all over the world since 1880. These data form the basis for the V-Party project. And on the basis of this data it is also controlled for which parties and which year the V-Dem experts subsequently receive questions about the parties, their ideology and their organizational characteristics.

And what does the CRC get?

The decisive thing is that this is the first time that we will receive information about parties' ideology or some organizational characteristics that have not yet been the focus of party research. In party research, too, we have a relatively strong OECD bias - similar to the social policy research of the CRC. Latin America is still relatively well covered. But as soon as you look at Africa or Asia, it becomes scarcer with expertise, information and analyses. And the nice thing about V-Dem is that they have this global network of experts, that the survey has been running for a few years now and that we also get to work with experts who assess parties for which we still have little or no information. This information helps us to assess the parties ideologically in the first place. And together with the information we collect about, for example, strength in parliament, independent variables can then be created for social policy research and the question: What influence do parties have on the introduction or expansion of social policy? In sum, we get information back for the CRC, which we can test as variables in the style of partisan politics.

What did you actually do in Gothenburg at V-Dem?

Essentially, we discussed a few things conceptually and harmonized the data we had collected so far. We then sent these preliminary data to country and regional experts for a validation check. All in all, we were able to lay the first foundation on which we are now building.

Who did you work with in Gothenburg?

Essentially with Anna Lührmann, who also heads the V-Party project. V-Party is based on V-Dem, the methodology and the whole setup. The special thing about it is that V-Dem has always been based on a macro-quantitative country/year logic and that V-Party is the first project that looks into countries, one level lower. This, of course, brings with it its own difficulties in collecting data. But the time was ripe to try it. Anna Lührmann as project manager is the central figure that also holds the network of experts together.

What can we expect from the survey?

The preparation for the survey is now entering the hot phase. After the plausibility check and validation by the regional experts had been completed, we incorporated the feedback and practically finalised the data collection. At the same time, the technical stack is being set up so that the survey can be rolled out in January. The last experts are currently being recruited for this purpose. They can then log on to a web platform and see the relevant information. It is therefore very important that the raw data is correct so that the coder can see what is right and what can be done with it. If all goes well, the survey should be completed in January. Then the usual process begins for the V-Dem people: data cleansing and preparation. We hope that in spring of next year the data will be ready so that initial analyses can be made. And that we will then learn a little more about parties in the world about which we know little or nothing.


Contact:
Dr. Nils Düpont
CRC 1342: Global Dynamics of Social Policy
Mary-Somerville-Straße 5
28359 Bremen
Phone: +49 421 218-57060
E-Mail: duepont@uni-bremen.de

Dr. Stefan Giljum
Dr. Stefan Giljum
Stefan Giljum from the Vienna University of Economics and Business presented his database and analysis project on commodity flows and their ecological and social consequences.

Stefan Giljum from the Vienna University of Economics and Business has visited CRC 1342 to present his database and analysis project FINEPRINT. The aim of FINEPRINT is to generate knowledge that allows the connection between production and consumption behaviour (focus: "Global North") and the ecological and social consequences of resource extraction on site (focus: "Global South") to be analysed. Basically, global value chains are broken down into their material composition. The result is a growing database with disaggregated and georeferenced data.

In front of a larger audience, Giljum traced the paths of selected material flows from the point of resource extraction through production to the value-added segment in the consumer regions and analysed their ecological consequences at the point of raw material extraction (e.g. water scarcity, deforestation, land use). The subsequent discussion also focused on how these data enable analyses with regard to socio-economic effects. For the CRC members, a very interesting point of discussion was how subnational data can supplement the (inter)national perspective of the CRC.

In the morning, the A01 project had an internal meeting with Stefan Giljum. There he presented in detail the database and analysis project FINEPRINT, which is equipped with an ERC consolidator grant. This was followed by an intensive exchange of experiences on challenges and possible solutions in setting up large information systems such as WeSIS or the FINEPRINT database. In particular, the following points were discussed:

  • Handling copyrights when using existing data sets
  • Documentation and maintenance of your own databases
  • Implementation of the Open Source Principles
  • Data quality (e.g. validation, harmonisation)


It turned out that FINEPRINT is a good example for the construction of a database with excellent visualisations and possibilities for analysis, which WeSIS can use as orientation in some respects. During the discussion, some intersections between the projects emerged, which gave rise to ideas for future cooperation.


