Giampiero Giacomello: Defence Studies

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Italian Political Science interviews Giampiero Giacomello, Co-Editor of Defence Studies.

IPS: How would you define internationalization in your field?

GG: Apparently, by the number of articles in English that you publish and the conferences you attend abroad. Of course, it’s deeper than that. It’s a matter of raising our standards, both in teaching and doing research, at the level of the most advanced universities. It’s more like an attitude, rather than counting this or that. Clearly, if you do not publish in English, nor you go abroad to conferences and seminars (and possibly, as visiting lecturer too), there’s no way you can understand what “internationalization” means.

IPS: How has internationalization impacted your career?

GG: A lot. When I first attended the Johns Hopkins Bologna Center, I remember that I thought, “Uh, so this is International Relations!” I had graduated in IR and had only a vague idea of what it was. So, I learned the basics of IR in English and it’s still easier for me to think that way. Of course, when I started, there was no Internet and nobody knew what to do. It was all trial and error. And, of course, it has taken me a lot of time. I soon learned that I had nothing less than my foreign colleagues and that I actually enjoyed challenging them and seeing who was better. And I loved to beat them!

This experience has led me to consider competition with foreign colleagues as the yardstick with which to evaluate the quality of my research. I still think that way.

IPS: From your experience as general editor of Defence Studies, what are the efforts that are necessary to forge the internationalization of a journal?

GG: Running a journal is quite difficult today. Yes, you have plenty of submissions because everybody wants to publish in English scholarly journals, but it is not that easy to always find quality papers. There’s a lot of competition among journals too, except for the very top ones. The problem with the latter is that they tend to replicate themselves, that is, they are quite reluctant to change their editorial policy, even if they change the editorial team.

Online and open source journals will probably change that. There’s already a lot on the Web, some of good quality too, and it will grow in number and relevance. This will put pressure on the top journals to adapt as well. Last, but not least, within the Political Science discipline, IR will become more and more fragmented in terms of topics and methodology. Pluralism is the catch-word in IR today. Hence, comparing your research to what others are doing will become even more central to ensure overall quality. Otherwise, we’ll go back to “national” disciplines, which would be a disastrous mistake.

IPS: From your experience, how internationalized is the Italian academia? And what are the improvements to be made?

GG: Delicate question. Very delicate. Let’s see. On the positive side, unlike other disciplines, Political Science is, overall, quite internationalized. Some of the founding fathers—I’m thinking of Bobbio and Sartori—were quite international themselves and set a positive example. But then, some complacency set in. Soon, some of the less smart and innovative of their students figured out that they could command respect and secure benefits with minimum effort, by “staying” inside, that is in Italy. Then, other generations of scholars followed their examples.

Of course, it is always difficult to generalize, but we have to admit that only a few departments of Political Science in Italy have tried—with shrinking funds and fighting bureaucracy—to stay at the highest level of quality. I know that I’m saying something that probably will bother some colleagues, but I firmly believe that those departments should be rewarded for their efforts, even at the cost of shifting resources from the least competitive ones. Clearly, this policy should be applied to all disciplines and departments. And if this means a new classification between “research universities” and “teaching universities,” well, it’s ok. Nobody will prevent a department for trying to “move up” and those that are in the premier league will strive even more to stay there.

However, I am very, very skeptical that Italian universities will ever be that brave. I hope I’m wrong, but…

IPS: What would be your suggestions to a new generation of scholars who want to incorporate an international dimension into their career?

GG: Very simple—publish in English and attend international conferences. The more, the better. I started attending the International Studies Association (ISA) Annual conference long ago, and the number of Italians participating was ridiculously low. And some of them were from foreign universities. It’s a little better now; younger scholars do go to the ISA and are much appreciated. But, they are still a minority. The truly smart ones. There are still too many in the discipline who do not dare, either because they have not been properly trained or because they are lousy scholars. (I don’t attend APSA, the American Political Science Association’s conference because I have to make choices with my poor funds!)

IPS: How do you see the future of Political Science and International Relations?

GG: Let’s stop looking at the United States (and I owe a lot to that country’s scholars) and Europe and start focusing on China, India, and Asia. The most challenging, and of course, interesting questions will arise there and will be addressed by scholars there. It would be a real pity if, for contemplating ourselves too much, we were to miss them.

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