Summer 2017 newsletter

Welcome to the summer edition of our newsletter – and an extra special welcome to all our new members that have accumulated over the past few months. In this month’s newsletter, we’ve got information on the following:

  1. Essay Competition winner
  2. Annual Conference in November
  3. Successful qualitative methods workshop
  4. Scottish Parliament: Commission on Parliamentary Reform – new report
  5. Welsh Assembly: Report on digital engagement published
  6. UCL report on public appointments published
  7. Opportunity – HE consultant for Parliament
  8. Recently on the blog

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!

We’ll be taking a break over August, so expect our next newsletter at the end of September. Hope all our members have a great summer break!

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

1. Essay competition

We are pleased to announce the winner of our essay competition this year: Tamara McCallum from Leeds (nominated by Cristina Leston-Bandeira), with Callum Allison (nominated by Louise Thompson) as the runner-up. You can find out more about the winners, including copies of the winning essays, on our website. They will receive their certificates at our conference in autumn (see below!), as well as a prize of £100 and £50 respectively.

All of the essays were judged by a panel of senior academics and clerks: Michael Rush (Emeritus Professor of Politics at the University of Exeter), Meg Russell (Professor of British Politics and Director of the Constitution Unit at UCL) and Rebecca Davies (Clerk of the House of Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Select Committee). In particular, the panel commended its originality and noted that it was very well written, had an interesting thesis and was based on a significant amount of research.

We would like to thank everyone that took part, and especially for the judging panel who gave up their time to read through all the entries we received this year.

We are also looking forward to holding this competition again next year with more entries, so please do look for a call in the autumn and spread the message far and wide!


2. Our conference in November

Our conference this year will be under the theme of ‘Legislatures in Uncertain Times’, and our call for submissions asks for participants to submit a 150-word abstract in advance of a 1,500-word blog (if accepted).

The event will be held on Friday, 17 November at the Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh (with an informal gathering on Thursday, 16 November for those travelling early in anticipation of the conference).

The conference is expected to begin at 9.15am and finish at 5.00pm.

The deadline for abstracts is 08 September. We will aim to notify accepted abstracts by 02 October.

In order to submit an abstract, please submit a paper proposal form or email the co-conveners for details.

For further information about the conference, please click here, or get in touch with Marc Geddes (marc.geddes@ed.ac.uk) and / or Louise Thompson (louise.thompson@surrey.ac.uk).


3. Successive Qualitative Methods Workshop

Our Qualitative Methods workshop on 19 July attracted 25 early career researchers from across the country for a day of expert presentations and networking.

The day comprised of a number of sessions, including interviewing techniques (led by Seán Haughty (Liverpool), observation techniques (led by Marc Geddes (Edinburgh)), analysis of parliamentary debates (Andrew Crines (Liverpool)), and analysis of legislation (led by Ruth Dixon and Matt Williams (Oxford)).

The event finished with an interactive discussion for attendees to share details of their plans for their research, and receive expert advice on any methodological questions. Topics ranged from access to civil servants and parliamentarians, conducting interviews in a different language, and carrying out interviews on sensitive subjects.

Many thanks to Seán Haughey and the University of Liverpool for hosting the workshop.

For more information on the event, including the slides from speakers, please click here.

If you would be interested in attending or hosting a future workshop on qualitative or quantitative research methods, please email psa.parliaments@gmail.com to register your interest so we can scope demand.


4. Commission on Parliamentary Reform

On 26 October 2016, the independent Commission on Parliamentary Reform was established by the Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament to look at how the SP can engage better with the people of Scotland and how its work can be improved to deliver better scrutiny.

The Commission published its final report on 20 June. It puts forward a number of detailed proposals for reform that would, in the words of the Commission, ‘deliver significant improvements in the effectiveness of Parliament’. The Commission urges the adoption of its proposals as soon as possible in order to ensure the parliament is prepared for the significant scrutiny challenges that lie ahead.

For more information, please see: https://parliamentaryreform.scot.

For a summary of the Commission’s recommendations, take a look at the recent blog by Ruxandra Serban.

We are pleased to see that many members of the PSA Parliaments Group engaged with the Commission, including the submission of written evidence and holding events with them. It shows the continuing commitment of our members to not only conduct world-leading research but engage with policy-makers to support making parliaments more effective.


5. Welsh Assembly: New report on digital engagement

The Digital Taskforce of the Welsh Assembly has published a new report on digital engagement. The report encourages the Assembly to lead the way and establish an integrated content service using social media and other channels to engage directly with the people of Wales. It recommends placing people, rather than the institution and its processes at the heart of topical news stories as it looks to build citizen engagement.

Chair of the Taskforce (and member of our Group) Leighton Andrews said:

“These are radical proposals to use modern digital communication to better understand what people are thinking and concerned about, to engage in real-time with people and to share with them how their representatives are responding to these issues, and I want to thank the members of the Digital Information and News Taskforce for their work.

Assembly Members and staff must recognise their role as content creators, and see the Assembly as a content platform which should reflect the nation’s conversations about the issues which are of most concern to it.”

For more information, please click here.

Once again, we are pleased to see the active involvement and contribution of our Group members in this report.


6. UCL report on public appointments

The Constitution Unit at UCL has recently published a new report on public appointments in the UK, and particularly focusing on the role of parliamentary committees in scrutinising those appointments. The report argues that committees have a greater influence on the appointments process than MPs realise. For more information on the report, please click here.


7. Higher Education teaching resources: consultant required

The UK Parliament’s Universities Programme are planning to develop a suite of teaching resources for use in the Higher Education sector, to support teaching and learning about the UK Parliament across a variety of courses.

We are looking for a consultant to undertake some consultation with the Higher Education sector and internal stakeholders at Parliament, to develop a draft suite of teaching resources for approval, and then to take them through some user testing with students and tutors.

The consultant should have experience of working in the Higher Education sector and developing teaching resources.

For a full brief on the project and application information, please email Robert Baldry or call 020 7219 1832.  The application process will close on 24th August 2017.


8. Recently on the blog

New parliament overviews:

The PSA Parliaments blog will take a break for August, but is seeking contributions for new posts. If you would like to share an update about your research or a short commentary on a topical issue, please get in touch with Communications Officer, Alexandra Meakin, on psa.parliaments@gmail.com Our blog aims to promote the study and understanding of parliaments and related issues. We welcome contributions from UK and international academics or research students within the field of legislative studies and related areas. We also accept submissions from outside academia, including parliamentary practitioners, charities and other organisations working with parliament.

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