Contact:
Prof. Dr. Ivo Mossig
CRC 1342: Global Dynamics of Social Policy
Mary-Somerville-Straße 3
28359 Bremen
Phone: +49 / 421 / 218 67410
E-Mail: mossig@uni-bremen.de

Prof Dr Ivo Mossig (on the left)
Prof Dr Ivo Mossig (on the left)
The Association for Geography at German-speaking Universities and Research Institutions has honoured him for his module "Introductory Project" at the University of Bremen.

Research-based learning, which the University of Bremen considers very important, begins at the Institute of Geography right at the beginning of the first semester: students choose a topic and work on it scientifically. They then investigate their own questions empirically and test suitable methods. They are closely accompanied by their lecturers in small groups of up to five people. Finally, they present their posters to the university public, which illustrate the results of their scientific work. "We build on our students' previous knowledge and at the same time strengthen their motivation for the subject," says Mossig.

At the same time, the students acquire methodical tools: quoting correctly, initial laboratory analyses, conducting and evaluating surveys, interviews with experts, applying simple statistical methods or mapping their own results. "We integrate content and methods and take up this challenge right at the start of the course," says Mossig.

The "information of the week" is also part of the introductory project module. In weekly snacks of ten minutes each, students receive organisational and non-technical information on all aspects of their studies: the topics range from examination registration and international semesters to studying with a child.

Since the winter semester 2017/18, Mossig and his colleagues at the institute have been conducting the introductory project. It has proven to be a success: "It stimulates students' enthusiasm to study and their interest in their own research," says Mossig.


Contact:
Prof. Dr. Ivo Mossig
CRC 1342: Global Dynamics of Social Policy
Mary-Somerville-Straße 3
28359 Bremen
Phone: +49 / 421 / 218 67410
E-Mail: mossig@uni-bremen.de

Michael Lischka
Michael Lischka
Michael Lischka talks about geography glasses and his role in project A01.

What would you have become if you hadn't become a scientist/geographer?

Originally was studying social work. But my studies had a strong focus on Germany, whic did not fit well with my curiosity and love for travelling. A friend of mine said to me: "I'm studying geography, it should suit you, too." As a result, I started to study geography in parallel to social work to see if I like it. Long story short: If I hadn't turned to science, I would be a social worker today. But geography just grabbed me, I couldn't get out. If you want to understand the world and like a change of perspective, there is nothing better than geography.

What is it about geography that appeals to you so much?

Geography opens up many perspectives on different levels of scale and on different complex topics. The range of geography is huge: cultural geography, economic geography, social geography, physical geography and so on. It's all connected. As a geographer, I can put on different glasses, depending on the topic and scale level I want to think on. Of course, the choice of frame and lens is not random, but well considered. Economic geography suits me and ma eyesight best , I would say. During my Masters I studied rural areas in the context of globalisation: These included, for example, smallholder structures in developing countries and how they are influenced by the global market and vice versa, what risks and opportunities arise as a result, including the driving forces of globalisation, the distribution of power in economic interdependence patterns and much more. Generally speaking: To generate knowledge on many levels, which also points out consequences and effects - for me this is the epitome of geography.

And what is your role within the CRC?

I work very closely with Ivo Mossig on project A01. We investigate intergovernmental interdependence at various levels. We are focused initially on economic interdependence: Who is connected with one another in which supranational organisation? What free trade agreements do exist? We want to measure and present these macroeconomic structures and some other economic parameters in the best possible way. At the same time, together with computer scientists we develop analysis methods to be able to gain insights from it. Current economic geographic globalisation research is very much focused on processes rather than outcomes.

What exactly do you do at the moment?

I am currently doing a network analysis with all the countries of the world and analyse how they are connected to each other through trade. The first result is a great network: some states are in the centre, others in the periphery. But what does it mean that China, the US and Germany are close to the centre, and that Russia has left the centre a few years ago? Or that the BRIC(S) states are pushing closer to the core, whereas established states are changing their position? Our core task is to understand the dynamics of these and other economic interdependencies and to work out their significance in different contexts. In this way, we provide input for the other projects that investigate the dynamics of social policy. For many other projects, economic interdependence is the variable X - and we in project A01 are investigating variable X of this variable X.


