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4 topics that may interest you in my doctoral thesis

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Last month, my PhD thesis “Information flows in the context of EU policy-making : affiliation networks and the post-2012 reform of the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy” has been published online (under a Creative Commons license), so anyone is free to read it, quote it, criticise it.

If you’ve been reading this blog for some time, you know where I’ve come from and you will have seen, over the years, many topics contained in the thesis surfaced on this blog. As a reminder, here’s the overall framework and the issues covered in the study:

ResearchFrame_PhDThesis

Still, I thought I’d highlight why you might actually want to read certain parts of the thesis along four specific topics.

  • TOPIC 1: Leaked documents in EU politics

My main interest was in understanding more broadly how information flows happen in EU policy-making – and this is described in section 2.2. Yet, I found the subject of “leaks” most interesting as it combines the general flow of information with strategic behaviour of those who leak or share leaks  with more general considerations about who should have access to EU documents at what point in time. Below  just two findings on leaks of Commission drafts from my study:

(a) The first image (p.202) shows, as a worldle of responses to a questionnaire sent to lobbyists, the main sources of leaks. It highlights that while a leak will initially come from the Commission, it then is spread via many channels to interest groups:

Sources of leaks_p202

(b) The second image (p.204) shows the time(s) at which leaks from the Commission were received by outside actors, highlighting the moment of so-called “interservice consultation” within the Commission (in the case studies this was in early April) as the time when the leaks really start happening (the official publication of the draft regulation was in mid-July).

Timing of Leaks_p204

  • TOPIC 2: Transborder civil society networks in EU politics

Based on participation lists to a variety of consultative committees in EU fisheries policy that bring together different interest groups as well as national and European officials, I conducted what I think is the largest event affiliation network analysis done so far in EU politics (see one visualisation with a selection of committees below (p.159)). With this analysis I could show that these consultative bodies are not creating isolate sets of meetings but that they create transborder civil society networks in EU politics.

Anybody interested in understanding how European society and politics are emerging, may want to have a look at this, especially if you are also into EU committee governance research and have ignored the network aspects of this research threat.

2modeNetwork_noLDRAC_Pelrac_p159

For abbreviations, see the thesis. At the centre are Brussels-based committees. Regional committees cluster geographically (Baltic & North Sea on top, North West and South West Atlantic on the left, Mediterranean at the bottom)

  • TOPIC 3: EU Common Fisheries Policy

There’s not an awful lot of empirical research into the Common Fisheries Policy of the European Union, although it is one of the few policies where the EU has exclusive competences. The study does not only trace the recently finished (2013/2014) reform of the EU’s fisheries policy from its earliest origins in 2008 to the Commission’s first draft in July 2011. It also shows the variety of interest group actors active in this policy and the range information flows (inkl. leaks) that happened around the policy reform.

One of the conclusions from this analysis is that past efforts in analysing the size of the EU interest group population seriously underestimate the amount of non-governmental actors directly involved in and around EU affairs. See Chapters 4-6 for this and more.

  • TOPIC 4: From Network theory to affiliation networks as independent variable

With this study I’ve tried to get from simple network theoretic assumptions about how networks are expected to impact information flows to the measurement of a mid-size affiliation network (205 events, 1333 persons) during a specific time period (2009-10) as independent variable to try to explain access to information of actors in this network at a later time period (1st half of 2011). I’ve show methodological challenges in constructing the network, in deciding on the boundaries in dealing with missing data or the definition of what actually constitutes an event (and the effects on the overall network structure). See in particular Chapters 3+5.

I still see a lot of room to continue to work on this, especially since affiliation network analysis is still a small field in political science (and network analysis) and more interaction between theory and empirical research will only help to make future studies like mine more easy. I felt that I had to take a lot of decisions on my own because there were not enough theory-method-research discussions that could guide my research.

But who should read this?

Well, yes, you probably want to be a political scientist or network theorist/analyst to have deeper look into the thesis. But maybe you are interested in EU fisheries policy for one reason or another or you are as intrigued by the topics of leaked documents as I was – then don’t hesitate to take a look.

Do you have questions?

You are a researcher, student, practitioner and you have questions on substance, on methods, on data or any other aspect of my research? Well, contact me at ronny [dot] patz [at] gsi [dot] uni [minus] muenchen [dot] de. Happy to answer and help.


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