IPS interviews Luciano Bardi, former ECPR Chairman, and Leonardo Morlino, former IPSA Chairman

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Luciano, IPS interviewed you in November 2009 (IPS vol. 3) at the beginning of your mandate as Chairman of the European Consortium of Political Research (ECPR). Now that your mandate has expired and the ECPR is chaired by another Italian (Simona Piattoni), we would like you to evaluate the role of Italian political scientists chairing the ECPR, taking into account the benefits for the individual serving in this post and for the entire Italian scientific community. We would also like you to comment on any improvements required and the visibility of the Italian political science community. Leonardo, IPS interviewed you in April 2010 (IPS vol. 4) at the beginning of your mandate as Chairman of the International Political Science Association (IPSA). Now that your mandate has expired, we would like you to evaluate the role of Italian political scientists chairing IPSA, taking into account the benefits for the individual serving in this post and for the entire Italian scientific community. We would also like you to comment on any improvements required and the visibility of the Italian political science community.

IPS: What were the personal and professional benefits of serving the ECPR/IPSA community?

LB: There were significant personal and professional benefits: on a personal level, which at this stage in my life is by far the more important of the two, I was able to strengthen old friendships, such as the one with the current ECPR Director, Prof. Martin Bull, and to make many new ones with members of the ECPR Executive Committee, members of the enlarged ECPR community, such as the organizers of ECPR events, conference participants and, most importantly, members of the ECPR Central Services staff. In many ways this last group was probably the most important, as developing friendships with them allowed me to discover many new things about myself. Working as the ECPR Chair required undertaking extensive travel; I found it personally rewarding to have the chance to visit many places that I would not have otherwise visited. On a professional level, I achieved greater international visibility during my three-year term than I had been able to achieve in the previous three decades of my working life; this post allowed me to become part of new research networks, despite the position being only marginally connected to research. Finally, working as the ECPR Chair allowed me to broaden my professional skills as the post entailed skills such as personnel management, financial management, and inter-institutional relations. LM: I basically don’t like holding political positions, even only academic elected offices, as this one. All positions of this kind imply a strong commitment and high responsibility toward the community that elected you. However, I think that I learned a few lessons. Among them, I would like to mention just the accountability issue here. As we know, every elective position has to be accountable. But the actual working of accountability challenges any kind of simplification democratic theory would like to maintain. In my case, despite my intentions and declarations, while I was President I did something I didn’t commit to and was not able to carry out decisions I committed. The reality changed my intentions and behaviour.

IPS: In your opinion, what have been the major achievements of the ECPR/IPSA under your mandate?

LB: I am very happy about the creation of the ECPR press and the consolidation of the EPSR. However, the decision to schedule the ECPR General Conference on an annual basis was probably the most important victory. It was a necessary decision because of the increased demand from the ECPR community; it also ensured the consolidation of the organization and operation of the ECPR Central Services (they now work on a much more regular schedule, which is organized on an annual basis) and increased ECPR funding, as the consortium now receives a much more regular income/expense flow. LM: So following what I’ve just said, I was able to have the first change of IPSA Constitution since 1949 – its foundation date, mainly shortening from 3 to 2 years any elective office and have a world congress every 2 years as well. Something I didn’t think of earlier, but once I was president it seemed to me necessary to keep a sounder, more stable financial situation and enrich IPSA activities. In addition to this, there was the new membership of the Mexican Association of Political Science, while the attempts of revitalizing the Indian Association was a partial failure and trying to have the Chinese Association a total failure. Something I had already committed and was additionally implemented was the development of methodological summer schools in different part of the world (now, in addition to Brazil, in Africa, Turkey, and Singapore).

IPS: Have any of your planned initiatives remained on paper?

LB: Not many I must say: ECPR membership reform is certainly one; I also planned to further institutionalize ECPR’s internationalization by strengthening ties with important sister organizations, such as IPSA, APSA and ISA. The joint ECPR-IPSA conference in Sao Paulo was an initiative developed by Leonardo Morlino, then President of IPSA, and I – however, there was no follow-up on this activity.

IPS: How can the ECPR/IPSA contribute to the development of the Italian political science community and, conversely, how can the Italian political science community contribute to the development of the ECPR/IPSA?