Michael Lischka at a glance:
Michael Lischka is a research fellow in project A01 and is working on his PhD within the research group Economic and Social Geography at the Institute of Geography at the University of Bremen. Lischka is involved in the development of the Global Welfare State Information System (WeSIS) in project A01, which is led by Andreas Breiter, Ivo Mossig and Carina Schmitt.
Lischka studied geography at the University of Vechta and graduated with a master's degree in "Geographies of Rural Areas - Change through Globalisation". He is working on his PhD thesis within the CRC.

 


Contact:
Michael Lischka
CRC 1342: Global Dynamics of Social Policy
Mary-Somerville-Straße 5
28359 Bremen
Phone: +49 421 218-57061
E-Mail: lischka@uni-bremen.de

Dr. Nils Düpont
Dr. Nils Düpont
Nils Düpont talks about his fascination with political science, preferences of autocrats and his role in project A01.


What would you have become if you hadn't become a political scientist?

I don't know if I wanted to be anything else. I developed an interest in politics at high school - inspired by two good teachers - and as a consequence I studied political science. It soon became clear that it wanted to continue following this path after the Master's degree. When I look back from today's perspective, I sometimes think: Maybe I could have done something completely different; something manual, perhaps becoming an instrument maker. It's nice that my job is intellectually challenging. But every now and then, all my day's work consists of programming five lines. This was a huge step forward in my work, but if I told that other people ... In this sense, a craft in which you produce something tangible would have been something for me. But the question never occurred.

Studying political science after school is one thing; but what made this subject so fascinating to you that you made it your profession?

Political science requires a very special way of thinking, which suits me well. In addition, the environment at university was very favourable. After I wrote a seminar paper I was asked if I wanted to start working for the professor. This fueled my interest in data and empirical-analytical political science. I started redading a lot about this field, and in the course of time your way of thinking gets shaped by what you read. All these aspects fed my career aspirations. Today I would say: I am interested in politics, but my way of thinking is that of a political science.

What strikes me about political and social sciences in general: Despite the immense differences between people, there are similarities and behavioural patterns. This makes people much more similar than they want to believe. Discovering these patterns always fascinated me: explaining human behaviour through via a handful of instructions or variables. Obviously human behaviour is not determined by this, but nevertheless it is shaped to some extent. You can explain a lot.

What are your responsibilities within the CRC?

I am currently in the process of defining my exact role myself to some extent. However, my work addresses the complex issues of national actors in social policy. Social policy obviously is embedded in international interdependencies, but in the end it is still national actors who make decisions. In parliamentary systems these actors are governments formed by parties, in autocracies or dictatorships it is simply autocrats or dictators. The question is: How strongly are the actions of these actors influenced by global contexts? I see my role in the CRC in measuring the world' s ideologies. Up to now, the ususal research focus has been on highly developed industrialised countries. Determining the political preferences of governments via political parties is relatively straightforward. I would like to develop procedures to determine the political preferences of actors in other political regimes, such as autocracies and dictatorships. I hope to get input from the computer scientists in the project: so that I can evaluate texts via machine learning according to certain categories that we already know from the industrialised countries. I would then like to check whether we can transfer the categories to autocracies and dictatorships, or whether we have to think in completely new categories.

Could you give an example?

The political actors of the western world can be located on a large left-right axis - ignoring the debate about how substantial this axis still is. But does this also work for other regions of the world? Perhaps this works to some extent for South America, but in Asia the question is whether we have to completely rethink ideological conflict issues. My role will be to work this out and in turn to provide input to the other projects within the A Department. Our colleagues are seeking to explain social policy decisions, and national actors play a decisive role in this.

 

Dr. Nils Düpont at a glance:
Dr. Nils Düpont is a research fellow at the CRC 1342 "Global Dynamics of Social Policy". In project A01, coordinated by Andreas Breiter, Ivo Mossig and Carina Schmitt, Nils Düpont is involved in the development of the Global Welfare State Information System (WeSIS).

Nils Düpont studied political science, media studies and Scandinavian studies at the University of Greifswald, graduating with a Master of Arts degree. He then received his doctorate in political science for his thesis on "(Ir)Rational Choices? The Impact of Learning on Party Policy Moves".

Before joining the CRC 1342, Nils Düpont worked at the Institute of Political Science at the University of Bremen to establish a Master's Centre.


Contact:
Dr. Nils Düpont
CRC 1342: Global Dynamics of Social Policy
Mary-Somerville-Straße 5
28359 Bremen
Phone: +49 421 218-57060
E-Mail: duepont@uni-bremen.de