RA5a: Structure,environment and staffing policy
Research in Legal Studies at Sussex has gone from strength to strength during the last five years and has fulfilled the promise predicted in the self assessment in the last RAE. In August 1999, the former Centre for Legal Studies (CLS) was upgraded to the status of a full school of the University, the School of Legal Studies (SLS) with its own Graduate Research Centre (GRC). Many of the faculty of SLS have been in post for the entire period under review; what was at the time of the previous RAE a predominantly young and inexperienced faculty has matured into a cohesive, research active body further strengthened, in research terms, by significant appointments at lecturer and professorial level.
2. Research policy
Research policy is characterised by four core values. First, SLS is firmly committed to the University's mission of interdisciplinary collaboration. Secondly, it endorses the value of international and comparative dimensions to legal research. Whilst SLS does not adopt a prescriptive approach to the interests of individual staff, this particular type of analysis is becoming increasingly evident among both new and established faculty. Thirdly, SLS strongly believes in the synergy between research and teaching. Research output has fed the expansion and delivery of postgraduate programmes and nurtured a deeper research culture across SLS involving taught and research students. Fourthly, SLS is mindful of the interests of users in research. It therefore seeks to involve local and regional organisations and professions where appropriate.
3. Research support mechanisms
• An annual grant to enable members to pay for research assistance and/or to assist in meeting the expenses of attending appropriate academic conferences. Where funds permit, the allocated sum (currently £500 per member) is increased in suitable cases. Information about conferences is disseminated by the research committee. Members of faculty who attend conferences are expected to provide feedback to SLS.
• Paid research leave. Each year, the research committee assesses applications for leave and advises the University to grant such leave where it is satisfied as to the value and achievability of the research projects concerned. Leave is generally organised so as to enable two faculty members to be on leave for each of the autumn and spring terms. A faculty member who has had leave will be expected to give an account - usually in one of the weekly research seminars - of the work undertaken while on leave.
• A weekly research seminar slot with invited speakers, written into the timetable of each faculty member, thus ensuring that all are available to attend. Members of SLS present papers in this seminar from time to time, for example in accounting for a research grant or paid research leave received under the systems described above. The slot may also be used to discuss more general issues such as funding applications.
Besides these formal measures, other opportunities exist for developing research ideas. For example, research seminars run by other Schools or Subject Groups in the University, which many SLS faculty attend, reinforce the culture of interdisciplinary collaboration.
4. Research activities and achievements
a) Criminal law and criminal justice
Koffman’s empirical work on rural crime and victimisation, published as Crime Surveys and Victims of Crime (1996), includes a substantial section discussing his mid-Wales crime survey, one of the first local surveys to make a detailed study of crime and victimisation in a rural area. The survey has achieved an international reputation and is frequently cited in works dealing with crime surveys and victimisation. This work led to an invitation to contribute a chapter on rural crime to a collection of essays, entitled Crime and Conflict in the Countryside (1999), which provided the most comprehensive examination of rural crime produced in Britain.
Comparative and international dimensions to criminal justice are highlighted in Vogler’s research. He began his work on the Spanish Criminal Justice system as a Research Fellow at the Max Planck Institute in 1997, completing this research by a programme of interviews in Madrid in 1998. His paper at the 1996 conference at the Seminario Internacional de Derecho Comparado Sobre La Prueba Testifical en La Union Europa at the Instituto Europeo in Madrid was developed into an Italian version and published (see Vogler, RA2). More recently, he presented a paper on lay participation in criminal trials in former British imperial territories at a conference on Lay Participation in the Criminal Trial held in Siracusa in 1999, underlining his international reputation in the field of comparative criminal law and criminal justice.
Keating’s work also has an international dimension (see further, RA6). Her work on child abduction with Reddaway (see RA2) is an example of collaborative work between supervisor and research student. Also, Keating’s joint work (with Clarkson, Leicester) entitled Criminal law: Text and Materials (1998) is now in its fourth edition and enjoys a reputation as one of the leading criminal law texts.
b) European Law
c) Property Law
d) Commercial Law
Related to this work was Rajak’s co-organisation (with economist Lipton) of a conference held at Sussex in July 2000 on Business in South Africa. The proceedings of an earlier conference on the (then still unenacted) European Bankruptcy Convention in 1996 are being edited for publication by Rajak and Andenas (now Director, British Institute of Comparative and International Law, with whom Rajak organised the conference). This 1996 conference was largely funded by a grant by Coopers & Lybrand, who as Price Waterhouse Coopers also provided funding for the Business in South Africa conference. This phase of research on comparative and international bankruptcy will be rounded off by a further conference in Summer 2001 to examine the prospects for the harmonisation of substantive insolvency principles and institutions throughout the member states of the EU. It is anticipated that this will attract representatives from all the EU states, plus (at least) Australia, the United States, South Africa and Israel.
e) Comparative and International Law
The current period has seen burgeoning enthusiasm among SLS faculty to pursue research involving comparative studies or the investigation of law in other States and regions. Notable contributions to this considerable body of publication are Probert on the law of cohabitation in France and Europe, Roberts on New Zealand’s Family Court, Rajak on South African Company Law, Dembour on the Belgian Congo, Vogler on criminal law and procedure in France and Spain, Keating and Vogler on child protection law in France and Belgium, Dean on all aspects of Japanese law, Lind on same sex headed families in Britain, the USA, South Africa and other jurisdictions and Edmunds on directors’ duties in America and the UK.
International law research has been enhanced by the arrival of faculty keen to develop new areas. Examples include Haslam’s work on NGO Tribunals and on technological change, as well as Eden’s study of the legal implications of electronic commerce. Happold participated in an international delegation to observe the trial of Nazmi Gűr, Secretary-General of the Human Rights Association of Turkey, in Ankara. He subsequently gave a presentation on the mission to the Bar Human Rights Committee in May 2000, followed by publication of his report.
f) Family Law
5. Applying the core values of research policy
Dembour draws upon her anthropology background in research focused on human rights and multiculturalism. Having completed her book on the Belgian Congo (see RA2), she is now co-editor with two Sussex anthropologists of a further book, Culture and Rights: Anthropological Perspectives, due for publication by CUP in July 2001.
Environmental law research also continues to be conducted on an interdisciplinary basis. Edmunds and Sutton are collaborating on a paper to the fifth colloquium on law and geography in the UCL Current Legal Issues. Edmunds is an active member of the interdisciplinary Centre for Environmental Research at Sussex (see website: http://www.cpes.sussex.ac.uk/cer/).
SLS has encouraged academic work across the science/social science divide by granting Davies a term's leave to undertake a literature review on the inter-relationship between law and science. This was the first part of an ongoing study, which it is anticipated, will develop to apply ideas from sociology and philosophy of science to the legal process and, ultimately, assess the place of the expert witness in court.
b) international context
c) the synergy between research and teaching
The GRC (director, Vogler) caters for the School's research students and for its strengthened taught Masters' degrees, each of which has a substantial research component. The GRC now provides its own intensive research methodology courses for postgraduate students at Master's and doctoral level. The enthusiasm of SLS faculty for research has been transmitted to the postgraduate student body, which has supplemented the regular research supervision seminars with informal meetings throughout the academic session in the last two years to discuss their research and writing. SLS is embarking on a strategy to increase research student numbers (presently nine). This includes all members of SLS undergoing training in research supervision to encourage the widest possible involvement of faculty and to maximise the range of expertise available to potential applicants.
d) user groups and the community
Copyright 2002 - HEFCE, SHEFC, ELWa, DEL
Last updated 17 October 2003