IPS interviews Carlo Guarnieri, IPSA


Italian Political Science interviews Carlo Guarnieri, IPSA Executive Committee Officer.

IPS: Congratulations for your appointment as an IPSA Executive Committee Officer. Which are your expectations from this position?

CG: Italian political science has always been extremely well represented inside the IPSA: from Giovanni Sartori to Leonardo Morlino and Mauro Calise, just to name a few, Italian scholars have played a significant role in the association. Therefore, the challenge I have to confront is not easy! On the other hand, I hope to be able to exploit our good reputation, to follow the tradition of our previous representatives and to represent the best I could Italian political science at the IPSA level.

IPS: IPSA has been established in 1949. Over the years its structure has expanded IPSA governing institutions to include representatives from almost all regional associations and has increased the number of its Research Committees to cover most subfields and thematic issues of political science. Do you believe that IPSA is well equipped to fulfil its mandate of globally strengthening Political Science, favouring academic networks and promoting collaborations between scholars, as originally expected?

CG: IPSA has to be considered as a pivotal element inside a wide network of international, regional and national associations – including, for instance, the International Studies Association (ISA), the European Consortium for Political Research (ECPR), the American Political Science Association (APSA) – sustaining the diffusion and the development of contemporary political science. The growth of IPSA activities in recent years is, without doubt, an element that makes its institutional role more effective. Today, more than 110 different institutions and 50 national associations are members of the IPSA. As you have pointed out, 51 Research Committees are active, covering almost all fields of contemporary political science: from Concept and Methods to Electronic Democracy or International Political Economy. Moreover, since 2012 the world congress is held every two – instead of three – years: an engaging – and successful – organizational effort. The congress in Montreal, last July, has seen the attendance of more than 2300 participants, from more than 70 countries, with more than 500 panels in which almost 2000 papers have been presented and discussed. I think these figures are impressive and show the extent to which IPSA can be able to mobilize and support research initiatives.

IPS: In your opinion, looking to the future which are the main challenges IPSA will have to face?

CG: Presently, the main challenge confronting IPSA is to support the expansion of political science beyond its traditional geographical base: Europe and North America. In recent years political science has significantly expanded in Latin America and in some areas of Asia, while Africa and the Middle East are still somewhat behind, although some interesting developments seem emerging also there. With its experience and organizational strength IPSA can play a crucial role in supporting the development of political science in those areas, where political science is still in its infancy, resources are often scarce and it can happen that the free development of academic research has to struggle a lot in order to be recognized. Some of the initiatives I am going to mention later are good examples of this positive role by IPSA.
I should also add that, in order to meet the above-mentioned challenges, the expansion of IPSA activities must be made sustainable also from the financial point of view, an aspect that the retrenchment of public support for university education in some countries often makes difficult. However, from this point of view, thanks to the growth of the membership and also to the success of several publishing initiatives, the financial state of IPSA seems so far rather good.

IPS: How can you contribute to accomplish the IPSA mandate, as stated in its constitution “to promote the advancement of political science throughout the world”, and in Italy in particular?

CG: I think that, first of all, support must be given to two IPSA initiatives, especially significant for “the advancement of political science throughout the word”: the summer schools and the massive open online courses (MOOC’S). Let me shortly mention their content.

Since 2010, under the direction of Dirk Berg-Schlosser, the summer schools on concepts, methods and techniques in political science have provided young scholars of social science in Latin American, African and Asian countries with access to high-quality, cutting-edge, advanced training in qualitative and quantitative social science methods. Therefore, the summer schools are a significant tool for helping the diffusion of advanced methodology in countries where the discipline is still not well developed. The next school will be held in San Paulo at the end of January 2015, with a focus also on international relations, and more schools are foreseen for the future.

Described as a disruptive innovation, the MOOCs have become a focus of wide public debate in recent years. In fact, MOOCs are a new way of delivering open access, online courses that can be scaled up to reach potentially limitless numbers of users, crossing geographical confines to offer quality learning content to a global audience. Academic institutions all over the world are exploring MOOCs, also in order to understand the way learning and teaching environments are changing and what can be the impact of MOOCs on different countries and publics. Recently, building on the significant experience of IPSA portal – managed so far by Mauro Calise – IPSA has taken up the MOOC challenge by developing a pilot set of political science courses in cooperation with Federica Web-learning, with a focus on the multicultural blend which is at the core of IPSA vision. The main purpose of IPSA MOOCs is to offer courses geared to Global South students and professors in French, English and possibly Spanish, and to teach basic concepts of political science. It is therefore clear the significance of this project for the development “throughout the world” of political science. Italian political science, thanks also to the experience already acquired by Federica at the University of Naples, can play an important role in the project and exploit this chance in order to improve its international visibility.

IPS: Do you think that the Italian Political Science community can benefit from your activities within the IPSA Executive Committee?

CG: As I have already emphasized, IPSA today is an extremely useful instrument in order to get in touch with world political science and build real and fruitful transnational relationships. As for the benefit that the Italian community can draw from my activities, I don’t think it is a question that can be answered now or in any case only by myself. Of course, I will try to do my best in order to be useful to Italian political science, but it is obviously up to the Italian scholarly community to be the judge of the value of my actions in the association. In any case, the already strong relationship between IPSA and the SISP must be preserved and, if possible, further developed. It goes without saying that IPSA can always play an important supportive role of SISP’s actions in defence of the discipline in the Italian context: a never-ending battle, as many of you know very well.

IPS: Do you have any specific purposes to strengthen the international visibility of the Italian Political Science during your IPSA mandate?

CG: I have already emphasized the chances offered by the IPSA MOOCs initiative. I also think that increasing the number and the role of Italian scholars participating to all IPSA initiatives must be the general goal of any Italian representative. More specifically, the 2016 world congress will be held in Istanbul and its theme will be “Politics in a world of inequality”, an occasion to refocus the attention of political scientists on issues of redistribution and recognition in all their complexities. These issues are confronting political actors all over the world and to them political science can bring important insights. It is therefore an opportunity to once again demonstrate the relevance of political science to political practice. I hope that many Italian political scientists will not miss the chance. I may also add that, this time, the relative geographical proximity of Istanbul can allow a stronger Italian attendance to the IPSA world congress.

IPS: Many thanks on behalf of the IPS readership!

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