Forschungs- & Entwicklungsinformationsdienst der Gemeinschaft - CORDIS

Periodic Report Summary 1 - REGPOL² (Socio-economic and Political Responses to Regional Polarisation in Central and Eastern Europe)

Since January 2014, the ITN “Socio-economic and Political Responses to Regional Polarisation in Central and Eastern Europe” (RegPol²) has been working on issues of regional polarisation and socio-spatial peripheralisation training at the same time 16 young researchers for careers in academia, public administration, NGOs and the private sector.

The project centres on new patterns of regional disparities between metropolised core regions and the remaining parts of Central and Eastern European countries which emerged during the last decades. Such spatial patterns have become a striking feature of the current settlement system of these countries and has lately fuelled concerns about further polarisation and peripheralisation of non-metropolitan regions. Patterns of regional polarisation, however, do not remain restricted to CEE, but can be found throughout the European Union, albeit at different degrees.

As such, there is an EU-wide high demand for professionals able to deal with the spatial implications of these issues. This holds true all the more so as balancing spatial development has been a major goal of European Regional Policy. Against this background the objectives of the network are in particular
• to educate self-reflexive specialists in complex multi-agent decision making for regional policy under uncertain framework conditions;
• to train young researchers in better understanding regional polarisation and interrelated policymaking processes in different contexts and in communicating relevant information for decision making;
• to raise the employability of trained researchers due to better knowledge of different disciplinary and cultural planning and policy traditions in the EU.

These objectives will be achieved through a joint research and training programme in an interdisciplinary and intersectoral network, including specialists from academia and the private sector from seven different European countries.
The ESRs and ERs are researching the above mentioned processes from different perspectives and on different scales in a comparative way. Their projects are organised in 3 interlinked work packages dealing with (1) the evolution, reproduction and persistence of centrality and peripherality, (2) the governance of core-periphery relations and (3) forms of socio-economic adaptation and strategies as well as the potentials to overcome states of peripherality.

All fellows have been working on practice-oriented questions which allow them to gain a better understanding of regional polarisation and interrelated policy making processes in different contexts. To achieve this goal they are using a mix of quantitative and qualitative methods from cartographic and statistical data analysis to interviews and ethnographic methods.

During the first months of the project three ERs were collaborating with the senior researchers to draft the conceptual frameworks for the three work packages. The ERs supported the ESRs strongly in conceptualising their individual projects within the work packages. Furthermore all ERs elaborated articles linked to their work packages which already are or will be published soon in renowned peer-reviewed journals.

Within the 13 ESR projects the first months were dedicated to elaborating the individual research proposals and work programmes. The PhD students have reviewed the relevant literature, worked on their methodology and did their first exploratory field work. They are enrolled in local PhD programmes in order to benefit from the partners’ expertise and networks and the exchange with other local PhD students. If necessary the fellows have received training in the national languages and in transferable skills such as academic writing.

Each project includes intersectoral secondments providing trainees with occupational skills while at the same time strengthening the interface between academia and the private sector. All fellows are seconded within the project network conducting their fieldwork at the place of secondment.

Local training and secondments are supplemented by network-wide events designed to guide the ESRs through their research phases and enabling strong collaboration between the partners. So far 4 network-wide events took place including keynote lectures and seminars of renowned geographers and social scientists as well as training courses on methodological issues and transferable skills, World café and Open space sessions:
• Introductory Event “Basic understanding on core-periphery relations in Central and Eastern Europe: implications for research and
methodology”, 02 – 06/11/2014, Bratislava
• 1st RegPol² school “Scientific concepts of and policy approaches towards polarisation processes in Central and Eastern Europe”,
02 – 06/02/2015, Tartu
• Training on quantitative and qualitative methods in social sciences, 18 – 21/05/2015, Leipzig
• 2nd RegPol² school “Empirical perspectives on Central and Eastern European polarisation processes and their analysis” incl. Mid-term review by the European Commission, 26 – 30/10/2015, Leipzig

As guest researchers the network could welcome so far Prof. Merje Kuus (University of British Columbia), Prof. Ulrich Ermann (University of Graz), Prof. Anssi Paasi (University of Oulu), Dr. Catherine Perron (Sciences-Po, Paris), Prof. Ray Hudson (Durham University) and Dr. Thomas Bürk (University of Hamburg).

Until the end of the project there will be 3 further network-wide training events supporting the ESRs in their analytical work, the writing of their thesis and the building of their future career. The 3rd RegPol² school will be dedicated particularly to strategies towards a balanced spatial development whereas the Final Training will focus on policy implications and the communication of research results. In order to strengthen the exchange between fellows they will self-organise a meeting without senior researchers.
All participants, partners and guest researchers will be invited to the Final Conference in September 2017 in Leipzig to present and discuss the results of the project with scientists and practitioners working in the field of regional development and polarisation issues.

Apart from the training events within the network, the fellows have been very active in communicating their research to a wider scientific audience at international conferences and workshops, but also in publications. E.g. 10 ESRs presented their projects at the EUGEO in September 2015 in Budapest and 5 sessions of this conference were (co-)chaired by members of the RegPol² consortium. Furthermore, the Hungarian partners edited a special issue of the peer-reviewed Hungarian Geographical Bulletin on the topics of regional polarisation and peripheralisation with contributions from several consortium members ( .

More information on the project is available on our website or via our newsletter (subscription is possible via the project website).

Contact details:
Project Coordinator
Dr. Thilo Lang (Leibniz Institute for Regional Geography)

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