May 2017 newsletter

This month, we have lots of detailed information on the following for you:

  1. Our Annual Conference in November!
  2. Qualitative methods workshop
  3. Essay Competition 2017
  4. Writing workshop: consultation
  5. French legislative elections
  6. PSA branding changes
  7. Recently on the blog

Apologies that there is lots to read!! But we hope that some – if not – all of the below will be interesting.

If you have any notices / messages you would like us to circulate to the group, please let us know (including events, new research projects, grants, publications, etc.). Or other ideas for the group and feedback for us, they’re welcome too!

Best wishes,
Marc (@marcgeddes), Louise (@LouiseVThompson), Alex (@A_Meakin) and Leanne (@LeanneMarieC)

1. Our Annual Conference in November

Recent political events around the world, whether the election of Donald Trump, the rise of populist parties across Europe, or the UK’s referendum decision to leave the European Union and unexpected general election, suggest we are entering uncertain times. This has sparked debates not only over the discipline of political science (why did so few of us see this coming?), but also the very endurance of our political institutions. It is in this context that the PSA Parliaments Group opens its call for submissions to its 2017 annual conference under the them: “Legislatures in Uncertain Times”.

Our call for submissions this year will be different: instead of asking for a traditional style abstract and full conference paper, we are asking for participants to submit a 150-word abstract which, if accepted, would be turned into a 1,500-word blog post. We aim to be more flexible and to allow people to present current work in progress as well as full working papers. We aim to publish these 1,500 word pieces as blog posts after the conference. Each abstract should be loosely within the theme but we will also consider general submissions on parliamentary studies.

Our conference also includes a keynote lecture and formal presentation to the winner of the group’s undergraduate essay competition. It also provides ample opportunities for networking. The conference is open to anyone studying or working within parliaments or legislatures, or who has an interest in the field. We welcome people working in different subject areas whose research can offer new insights into the study of parliaments and promote inter-disciplinary cooperation.

Provisional details: the conference will take place in Edinburgh on Friday, 17 November (with an informal reception / gathering for participants and guests on Thursday, 16 November for those arriving the night before). Further details are to be confirmed as we are currently in the process of arranging a conference venue.

26 May: Notification of conference details and call for blog abstracts open
08 September: Deadline for blog abstracts
02 October: Notification of acceptance of blog abstracts and registration opens
10 November: Registration closes and draft blogs expected
16-17 November: Conference to take place

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us:

2. Qualitative methods workshop

We are pleased to announce plans for our theory and methods workshops. In the past, our group has hosted methods workshop and recently helped to support a quantitative methods workshop. We are now planning a qualitative methods workshop, provisionally to take place on 19 July in Liverpool. The workshop is likely to cover interview techniques, focus groups, qualitative content analysis, and observation techniques. Sessions will be led by an experienced scholar using those methods, and they will be covered with specific reference to parliamentary research.

At this stage, we would like to gauge interest for this workshop. Please respond to us:

  • If you are interested in attending this workshop
  • If you have a preference for what the workshop should cover (e.g. a particular method)

We are also looking for experienced scholars who would be interested in sharing their experiences of using qualitative methods. If you would be interested, please get in touch.

We are able to support PhD students by contributing a small part towards their travel costs. If you would like to find out more, please let us know.

Please respond to us about interest in the workshop as soon as possible and no later than Friday, 16 June, so that we can plan catering and logistics.

3. Essay Competition: deadline approaching!

Our third essay competition is up and running. The competition is open to all undergraduate students – please submit your best assignments to be in with a chance of winning £100 or £50, as well as the prestige associated with winning for your department! For the past two years, the essay prizes have been awarded by the Clerk of the House at events in London. The essay competition’s details can be found on our website.

The deadline for submitting an entry is 01 June – so, time to hurry!

4. Writing workshop: consultation

In addition to our theory and methods workshops, we are considering holding a writing workshop for members of our group. At the moment, we are at an ideas stage and would like to gauge interest in holding such an event (we have briefly discussed this idea at our AGM).

The idea:

  • We would hold one or two workshops per academic year for small groups (6-10) to come together to read, discuss and constructively critique one another’s work in detail.
  • Every attendant must read all papers and participate in each discussion.
  • Papers must be full drafts for peer-reviewed research (not book or PhD chapters).
  • Each paper could have assigned a ‘good cop’ (to identify the key strengths of the paper) and a ‘bad cop’ (to identify weaknesses)
  • Each paper discussion would last around 45 minutes, including a 5 minute introduction followed by detailed discussion led by assigned discussants (20 min) and rest of the group (20 min)
  • We aim to have at least one senior academic present who is a current or former journal editor, or experienced in publishing.
  • We would not be able to cover any costs for these workshops, but the benefits for each attendant would be very detailed peer review comments.

We would like to gauge feedback for this idea. We aim to facilitate the organisation of one, two or possibly three of these workshops per year if there is enough interest in bringing small groups of academics together.

We are tentatively proposed one workshop to take place in Sheffield in early to mid-September and open to academics at all levels – preferably a mixture of ECAs and senior researchers to give diversity in feedback.

Please could you get in touch with us for feedback about this proposal? We would love to hear thoughts about the proposed format, rules, organisation, possible ways to support funding, or other ways to support our members in writing research. And of course, if you are interested in attending an event of this type (whether specifically in September, or at an alternative location / time). Perhaps you feel that this is not a useful way for our group to support members – if so, please feel free to suggest alternative ways of support that we can offer.

5. French legislative elections

We are looking for blogs and contributions from colleagues and members on the French parliamentary elections taking place in June this year on questions such as: What are the key issues facing the National Assembly? How effective is the legislature? What role does the Assembly have in wider French political discussions, events and debates?

If you are interested, please get in touch with our Communications Officer, Alexandra Meakin on Our blogs are usually around 1,000-1,500 words in length, and the topics are very flexible.

6. PSA branding changes

The PSA are undergoing slight branding changes, which means that we will soon have a new logo. Watch this space for that!

In future, we are also going to be known more simply as the “PSA Parliaments Group” to reflect those changes, and replaces other names that have circulated in the past (e.g. the Specialist Group on Parliaments and Legislatures). It also drops ‘legislatures’. This is to make the name of our group shorter and easier to remember. This decision was taken at our AGM and reflects wider branding changes that the Political Studies Association are making at the moment.

6. Recently on the blog

Our website has been incredibly busy with new blogs, including:

Additionally, we have new briefing notes on two parliaments:

  • Scotland (Scottish Parliament, by Stephen Imrie)
  • Ethiopia (Ethiopian Parliament, by Meheret Ayenew with assistance from Tsedey Mekonnen)

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