The European Parliarment. Brussels.
· · · · · · · Research strategy from ACEuS · · · · · · · Aalborg Center for European Studies
ACEuS is a fairly new founded research group (2017) which consists of five members (Søren Dosenrode, Head of the Research Group and Jean Monnet Professor, Wolfgang Zank, Associate Professor, Susi Meret, Associate Professor, Laura Landorff, Assistant Professor, and Anita Nissen, PhD student) and four associate members (Lise Rolandsen Agustín, Associate Professor, Sandra Cassotta, Associate Professor, Mads Peter Klint, Associate Professor, as well as Obel guest Professor Donatella della Porta).
We consider Europeanization to be a crosscutting approach in our research. Europeanization is to be understood as a broad phenomenon, which includes vertical and horizontal dimensions. We address both uploading and downloading dynamics of Europeanization: on the one hand as promoted by member states influence EU on policies (for instance defense or environmental policies), on the other hand, generated by EU institutions’ dissemination of ideas, transposing legislation and harmonizing member states policies. This means that we address Europeanization on different levels (local, regional, national, European), in different ways (through comparative and transnational approaches), with a view to different actors (institutions, parties, policy-makers, civil society), as well as in a contemporary and historical perspective.
Coming to grips with the European Union (EU) demands knowledge of the EU as entity (polity, policy, politics) as well as the world surrounding the Union. Thus, ACEuS conducts research on the actors, organisation, functioning and institutions of the EU, as well as on the global role of the EU. More specifically we identify four thematic areas, which are the focus points of our research:
We focus in particular on parliamentary politics across member states as well as on the transnational level by analyzing the institutional structure and political dynamics of the European Parliament (EP) as well as the role of the EP in the context of the other EU institutions.
European public sphere
Our research addresses transnational mobilizations and social movements, on the one hand, and interest group representation and lobbyism vis-à-vis the EU institutions, on the other. Furthermore, we have a particular interest in the ways in which EU policies are communicated to the citizens and the way in which the idea of Europe is constructed and diffused.
Populism and nationalism
In the recent decades we have witnessed the rise and strengthening of populist demands and actors across Europe. Our research investigates how populist appeals are triggered by both context and opportunities at the national and regional levels, as well as by forms of Euroscepticism and by the increasing distrust into politics and the political institutions.
EU in the world
The EU plays a significant role in world politics. We have an interest in how the EU impacts
its neighboring states both through the Neighborhood Policy as well as through enlargement negotiations. One specific interest is how the EU is able (or unable) to influence (Europeanize) the environment policies of the candidate countries on the Balkans and in Caucasus (minus Russia).
ACEuS members are trained in various disciplines including history, political science and law, favouring a research methodology that studies the EU through an inter- and multidisciplinary approach by drawing on analytical strategies from across the social sciences. We wish to engage actively in the development of specific EU methods (as an interdisciplinary field), engaging in particular with political ethnography as well as collective discussions on methodological nationalism. These approaches are part of the distinct research profile of ACEuS. Indeed due to the interdisciplinary nature of the research group compared to other centers mainly focusing on political science approaches to EU studies. Our aim is to enhance a holistic approach to EU studies by engaging in the dialogue between disciplines and combining for instance sociological and historical approaches to the analysis of EU institutions.
National (including AAU) and international networks
Internally, at AAU, members of the ACEuS research group participates in the organization of activities in relation to the Obel guest professorship of Donatella della Porta (together with DIR, FREIA, DEMOS and Political Sociology). Within the time frame of the current strategy a plan for the future development of the collaboration will be drafted.
At PhD level, ACEuS is also active in NERDS, a research group for AAU PhD students within the fields of humanities and social sciences, which meets on a weekly basis to discuss issues related to PhD life.
Nationally, the research group is active in the Danish European Community Studies Association (ECSA-DK). The annual meeting is the core activity of the Association where members present research and participate in debates. The DSE PhD and Early Career NETWORK co-arranges a workshop for PhD-students before the main conference. ACEuS organizes the annual meeting of ECSA-DK in 2017 and is normally present with a panel at the conference (in 2019 it will be titled ‘EU Affairs’, chaired by Søren Dosenrode). ACEuS currently participates in the plans of establishing a Nordic branch of ECSA.
Members of the group regularly take on the task of formulating and proposing sections and panels at international conferences. At the European level, the most important network for ACEuS researchers are Research Group for European Studies (RGEPS), European Consortium for Political Research (ECPR) and Association for Contemporary European Studies (UACES):
RGEPS is an inter-university network, which promotes interdisciplinary research in EU policies (broadly understood and including EU foreign affairs), scholarly exchange between the members, and knowledge dissemination on developments in the EU. The founding members are: University Institute of European Studies (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona), ACEuS, Department of Culture and Global Studies (Aalborg University), Centre for European Studies (Department of Public Administration, University of Twente), and Division of Political Science - Department of Management and Engineering (University of Linköping). AAU conducts the secretarial function and daily administration (hosting and up-dating homepage etc.). We plan to strengthen this collaboration in the coming years partly by including additional partners.
