UACES Chair’s Message — November 2021

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UACES Chair, Prof Simon Usherwood

Dear UACES colleagues

It was in the late 1990s that I first discovered UACES. Urged by my PhD supervisor to go and find some other people interested in what I was interested in, I found the Association a natural home. By the time I’d completed my thesis I had gotten to help set up and run the precursor of the Graduate Forum, presented my research in various parts of the continent at UACES events, and made many good professional connections and friendships.

Those friendships include my predecessor in this post, Dr Nicholas Startin, who must be the starting point for this column. His work over the past three years has been exemplary, not least given the massive disruption to all our lives with the Covid pandemic. In particular, I would praise him for shaping an approach to equality, diversity and inclusion that will inform every aspect of UACES’ work in the future. Nick’s commitment and engagement should be applauded, something I look forward to doing at our AGM later this year (the date will be confirmed), at which I hope you will join us.

My own long involvement with UACES has made me very conscious of the value of the Association, both to its members and to European Studies more generally. With that in mind, I will be using my time as Chair to pursue three key priorities.

First, I want to make sure we have a strong and resilient heart to our work, making sure our internal organisation and operation is in good form. As you’ll know, we have now closed our permanent space in London and the office team is now operating on a mixture of remote-working and use of a shared office space. This arrangement has already proved its worth during the pandemic, and formalising it has also allowed us to make significant savings in our overheads. Together with Emily, Melina and Emma I’ll be looking at how we can optimise this while retaining the strong sense of team identity and inclusiveness that exists. More prosaically, I will work with the other officers to consider ways to advance our long-standing intentions to diversify income streams for the Association, to ensure we have a firmer basis on which to plan and act.

That internal work leads directly into the second key priority: making the Association work for its members. I’ve already noted how EDI will become an integral part of our activities and operations and I intend that this feeds through to what you as an individual member experience from us. It will also be a key part of keeping our activities under continuous review; if there has been one positive from the past 20 months then it is that the potential of online work has been better understood, so we want to retain that where it makes sense.

Finally, I want to do more to promote and embed UACES within wider networks. That means not simply more connections to our sister associations in the UK, Europe and beyond, but also more opportunities for UACES members to get their work in front of different audiences. During this autumn, I’ll be working what this might mean practically, but given the salience of our work there is obvious potential to make links with policy-makers, the media and the general public. As an early example of this, I’d ask you to check out the radio partnership with EU!RADIO, open to all members to discuss their work.

While I travel hopefully, I am also aware that this will not be an easy process, nor one with easy answers.

For many of our members, the UK’s withdrawal from the EU was not only a personal challenge, but also a professional one. UACES wants to play its part in providing a space for mutual support for any of you in the UK that have been affected by changes to your ability to research, teach or discuss things European, and I would encourage you to contact me directly about your experiences. I’m very happy to take those responses and work from them. One step that we have already taken is to write to the European Commission about the changes to the Horizon Europe programme that remove most opportunities for associations such as UACES to access funding: with over half our members based in EU member states, we see that as a weakening of the programme’s intention to strengthen the research base.

On a more upbeat note, I am pleased to share the outcome of the recent interviews for a new editorial team for the Journal of Common Market Studies. Prof Paul James Cardwell (The City Law School), Prof Roberta Guerrina (University of Bristol) and Dr Gabriel Siles-Brügge (University of Warwick) produced a very strong application, with a clear agenda around building the inter- and multidisciplinarity of JCMS and bringing diversity and inclusion into the entire set of processes involved in producing a journal. The process underlined to the selection panel the very strong reputation of JCMS: all of the teams that applied provided thoughtful and well-considered proposals that also speak very well of the health of European Studies in many countries.

The new team will begin their transition in the new year, which means that this will be only the first time that I get to thank Dr Toni Haastrup (University of Stirling), Prof Richard Whitman (University of Kent) and the rest of the current editorial group for their work. Their efforts to diversify the Journal’s content and approach have been vital in the leading the wider debates we have and I especially appreciate how they have worked with UACES in developing new opportunities.

We recently launched the Call for Paper for the next Annual Conference taking place in Lille. So don’t forget to submit your proposals. Also, the next DTA will take place in person: together with IBEI, it will be in Barcelona and will involve talks and seminars for PhD researchers and ECRs.

Thank you for your involvement with UACES, whatever form this takes, and I look forward to hearing from you (and meeting you) in the months and years to come.

Simon Usherwood, UACES Chair