LB: The ECPR contributes to the development of political science through all of its activities in all European countries and beyond. The Italian political science community can take advantage of ECPR’s extensive services that are not readily available in Italy. Specifically, I am referring to the summer schools, the Graduate Conference, research sessions, Joint Sessions, and the General Conference. The Italian political science community has contributed to the ECPR through its participation in the ECPR’s governing bodies; Simona Piattoni is the third Italian ECPR Chair, following Giorgio Freddi and myself; and, even more importantly, for many years we have had two members in the Executive Commitee (Luca Verzichelli and Simona Piattoni). This reflects our community’s commitment to the ECPR. However, we must increase our participation in the Joint Sessions, the General Conference, and the research sessions. LM: The main tool that can work both ways is through the IPSA Research Committees that allow establishing good networks among scholars who work on the same topic. Here, I don’t mention the past when Sartori played an important role, again in both directions.

IPS: Due to limited funding, it is becoming more difficult for some departments to maintain membership. In your opinion, what are the advantages of being a member of the ECPR? Which tasks can the ECPR successfully fulfill?

LB: As previously mentioned, one of the shortcomings of my tenure was my failure to reform the ECPR’s membership structure. The structure penalizes smaller departments due to the high membership costs. My idea to move to a mixed individual/institutional membership scheme intended to address that problem, however, the idea was not accepted. The benefits of membership remain considerable for larger departments, as they are able to take advantage of the membership opportunities. To enjoy the benefits of ECPR’s summer schools, a sufficient number of young academics and/or graduate students need to attend. Likewise, only if a department is sufficiently large will it be able to be represented regularly at the Joint Sessions or the General Conference, allowing its members to become prominent within international networks. While the ECPR offers these vital and unique services, the costs and benefits are not equally shared across all departments.

IPS: In your opinion, which are the advantages of being IPSA members in an academic society in continuous change? Which tasks can IPSA fulfil successfully?

LM: Despite conflicts and divisions, a globalized world needs an international, pluralistic organization to study and to understand it. The international networks can perform a critical role in this regard.

IPS: Over the last few months, the ECPR has launched a number of internal reforms to perform more effectively. Do you think further internal reforms are necessary in order to keep up with the changing times?

LB: I am not aware of the types of reforms that have been proposed. During the last 18 months of my post, we reformed the Central Services and the ECPR press in a comprehensive manner; as a result, the performance of both departments has significantly improved. It would not be appropriate for me to suggest any reforms other than the ones that I proposed (and were not accepted) when I was working as the ECPR Chair: namely, membership reform.

IPS: In an age of university reforms and shortage of research funds, in Italy and elsewhere, would you envisage any IPSA initiatives to keep up with the changing times?

LM: I don’t think that IPSA can do much on this, and it’s even very limited the role of European existing research funds. But as a professional association IPSA can be relevant in a second step to connect researchers and research, to create in this way an additional value to those activities and results.

IPS: In times of limited resources, many say that our discipline must be highly competitive and internationalized in order to survive. Based on your observations, how do you see the state of the Italian political science community in comparative terms?

LB: I see the Italian political science community as being potentially very competitive: we have many talented and well-trained young members who are successfully engaging in activities at the international level. The number of young Italian political scientists who are successfully working in international institutions and foreign academic departments is constantly increasing. Unfortunately, these positive indicators are in part due to the dismal state of Italian academia in general, and not only of Italian political science. Over the past fifteen years, I have recruited almost as many young scholars who have successfully completed their PhD’s. While only a couple of them have left academia and related fields, only one has a full-time job as a ricercatore in Italy. The rest are employed or looking for employment abroad. LM: The discipline or, better, the group of scholars who identify themselves with the Political Science community should be competitive and internationalized to have better research results. In this perspective, despite the small size of the Italian group, I think that comparatively speaking (say, France, Spain or even Germany) it is highly internationalized. The basic reasons go back to the beginning in early 1950s and 1960s when – directly with Sartori, and indirectly with Bobbio and Leoni – the attention and knowledge of what was happening in the other countries, and especially in USA, was high and developed.

IPS: Over the last few decades, the Italian political science community has increasingly participated in international conferences, academic networks, research projects, editing of international journals, and joint MA and PhD programs. Last but not least, RISP – the Association Journal, is now published only in English. Would you say that these processes are strengthening the Italian political science community, both in terms of quality and visibility?

LB: Every little bit helps; even if these processes can help in different ways. English is the language of our international community; our members’ command of the language has certainly been a key factor in its progress, including with regards to increasing its international visibility. All initiatives and activities that allow our membership to interact regularly with international groups and networks are to be welcomed as they help consolidate this very positive trend. LM: Yes. Despite some short-sighted views, mainly coming from outside the discipline, all the mentioned transformations helped and are helping the development, the quality and visibility of Italian Political Science. Let me add another consideration. With an already international background in most of the political science community, Italian authors are more and more present on the main international journals. But this statement should be empirically supported.

Many thanks for sharing your views with us!

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