ECPR has 350 institutional members across approximately 50 countries and represents the leading universities, students and senior academics in political science worldwide. Members of ACEuS regularly participate in ECPR conferences and as members of specific Standing Groups (e.g. on Federalism and Regionalism, on Political Sociology, on Gender and Politics and on Extremism and Democracy). For the 2019 ECPR General Conference, the RGEPS network will be present, and Laura Landorff will co-chair the section on ‘Political Sociology: Contemporary Challenges to State-Society Relations’, and Søren Dosenrode chairs the section: ‘Moving on to a “Real, True European Army”? Analyzing Developments in European Defense and Security Policy.’ Future plans also include strengthening our ECPR network within the area of Europeanization as well as potentially hosting the ECPG Conference at AAU.
UACES is a membership organisation for academics, students and practitioners, who are interested in all aspects of Europe and the EU. ACEuS members participate in UACES conferences and networks (such as Gendering EU Studies); membership with UACES also provides us with the opportunity to seek small event grants and funding for collaborative research networks.
Nordic Populism network (NOPO). This network was active in the years 2011-2016) and its main aim was to create, develop and enhance a closer activity and collaboration among scholars in the Nordic countries that study populism from various perspectives and by using different disciplinary approaches. The network is still operative in terms of collective publications, seminars and activities The establishment of the research network on populism in Nordic politics and societies also contributes to strengthen the knowledge and quality of the research within this field also at the European level when it comes to comparative approaches and multi-disciplinarity.
Externally funded and other common research projects
Members of the group are currently engaged in a series of funding application processes at different stages (ranging from brainstorming research ideas to having participated in submitted proposals); this includes Research Council, NORFACE, NordForsk and ERC applications (Søren Dosenrode, Anita Nissen, Susi Meret, Lise Rolandsen Agustín). Laura Landorff participates in the AAU SAMF talent programme for young researchers (2018-2020) as well as in the Horizon 2020-project Detecting Transcultural Identity in European Popular Crime Narratives (April 2018 – July 2021) together with colleagues from CGS, i.e. Kim Toft Hansen and Lynge Stegger Gemzøe.
A key aim for the research group in the coming years is to facilitate an environment where it is possible to develop good funding applications. In order to achieve this we wish to collectively gain experience with writing grant proposals, seek inspiration from grantees who would be willing to share their experiences with us, present and discuss research ideas and proposal drafts in the group, work together in smaller groups, and potentially include creativity sessions among our activities.
In terms of the forms of funding we want to look not only at large official grants but also seek private, less prestigious funds. In addition, we want to seek funding for research stays abroad through the ERASMUS program and/or University of Florence funds.
As a group we would like to prioritize Marie Curie International Postdoc funds and/or ERASMUS Mundus as a means to recruit young international scholars. In this endeavor we will make use of AAU preparatory courses as well as our European networks (to find good candidates and to draw on the experiences of successful candidates).
ACEuS engages in knowledge collaboration with a number of external stakeholders within the field of European integration and EU policies. Our aim is to strengthen these collaborations at the regional (municipalities of Northern Jutland, NordDanmarks EU-kontor, etc), national (European Movement Denmark, European Parliament Information Office in Denmark, etc) and European level (European Parliament Research Service, for example) in the coming years. Whereas the knowledge collaboration is part of our research activities, there is also a spillover from our teaching activities since European Studies at AAU has a long tradition of involving external stakeholders as guest lecturers. Thus, our network includes MEPs and other institutional representatives (such as former EU Commissioner Poul Nielson and former UN Assistant Secretary General Finn Reske-Nielsen) with whom we have a close collaboration.
The strategy of ACEuS primarily focuses on article publication in international peer-reviewed journals (either as an individual contribution or as special issues) as well as on monographs. Moreover, members of ACEuS appreciate the virtues of the tightly edited anthology and will from time to time make use of such an approach. Members of the group are active in terms of publishing; at the same time, Søren Dosenrode is the serial editor of the Routledge ‘Federalism Studies’ series and co-eds ‘History and Society – Integrating Social Sciences’ with Information Age Publishing Inc, thus providing ACEuS with an excellent channel to the publishing house.
We consider it necessary to clearly prioritize publication efforts and make strategic choices in terms of forms of publication; we wish to balance between different forms of publications (including open access) but also to be able to focus our efforts in specific periods of time for instance on one top-level journal in the field of European Studies or a monograph with an international publisher.
A central part of ACEuS activities are research seminars where members present their latest research. De facto, these seminars function as informal peer review, where publication forms a natural part of the discussion.
