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CASPIAN Report Summary

Project ID: 642709
Funded under: H2020-EU.1.3.1.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - CASPIAN (Around the Caspian: a Doctoral Training for Future Experts in Development and Cooperation with Focus on the Caspian Region)

Reporting period: 2015-01-01 to 2016-12-31

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

The vast area around the Caspian Sea extends from Russia to Iran and from Azerbaijan to Turkmenistan, with a population of 190 million people and an area of 7 million square kilometres. The area borders some of the most important world powers and has the utmost strategic significance, in the light of its energy resources and its geo-political location. Most of the region had remained closed to EU states until the end of the Soviet Union, whereas Iran has undergone several phases and is only gradually opening up to the EU. Because of this, it is a territory whose potential has remained largely underexplored and the EU has an insufficient number of regional specialists who can provide clear analysis to EU institutions, governments, potential investors, development workers and decision makers.

The main goal of this project, therefore, is to train the next generation of experts on the Caspian region in order to establish, and make sustainable, a network of excellence.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

15 Early Stage Researchers have been recruited; each of them is registered for a PhD in one of the European universities involved in the network. They are receiving world-leading training on the region, on research design and methodologies and on appropriate dissemination of knowledge to different sectors - in leading academic journals, in policy-papers aimed at the EU, governments and civil society and in popular but rigorous articles aimed at a wider public audience. The recruited researchers are integrated into a network of experienced researchers from seven leading European universities, seven non-academic partners with diverse experiences in training, dissemination, policy-work, consultancy, opinion polling and finally six world leading universities from outside the region - bringing perspectives from the US, India, China, Turkey, Russia and Korea.

The researchers began their training in their host university, with a focus on research design, methodology, ethics, and language classes. Each researcher has access to the expertise and advice of all of the experienced supervisors within the network. The network will come together for nine events over four years - one planning conference, six training events and two dissemination conferences. To date the following events have already taken place
• Kick-Off, planning conference, Marmara University, Istanbul February 2015.
• Training Workshop 1, Bremen University, December 2015, focused on research design, feedback from inter-disciplinary perspectives, non-academic perspectives, ethical requirements.
• Training Workshop 2, St Andrews University, Scotland, June 2016, focus on state of the art, methodology, preparing for fieldwork, ethics.
• Training Workshop 3, Dublin City University, September 2016. Focus on Fieldwork, secondment plans and dissemination plans.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

The Researchers were recruited in September 2015. Therefore the impacts and moving beyond the state of the art in this first period are primarily related to training rather than research outputs. The network has established itself as a leading network on the region. Researchers are now in the phase where they will spend an extended period living and working in the region, conducting fieldwork, improving their cultural understanding of the region and their language skills. Each researcher will also spend a period working in a non-academic partner, gaining that work experience, learning new skills appropriate to working in and with that sector. Finally each researcher will spend a period of mobility in one of the universities from outside the region. Dissemination of early outputs is now beginning, early in year three – all hosted on the programme website.

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