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A Succesful Midterm Evaluation

A Midterm Evaluation (MTE) of the two Nordic Centres of Excellence in Welfare has been carried out culminating in the MTE Meetings held in Copenhagen on Feb 17th, 2010. Based on the successful outcome of the evaluation NordForsk decided to continue funding of the NCoE Welfare Programme until the end of the Programme period. The end date of the two centres was changed from February to December 2012 (with no additional funding).

The Scientific Advisory Board of the programme, professor Jonathan Bradshaw (University of York, UK), professor Ann Shola Orloff (Northwestern University, USA) and professor Noel Whiteside (University of Warwick, UK) made up the MTE Panel performing an institutional evaluation of the centres. The evaluation was based on a considerable volume of documentation encompassing years 2006-2010 of the Programme as well as involvement in the activities of conferences and meetings of the programmes.

Some of the central findings of the MTE Panel as well as Steering Committee’s recommendations are quoted here:

MTE Panel Report

Set scientific ambitions met – Really it is too early to tell but all the runes are good. There are a host of publications forthcoming.”

”Internationally high quality research produced – quite evidently in the pipeline with some interesting current publications / presentations. Senior researchers have produced a great deal of excellent research over the last 2-3 years,… It seems to us that both networks have clearly done a great deal to bring together leading Nordic senior researchers in many conferences and workshops, and this has been useful to them in some important ways. Yet we on the SAB continue to believe that REASSESS/Nordwel could have made a greater contribution to senior scholars’ production of excellent work if it had been possible for them to have time off.”

”International visibility gained – REASSESS and Nordwel senior researchers – and the leaders especially – have done a lot to bring the work of their Nordic colleagues to the attention of broader international (i.e., non-Nordic) audiences…. The establishment of the NordWel International Reference Group helps here too. The Nordic – Chinese initiative is particularly impressive.”

”Attracting attention – REASSESS and Nordwel have done a good job disseminating their work in academic settings, and perhaps they will do more in the last years of the grant to engage non-academic audiences… There is plenty of evidence of non-Nordic participation in NordWel (the IRF group: the non-Nordic post-docs and visiting professors). In both teams, universities and other grant giving bodies are co-funding (inc. two major foundation awards in Denmark to fund Danish historical study). There is clear evidence that the programme is attracting attention from partner universities and national funders across the board.”

”Senior researcher mobility – In NordWel, this involves researchers from outside as well as within the Nordic framework. Some very senior and well known comparative social policy scholars have been involved in the network, both as visitors and in summer school teaching.”

”Young PhD students trained and educated by Centre – This is the area in which, arguably, REASSESS and Nordwel have had their most significant impact.  The NCoE has allowed the networks to attract excellent students and to provide them with an especially broad educational experience… The interdisciplinary and international orientation of young researchers implies a very strong long term investment…. by bringing together a body of doctoral and postdoctoral students the agendas of the two centres had been influenced from the “bottom up”. In particular Nordwel had developed more detailed content on the impact of the Cold War and more emphasis on the impact of migration on Nordic welfare states. In turn this had delivered some new ties across the centres.”

”Courses, summer schools and the like – Both networks have been extremely active here and the list of summer schools, PhD recruitment and training etc. is very impressive.”

”Scientific and managerial leadership – Our admiration for the network leaders knows no bounds: they have worked extremely hard to pull all this together and is presenting interesting, dynamic and novel perspectives to the outside world…”

”Internal Centre Cohesion – Everyone seems very active and inter-group co-operation in NordWel is strengthened by the cross-cutting, historically focused seminar series, facilitating the cohesion of the network as a whole, as well as the collaboration with Reassess on the pension development theme.”

”Success of NCoE programme concept – the idea is excellent: NCoE frameworks encourage collaboration rather than eternal competition to advance intellectual achievement. That said, as indicated above, the funding mechanisms and the objectives do not match up – particularly the object of raising international visibility. Both networks have been very active in gaining additional sources of funding, but other funders do not necessarily aim to raise collective Nordic profiles in comparative perspective in a globalising academic world – and may also assume that dissemination can somehow be fitted in to a senior academic’s ‘spare’ time.”

”Nordic strength – Both centres have done an excellent job of facilitating contacts among leading researchers based in the five different Nordic countries.”

”Nordic added value – the investment in younger researchers and the provision of first class training will guarantee the pre-eminence of Nordic comparative research into the future.”

”General review of centre status by end 2009 – Both REASSESS and Nordwel have met and gone beyond their stated goals, and should be continued.  Thanks to massive hard work by the leader and his deputy, the status of NordWel seems well balanced and set to improve as the publications in the pipeline come out and are reviewed.”

General review of programme status by end 2009 – the programmes are moving ahead assuredly and their future looks bright, although the full potential may take time to develop. New research perspectives and agendas do not blossom overnight…. This MTE shows that the research proceeds at good speed – but outcomes are likely be long term rather than immediate.”

“MTE conclusions as to major deviations in performance or conditional amendments required – there are no ‘major deviations’ visible. As for conditional amendments, Nordforsk funds need to focus more on international collaboration.”

Steering Committee’s conclusions

It is recommended the NordForsk Board continue funding of the NCoE Welfare Programme until the end of the Programme period in early spring 2012. … The internationally high quality of the research produced in 2007-2009 is obvious from the MTE Report and strongly emphasized through its diversity and enthusiasm. This has gained visibility and attraction of other financers to the Programme”

The remarks by the MTE Panel referring to intensified international collaboration are partly considered feasible for integration into resumed work of the Centres in 2010-2012”