Relations between research and teaching/study programs
The group’s key members serve as the core staff of European Studies (ES), a two-year master program at AAU. ES aims to give students a theoretical knowledge of economic and political developments in Europe, alongside insights into the institutions and processes of the EU. Students also analyse economic, social, cultural or political aspects of developments in Europe through an interdisciplinary approach. There is in this respect a one-to-one relationship between the research of core staff and teaching in European Studies. Concretely, core staff offer modules in: The European Union’s External Role; EU Law and Institutions; EU Politics and Economics; Regional Integration and Regionalisation; and Theories of International Relations. In addition to European Studies, core staff also teach at Development and International Relations; Politics & Administration; Culture, Communication and Globalization (CCG), Sociologi, and Language and International Studies (LISE) at AAU.
Within time frame of the current strategy, the European Studies program will be evaluated thoroughly, taking into consideration employability aspects and measures. Based on input from institutions and firms employing ES graduates (municipalities, ministries, lobby organisations, companies), core staff will revise the existing modules in order to secure high quality education and increase the employment prospects of our students.
PhD students are included in all activities of the group; they participate on an equal footing and contribute in a number of ways, e.g., by presenting their research to the members of the research groups, by providing feedback, and by engaging in academic debates on issues related to European Studies.
Group members participate actively in mentoring schemes for assistant professors and would like to work towards expanding these experiences also to PhD students in order to strengthen the focus on career opportunities. In addition, we are engaged in the ECSA-DK young scholars and early career activities.
In this strategy period we wish to focus on how to make constructive career planning, which is supported collectively by the group. This means for instance initiating common activities to enhance grant application writing skills as well as engage in collective discussions on how to build a competitive cv in the view of advancing from PhD to assistant professor and from assistant to associate professor, as well as to gain competences that are considered necessary for successful grant applications and future research management. This also implies PhD supervision experience; as a first step to gain proficiency, assistant professors and young associate professors are encouraged to take PhD supervision courses and, if possible, be appointed as co-supervisors. As part of our efforts to enhance collaborations across the group, we also want to pursue co-writing among different members of the group.
We strive to share the knowledge of the research group with the surrounding society in accordance with AAU’s tradition as well as its strategy. Our guest lectures are particularly focused in the Northern Jutland region whereas the group’s media participation extends beyond this to the national and international arena as well.
As a group, ACEuS offered a series of lectures (a basic introduction to the EU) at Folkeuniversitetet Spring 2018. In Spring 2019 we have organized a series of debate events in relation to the EP elections (panel debate with MEP candidates and public screenings of the Spitzenkandidaten debates); these events are targeted towards students but also reach a broader audience. The events are held on and off campus, and are partly organized in collaboration with European Youth. In relation to these activities, we work actively to gain media attention in order to enhance the social impact.
In addition, ACEuS members give guest lectures to high school students, teachers, political parties, party youth organisations, etc. Furthermore we actively use Facebook as a channel of knowledge dissemination, combined with recruitment of new students to ES. In the future we wish to focus also on participation in (international) blogs on current topics and themes within EU integration and policies.
Cooperation and activities in the research group
From the beginning ACEuS has been characterized by being an inclusive research group in all regards; this means that senior and junior scholars are invited to participate in all activities of the group and contribute equally to its daily work and collaboration. In the same manner no distinction is made in practice between full members and associate members.
The key modus operandi of ACEuS is its regular research seminars, which is conducted three-four times each semester. It provides members of the group with the opportunity to present and discuss their work, including papers, early drafts and research proposals, whilst receiving valuable feedback from colleagues. Research seminars are often followed by a shorter administrative meeting; one session per semester is fully dedicated to administrative matters including the development of the ES programme. In Spring 2019 an off campus strategy seminar was carried out; we aim to establish this as a yearly practice of the research group. In this strategy period we also wish to work more on creating spaces for presenting and discussing research ideas and proposals, especially concerning external funding applications.
As a new activity, we wish to develop a ‘brown bag’ seminar format, which would be open to staff and students alike, with the purpose of discussing current issues and themes based on short, informal presentations. This could include new policy proposals, media debates, tendencies in research, new Eurobarometer data, or potential syllabus revisions.
We also support the continuance of shut-up-and-write sessions as an already existing practice for PhD students and wish to extend this in the context of the new department, if possible.
Due to the close teaching ties as well as overlapping research interests, members of Development and International Relations (DIR) are always invited to join ACEuS research seminars and ‘brown bag’ seminars.
 ACEuS is the successor of Center for Comparative Integration Studies (CCIS) which was founded in 2005 and dissolved in 2017. CCIS’s focus was to contribute to regional integration studies in general, focusing on Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America. Contrary to this, ACEuS’s geographical focus is Europe. Another of ACEuS spiritual ancestors is the Aalborg Jean Monnet Center of Excellence awarded 2015.