Here you can find the latest updates on the Collaborative Research Centre "Global Dynamics of Social Policy": summaries of current research results, references to our latest publications, outcomes of events and more news from the projects and their staff members.

Dr. Johanna Kuhlmann
Dr. Johanna Kuhlmann
In an interview Johanna Kuhlmann, who moved from TU Braunschweig to the CRC 1342, explains why social policy combines the small things with the big picture and why it appeals to her to discover something new in the familiar.

You're a political scientist. When did you know this was the right job for you?

At least not when I started studying. I studied political science and German language and literature and at the beginning I had no concrete idea of what I wanted to become. Journalism was an idea, but that was very vague. I then did several internships related to political science and German literature.

What exactly?

I have worked in a ministry and with a member of the Bundestag, but also in a literature research institute. I knew I wanted to work in political science when I had my first job as a student assistant at university.

That was still in Münster, right?

Yes, I really liked that, because my professor at the time directly involved the student assistants in his research. I was involved in many discussions and could participate in research. I quickly got a comprehensive insight. So I thought: This mitght be it.

What are you interested in social policy?

When I started studying social policy, I was particularly interested in strategic aspects, specifically: Why do political actors cut social benefits that are essential for many people voting fir them? That was a few years after the Agenda 2010 reforms. My dissertation then focused more on the content dimension of social policy, i.e. how exactly does the provision of social policy services actually change? And how can this be explained - beyond strategic aspects? Even if social policy is incredibly small-scale and one can deal for a long time with paragraphs of individual social laws: Changes in social policy always make statements about the basic principles of social coexistence and about the question of what role the state is prepared to take in providing welfare for citizens.

Why did you swap your post-doc position in Braunschweig for your new position in the CRC?

Because I was very interested in the conceptual design of the CRC as a whole and the project in which I am now working. The project aims to bundle the results of the other case study centred projects and to explain the causal mechanisms that lead to the dissemination of social policy. In this way, an independent theoretical contribution is to be made. That's what attracted me. I am not a pure theorist and have also worked empirically during my doctoral thesis. But I do have a "weakness" for theoretical questions. I have also focused on European welfare states so far. One starting point of the CRC is: We know a great deal about OECD welfare systems, but far less about other welfare systems. That's a lot like me.

And you didn't find that discouraging, but appealing?

Absolutely. That's what scientific work is all about, namely uncovering blind spots. I am familiar with the fundamental debates and theoretical points of reference of the CRC, which will initially be the focus of my work in the project. But the social policies of many non-OECD countries, especially in detail, are new territory for me. Because in our project, which has no empirical element of its own, we will look a lot into the other projects, I expect a lot from it.

Dr. Johanna Kuhlmann
CRC 1342: Global Dynamics of Social Policy
Mary-Somerville-Straße 7
28359 Bremen
Phone: +49 421 218-58574

Dr. Dennis Niemann
Dr. Dennis Niemann
As a young boy Dennis Niemann wanted to become a paleontologist. Today, as a political scientist, he prefers to look for social mechanisms and patterns rather than petrified bones.

What was your first career aspiration as a child or teenager?

Probably the mandatory astronaut, firefighter, or policeman. A profession in which you "really do something". I fully embraced the role models of that time. When I grew up in the 1980s, there was also a great dinosaur phase. So my plan was to dig up dinosaurs later.

And why aren't you doing it today?

Because it's probably quite boring to dig in the ground and find such a petrified bone every couple of years. My first realistic career aspiration at the beginning of my studies was becoming a journalist. Like so many in social sciences. I thought that woould suit me because I've always liked to write. But I had neither connections nor special talent in the field of journalism.

Why did you start studying social sciences?

This was actually recommended to me during my school years at a student advisory service. I then studied politics and law. And right at the beginning of my studies it turned out that this was a good choice, also as a professional field.

In which sense?

This was primarily due to my work as a student assistant. In the third semester, the professor asked me if I wanted to work as an assistant. I was somewhat flattered. However, I really enjoyed my work.

You had to do more than just make photocopies.

Unlike some of my fellow students, I wasn't used as a copy slave. I was lucky enough to work for Michael Zürn, who does research in international relations. Zürn had a project on international environmental policy at the time.

When was that?

That was in 2003/2004, when there was a huge database on environmental regimes and I had the task of evaluating it. That was completely new and very interesting for me as a student, because it resulted in things that nobody knew.

Do you have an example?

