On January 28 and February 4, CEU hosted Sciences Po Research Fellow Bruno Cautres to teach the first workshop of CIVICA Research’s Innovative Research Methods Workshop Series. The event, Multivariate Statistical Techniques for Comparing Countries, organized by CEU Political Science Professor Levente Littvay with CEU PhD student Ameni Mehrez, convened researchers and students from across CIVICA for a 2-day introductory-level workshop on the main statistical techniques used to analyze cross-national comparative surveys data.
“Given the strong social science research profile of CIVICA universities, a program focused on innovative research methods was an obvious choice,” comments Littvay, regarding the new series. He adds, “It is important to keep our young scholars at the cutting edge of not only what to research but also how to appropriately do it. And this is the number one goal we set out.” Littvay has previously worked with Cautres on methods training at the academic organization MethodsNET and the European Consortium for Political Research (ECPR).
“The difference between the quality of the workshops all has to do with the students…the best workshops are always where the most excellent young scholars show up,” notes Littvay. “CIVICA has the opportunity to produce critical mass for any methods workshop and ensure that the young scholars showing up will be amazing. This is a true joy from the trainer's point of view and the best learning experience for all participants.”
The recent workshop entailed a hybrid mode of delivery, including a self-guided component with advance course materials, and the main goal was to teach how different statistical methods treat the ‘country effect’: how statistical models, scaling techniques or data reduction methods test for the ‘invariance’ of the relationship between variables across countries. The structure was supported by Littvay’s experience working on the 2020 ECPR summer school, which was forced online due to the pandemic. This experience of thoughtfully creating quality PhD methods training digitally and advising instructors in the transition shaped a solid mix of pre-recorded content, together with Zoom conversations, interactive readings where workshop participants can discuss aspects of the readings, and a fully developed online platform.
Mehrez, who was a teaching assistant and participant in the workshop reflects, “I think what CIVICA is offering is very helpful to learn new methods and/or master them…the workshops are definitely something a lot of PhD students can benefit from no matter what the research is about, as long as you are using quantitative or qualitative methodologies.” As a comparativist, Mehrez employs cross-national survey data and notes the importance of such techniques on a wide range of countries, while understanding the potential challenges that can emerge when working with such data. These topics along with best practices were addressed by the workshop.
“Quantitative work is far too often taken as self-evident. This class was an opportunity for us to be re-introduced to a much-needed critical approach for what we aim to measure, and the scope, extent and validity of the claims we hope to make,” comments participant Guillaume Levrier from Sciences Po.
Following a successful first workshop, Littvay looks forward to future editions of CIVICA Research’s Innovative Research Methods Workshop Series as well as the possibility of in-person formats for upcoming sessions.
CIVICA Research brings together researchers from eight leading European universities in the social sciences to contribute knowledge and solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges. The project aims to strengthen the research & innovation pillar of the European University alliance CIVICA. CIVICA Research is co-funded by the EU’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.
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