We are pleased to announce the winners of our Membership Research Grant Scheme (MeRSA) 2019 and we are looking forward to working with them. Please read more about their projects below.
Carolina Castaldi, Utrecht University, Netherlands
The overall aim of the project is to investigate how the inclusion of soft innovation in theoretical, empirical and policy work at the regional level can help creating new narratives on regional capabilities. By ‘soft innovation’ one understands all forms of innovation that are not purely technological or functional. The starting point of the project is the acknowledgement that when it comes to regional capabilities and regional resilience the dominant narrative tends to center around technological capabilities and assume an underlying R&D-driven model of economic growth. Yet, there is increasing awareness that other forms of capabilities and that sectors where formal R&D is not the main source of innovation might also act as drivers of regional resilience.
Theoretically, the project aims at making space for soft innovation capabilities in models of regional resilience by investigating how existing frameworks can be adapted and/or overturned. Empirically, the project aims at developing original metrics of regional capabilities using trademarks and design rights, and linking them to indicators of regional resilience. Finally, the project aims at translating the results from theory and empirics into insights for policymakers to embrace new narratives on regional capabilities.
Vassilis Tselios, Panteion University of Social and Political Sciences, Greece
There is a growing trend for central governments to transfer political authority to sub-national tiers of government, known as political decentralisation, as well as a growing and widely accepted recognition of the important role of governments in reducing poverty. The purpose of this project is to examine whether and how an increase in political decentralisation (which is a regional policy instrument) reduces European regional poverty rate and social exclusion (which are regional policy aims), after controlling for some economic, social, political and geographical characteristics of the European regions. The association between regional policy instruments and regional policy aims crucially depends on many other policies, such as policy effectiveness, policies for private development, and policies for innovation.
The outcomes of this project will be of relevance to researchers and policymakers from a wide range of disciplines and who are interested in seeing whether and how political decentralisation could act as an instrument for lower regional poverty levels.
Adriana Mihaela Soaita, University of Glasgow, UK
- Exploring the nexus between trust, corruption and anti-corruption policies in post-communist Romania
THE RESEARCH PUZZLE: It is striking that a great majority of Europeans believe corruption is widespread in their countries, yet few have experienced it. In the least corrupt EU states of Denmark, Finland and Sweden, 20-44% of people thought corruption was widespread but less than 1% indicated they paid or were expected to pay a bribe. The corresponding figures for Romania were 93% and 25%. This paradoxically high difference between belief and experience shows that people’s own meanings of corruption have to be better understood. It begs not only methodological questions of validity and theoretical questions on what exactly people mean by corruption, but it draws attention to broader questions of trust and distrust. While quantitative measures of trust/corruption have become standard survey questions, I argue it is timely for in-depth qualitative examinations – currently uncommon – that focus on peoples’ meanings, beliefs and practices. I propose a longitudinal, qualitative study, uniquely enabled by my previous work in 2007/08 in order to unpack this puzzle.
AIMS: To identify the mechanisms – i.e. discourses, norms, beliefs, social and institutional practices – that link concepts of trust, practices of corruption, and anti-corruption policies in Romania; and to reflect on the social and temporal dynamics of these mechanisms.
WHY ROMANIA? Since 2012 a high-level anti-corruption drive has taken place in Romania; over 2,000 high-ranking public executives were convicted, including one prime minister, 21 MPs and 30 judges. Weakened by governmental/parliamentary acts since 2017, large street protests and the results of the May 2019 referendum have demanded its continuation.
These developments posit Romania as a timely and interesting social laboratory to analyse the trust/corruption nexus.