That it makes more sense, for example, to use quasi-legal arbitration bodies to assess compliance with the rules rather than immediately threatening to impose any sanctions. And that's when I got infected with this virus that is driving us to create knowledge.

Your thesis was based on your work as an assistant.

Exactly, the topic was "Compliance in international environmental regimes". Since I had the position as a student assistant, I have worked continuously to get a foot in the door. And that went relatively smoothly thanks to the Collaborative Research Centre "Staatlichkeit im Wandel". So I started in the middle of the second project phase. At that time I was also an assistant to the co-project manager Ansgar Weymann. One of his colleagues found out that I wanted to do a PhD and said: "Come by, we talk about it." I think I said something like: "I would like to do research on international organisations, I don't care about the policy field". And that is how I turned to education. And that's really exciting.

Imagine you have everything you need: sufficient financial resources, good colleagues, the necessary knowledge, the best technical equipment and also enough time - which research question would you try to solve?

Phew! This is a question you don't deal with in normal life at all! Because that is completely unrealistic! However, with a colleague I had once applied for funding for a project about school autonomy in a European comparison. That's a really exciting topic.

Can you explain briefly what you mean by that?

School autonomy means that schools are less strongly regulated by the state, but can develop their own profile and teach and train people within the broadest possible framework. I would like to investigate this in a European comparison. If we had unlimited resources available for this, I would trace these development paths for each European country and subsequently have a data collection with all possible explanatory factors as to why states have opted for or against more school autonomy. To recognize what were the decisive explanatory factors for the development. That is something I am particularly interested in in general: Why did it come to something? To discover what is not obvious, but rather contradicts expectations.

Basically, the CRC 1342 is also designed in this way: You look at the past development of social policy and search for patterns.

That's is why I like the CRC research programme so much. Sometimes you have to look backwards and retrace what has happened. This enables you to identify mechanisms and patterns.

You're a postdoc now. What's your plan for the next ten, twenty years?

In the first funding phase, my goal is to seriously tackle the habilitation. And then of course I would also like to apply for professorships.

Do you already have a topic in mind for your habilitation?

Roughly, yes. It is based on our CRC education project. We look at the ideas that international organisations have on the subject of education. We also examine organisations that previously had nothing to do with education, e.g. the World Bank or the OECD, which previously had a clear economic focus. I am interested to know why the OECD, for example, is now regarding education as extremely important. What was the incentive to get so involved in this field? When you hear OECD, you immediately think of the PISA survey. And there are other international organisations that also are very much in favour of social policy. What makes organizations expand suddenly? And how do organisations that have been working on that field before, react and adapt to the new competition? Are they being ousted, are they looking for other niches? This project will be driven forward in the next six months.

Dr. Dennis Niemann
CRC 1342: Global Dynamics of Social Policy, Institute for Intercultural and International Studies
Mary-Somerville-Straße 7
28359 Bremen
Phone: +49 421 218-67473

Dr. Camilla Addey
Dr. Camilla Addey
Camilla Addey from Columbia University raises this question in her research project "ILSA Inc.", which she recently presented at CRC 1342.

The results of international large-scale assessments (ILSA) such as PISA, IGLU or TIMMS have a significant influence on the education policies of the participating countries. According to the OECD, for example, a large majority of participating countries have indicated that PISA has influenced the design of curricula and that their policy-making is influenced by the strategies of high-performing countries.

"The data from these International Large Scale Assessments are generally considered accurate and reliable," said Camilla Addey, lecturer at Columbia University, New York. During a presentation of her research project "ILSA Inc." to members of the SFB 1342 at the University of Bremen last week, Addey said that most steps of ILSAs (including development, implementation and evaluation) had been outsourced to private companies. "We do not know what impact this significant involvement of the private sector has on large-scale assessments and ultimately on education policy," said Adey. "So far there has been no empirical research on this topic."

Addey wants to close this gap with her project. Addey collects qualitative and quantitative data through network ethnography, a mixture of network analysis, qualitative interviews, observations and much more. Addey's goal is to map the network of global ILSA actors and make the nature of their relationships transparent.

Addey is still in the early stages of data collection. However, she said that the network of companies and individuals involved in international large-scale assessments was relatively small and closed. During the presentation Addey did not want to reveal details from the first interviews she had conducted with employees of relevant international organisations. It would be too early for that. However, those interested could contact her directly.

Camilla Addey at a glance:
Camilla Addey is lecturer at Teachers College at Columbia University in New York. She is also co-directing the Laboratory of International Assessment Studies, an interdisciplinary network for experts in international large-scale assessments.