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RA5a: Structure,environment and staffing policy

Research Structure and Environment (RA5a)
The School of Oriental and African Studies is a unique institution with an academic mission and identity all its own. It has a special responsibility to develop scholarly synergies between region, language and discipline, reflected both in its research strategies and in the centrality of its Library for anyone carrying out research on Asia and Africa. The School gives priority to research quality in recruitment and promotion, actively encouraging staff research through leave entitlements (at least one term every four years) and by grants for research projects, workshops and conference attendance. SOAS’s Register of Academic Research, published in hard copy and on the web, provides a cumulative record of research at SOAS, while SOAS Research News, published internally every term, publicises research opportunities and helps to promote an active research culture. The School’s Pro-Director for Research has responsibility for the support and promotion of research undertaken by both staff and doctoral students. Through the School’s Research Committee, Publications Committee and Research Office, staff benefit from the School’s own research funds and from assistance in making external applications for funding, as well as in seeing their findings through to publication. In addition, the Academic Initiatives Fund supports the development of pilot projects to the stage where they are ready to apply for external funding.

The intellectual environment and research culture of SOAS have created particular opportunities for the Department of Political Studies. Close contact with colleagues working on the cultures, histories and languages of Asia and Africa, and with those concerned, like us, with the development of social science methodologies and concepts appropriate to the study of Asian and African societies, helps us to theorize the local, regional and global whilst also contextualising the theoretical. In addition, the location of the School and the Department in London - with its concentration of first class libraries, archives and academic institutions, as well as major government departments and business enterprises - reinforces both our substantive research and the use of our expertise in the public sphere.

The Department’s research structures are intended to monitor and encourage members’ research, working within the larger framework of SOAS’ research support infrastructure. The Department recognises the need for consistent and dependable support for research, not only in terms of intellectual stimulation and resources, but also in terms of time for reflection and fieldwork. Given the practical difficulties – even hazards – involved in research in many parts of Asia and Africa, as well as the linguistic skills required, the need for realistic time frames for fieldwork is imperative. There is also the question of harmonising teaching demands with research interests. To this end, the Department has in place the following structures:

1. Department Research Committee: oversees and encourages colleagues’ research and publication plans. It meets with each member of the Department twice a year to discuss their plans, advises colleagues and decides whether to approve their research leave plans (staff may take one term every four years, but are encouraged to take a full year, if they can secure external funding). The committee also monitors and encourages research students’ progress in cooperation with the Tutor for Research Students and individual supervisors.

2. Department Research Seminar: takes place weekly during term time and provides members of the Department with an opportunity to present ‘work-in-progress’. It also provides a forum for outside speakers and gives PhD students the chance to present their work to the Department at the appropriate moment.

3. Department Research Strategy Day: organised at least once a year to give the Department as a whole the opportunity to reflect upon the larger implications of issues relating to individual and collaborative research in the Department. It also provides a forum for critical self-assessment as a Department in a collegial environment.

4. Department Funding Resource Database:
maintains detailed information on foundations, deadlines, application procedures etc. and contains Department members’ qualitative assessment of these foundations.

Staffing Policy
Research activity is given priority in recruitment. It is a prime consideration in promotions and in the approval of leave from teaching. The School’s Staff Development and Review system provides a regular opportunity to consider each staff member’s need for research facilities or training. It is also supported by the School’s Promotion and Research Committees which encourage newly appointed members of staff to take a year of research leave within four years of their appointment. This policy is strongly endorsed by the Department. New entrants to the profession need the time and encouragement to concentrate on two major tasks: completing their doctoral dissertations or transforming them into book manuscripts; and embarking on new directions in research.

This has been ably achieved by five of the relatively recent entrants to the Department who have transformed their doctoral dissertations into substantial monographs (Hopgood, Kong, Sidel, Strauss, Zelkina). All are fully committed to new research projects which will in turn form the basis of the next cycle of their publications. Dean, Deans and Heder, who completed their doctorates during the past two years, are presently preparing these manuscripts for publication and have played a full part in the research culture of the Department.

Recruitment strategies for the Department are shaped both by regional and by disciplinary concerns, by our teaching commitments as a department offering a BA and a range of MSc degrees in Politics at SOAS, as well as by the complementary research interests of the Department. On the disciplinary side this has meant the recruitment in 1999 of a Lecturer in International Relations (Laffey) and in 2001 the Department will make a bid to the School for a post in the Political Economy of Underdevelopment. On the regional side, the Department recruited in 1999 a Research Fellow in the Politics of the Caspian and Caucasus Region (Zelkina) and in 2000 a Research Fellow in South East Asian Politics (Hedman).

Users of this website should note that the information is not intended to be a complete record of all research centres in the UK

Copyright 2002 - HEFCE, SHEFC, ELWa, DEL

Last updated 17 October 2003

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