Over recent years, HSE University has gained considerable theoretical, methodological, empirical, organizational and HR expertise in Political Science research. This is confirmed by the University’s positions in global ratings: in the QS subject rankings, HSE University placed in the Top-100 (first in Russia) for Politics and International Studies, in the ARWU rankings – in the Top-150 (also first in Russia) for Political Science.
In order to maintain and improve these positions, as well as to be at the cutting edge of Political Science, HSE University will respond to the following (but not limited to) global challenges:
- various types of regime dynamics, including: a) the de-consolidation of “old” liberal democracies as other types of governance and/or non-liberal practices gain a foothold in the world and thereby step up demand for the latter; and b) trust in existing and new institutions;
- transformation of politics and the world order, including: а) the digitization (digital transformation) of the political sphere, resulting in changes in administrative mechanisms, electoral processes, and political activism; b) changes in the distribution of government powers, authority and influence, as well as organizations, corporations, and groups; c) growth in competition between states and new actors in traditional and new sectors (for instance, cyberspace); d) changes in models for interconnecting the developing and developed world, including issues related to migration and the transformation of international institutions driven by the growth of emerging markets, etc.;
- the appearance of new challenges and security threats for both individual countries and the world in general, including such problems as ever-widening inequality and polarization within states and between groups of states (regions) alike, as well as risks related to urbanization and climate change, with the latter spurring increase or severity of natural cataclysms, etc.;
In order to maintain and enhance HSE University’s current positions, political scientists also consider methodological challenges. In particular, scholars must adjust their basic methodological frameworks (e.g., recognizing certain limitations in rational choice theory) and be at the forefront of recent trends towards greater sophistication of research methodologies in political research with respect to building models and analyzing data. These challenges may be expressed as follows:
- enhanced complexity of statistical analysis methods (e.g., Bayesian approach, etc.), identifying and testing new Big Data methodologies (e.g., on the basis of network analysis, machine learning models, etc.);
- wider use of computational simulation;
- enhanced application of experimental and quasi-experimental methods.
Drawing on the University’s advanced practices and HR potential, as well as taking into account the formulation of the new agenda, the priority areas for political science research at HSE University will be as follows:
- comparative political research - enlarging and taking an active part in large-scale international comparative research involving Russia, with a focus on comparative analysis of Russia’s current agenda. A promising and critical component of this area is the analysis of policy processes in Russia’s regions, where HSE University has achieved considerable global standing;
- research on identity politics and politics of memory - a key emerging multi-disciplinary field, where HSE University already has certain achievements. Given the growing interest in this sub-field throughout the worldwide academic community, respective research will be instrumental in the further enhancement of HSE University’s global reputation;
- research related to administrative practices in times of increasing social turbulence and institutional inefficiency – at present, this field is in the vanguard of research at the junction of Political Science, Sociology, and other disciplines. Multi-disciplinary research in this area will also consider such crucial issues as coercion/persuasion, collective action against a backdrop of socio-political mobilization, the rise of social movements, populism, etc.;
- computational political science - this field is at the forefront of global research and developments in Political Science. It is rooted in data science, Big Data, network analysis, Bayesian modelling, and other advanced quantitative methodologies. A major foundation for the development of this field at HSE University rests upon its connections with experts in Economics, Computer Science and Mathematics, both inside and outside the University, as well as ties with relevant RAS institutes. Furthermore, breakthroughs are highly likely in the following areas: а) polarization, conflict, and protest in social media, as well as the relationship between political attitudes expressed online and offline; b) artificial intelligence (advanced bots) in political online spaces, as both an object and instrument for research; c) methodologies and methods for modelling complex political systems with the use of computational approaches, e.g., analyzing problems of stability and resilience of political regimes/systems; d) research into digital policy, e.g., the development of instruments and recommendations for designing systems to collect specific classes of data for facilitating data-driven policy/governance.
These particular fields shall be developed on the basis of HSE University’s centres of excellence, first appearing as stand-alone projects and then receiving institutional support as they grow.
In order to complete respective research processes, partnerships shall be extended and enhanced with the University’s external partners in Russia (European University in St. Petersburg, RAS institutes, including the Institute of Applied Mathematics, Institute of World Economy and International Relations, etc.), and the University’s subdivisions, e.g., at its regional campuses (primarily, the Department of Psychology and its laboratories, and the Department of Sociology at the Faculty of Social Sciences, Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience (as an affiliated member of the Faculty of Social Sciences), International Centre for the Study of Institutions and Development, Faculty of Computer Science, Faculty of Communications, Media and Design, HSE University in St. Petersburg).
Integration with Educational Processes
The development of respective subject fields will spur the upgrade of educational activities, including:
- enhancing the mathematical and computer literacy components;
- customization of student trajectories as a foundation of multi-disciplinary and interdisciplinary instruction;
- instruction centred around core skills and competencies in students: ability to design and implement solutions in response to new multi-faceted problems and challenges; the ability and skills to acquire new knowledge and practical skills (i.e., Learning to Learn);
- redesigning degree programmes in order to prepare students for the future job market (programmes developed at the intersection of diverse courses, which take into account an increase in the complexity of administrative systems, the automation of processes, and globalization);
- expanding the opportunities for gaining social experience in the course of studies by involving students in social projects, field research activities, analysis of real-life social processes.
The development of Computational Political Science under the already taught degree programmes (e.g., “Political Science” Bachelor’s programme, Master’s in “Applied Political Science”), will help form attractive and in-demand, in practical terms, trajectories for students, who pursue not only Political Science, but also Computer Science, Applied Mathematics, Linguistics, etc.