President's Message

Issue 44: Opening Up Sociology Wed 5 Feb 2020 0

Marta Soler-Gallart, ESA President 2019-2021

Marta Soler at the 14th ESA Conference in Manchester, August 2019 (on the left: Eeva Luhtakallio)

European Society Needs Sociology
When citizens are asked about their worries and concerns, most of them are social issues or have an important social dimension. Moreover, today research programmes like Horizon Europe include open and free access to the evidence provided by all sciences and also citizens’ collaborations in the co-creation of them. Citizens want to use this knowledge to improve their lives, their communities and their societies. This is the main reason why sociology is at an ideal moment to demonstrate to European society and its citizens the extent that they need sociology and sociologists.

The ESA is the best instrument that European sociologists have to collaborate in this task, which is so relevant for society and for our discipline. We are from different countries, ideologies, ethnicities, genders, beliefs, lifestyles, ages, and this diversity should be welcomed and promoted, because it is the reality we find in our societies themselves. But we also have something very important in common: the sociological thoughts, ideas and data that day after day we are elaborating and providing to society. We will reinforce our sense of scientific community while making new steps in our open dialogue with other scientists, policy-makers, organisations and citizens. We are working very hard in this direction, and in less than two years from now, the 2021 ESA Conference will demonstrate to society that sociological research and knowledges actually contribute a great deal to improving people’s lives.

According to the 2019 Eurobarometer, European citizens consider that the most important issues the EU is facing at the moment are immigration, climate change, the economic situation, terrorism (although in decline since 2017) and the condition of member state public finances, followed by unemployment, cost of living and crime. As noted before, all these issues involve a notable social dimension, and they therefore require collaboration between social science research and other sciences, in a balanced interdisciplinary manner, in order to provide the necessary knowledge to face such societal challenges. We witness a growing discourse on “innovation”, often oriented to a search for creative solutions, but these societal challenges cannot be faced only by something that is “new” or technology-driven. Sociology and social science research are doing analyses and providing evidence of actions that have been successful in improving conviviality between people from different cultures, reducing CO2 emissions, preventing violent behaviour and creating employment, to name just some areas related to the concerns which citizens highlight. Europe more than ever needs social theories and social analyses to understand these challenges and to inform solutions.

The new Executive Committee has a strong commitment to work on the shoulders of giants, and the giants are all of you: the ESA members, the Research Networks, the National Associations, the past Executives and Presidents, all the colleagues who attend our midterm conferences and big conferences, and in sum, all the colleagues who are building everyday sociology in Europe, and at the same time building the Association. ESA belongs to all of you. While citizens want to decide about their lives and their institutions, we sociologists want also to decide about our organisations. Over the last decades, we have created and maintained a very democratic and collaborative association. Now we are taking new steps forward along these lines. The Executive Committee is already working and taking decisions in a lively collective manner, using the advances of technology to increase communication and joint efforts among committee members. Our first meeting last October in Paris helped to consolidate a true collaborative team, which has led to multiple online meetings, many shared forms of information through our new online working space, and almost weekly interactions between these exceptional sociologists you chose to represent ESA for these two years.

In the first five months, there have been many things accomplished. The Postgraduate Committee, led by Milica Antic-Gaber, was successful in negotiating with the University of Ljubljana to be the host of the next ESA Summer School. The call has been already launched and we look forward to receiving many applications from doctoral students across Europe! This committee is also discussing and designing new activities for young sociologists for the next ESA conference.

The Publications Committee, led by Ludger Pries, has also been working intensively on different directions. On the one hand, designing a strategy in collaboration with the editors of our journals, to better support their task, challenges and editorial projects, towards strengthening the presence of European Societies and European Journal of Cultural and Political Sociology in international sociological debates. On the other hand, members of the committee are also working on the Open Access strategy for ESA publications, thus advancing towards a possible third ESA journal project. This committee is also working hand in hand with the Policy Committee and its chair, Kaja Gadowska, on developing some guidelines within the framework of ESA statutes and bylaws. David Inglis, chair of the Communications Committee, is coordinating the result of a brainstorming of ideas, insightful proposals and creative initiatives to improve ESA communication to members and beyond, through the website, social media and especially through our e-magazine The European Sociologist.

Maria Carmela Agodi, leading the Council of National Associations, is actively working on new strategies to promote international sociological presence at national venues across Europe. We are discussing ways of linking the Council meetings to national conferences so that ESA can contribute further to the different European territories. Along these lines, we have already contributed to the Polish Sociological Conference and the Turkish Conference in September, to the Slovene Conference in October, and to the Italian Conference in January. Moreover, the External Relations Committee, chaired by Apostolos Papadopoulos, is making steps towards strengthening the relationship with other associations, such as the International Sociological Association and the European Alliance for Social Sciences and Humanities. His participation at the EASSH annual assembly was crucial to supporting sociological input into the task that the alliance is carrying on now, namely to influence the elaboration of the next European Framework Programme of Research Horizon Europe.

During 2020, ESA Research Networks take the lead and organise numerous Mid-term Conferences across Europe. RNs are actually the core of ESA life and their meetings are key to maintaining a vivid and engaged sociological academy across Europe. Teresa Carvalho, chair of the RNs Council, and the RN Committee from the Executive, together are starting to review applications for Mid-term conference support, while discussing all comments and proposals coming from RN chairs and board members. Then comes 2021, when we will celebrate our big ESA conference in Barcelona. The Conference Committee is chaired by Ligia Ferro, who declares that after Porto, Barcelona is her second most beloved city. She not only is an energetic sociologist, with lots of initiatives and ideas, but she also speaks five languages, and among them - amazingly - she speaks Catalan! The Committee is already intensively working on the conference title and theme, which will soon be released for all ESA members. Furthermore, there have been several meetings with the LOC to discuss logo and diverse organisational matters, negotiate spaces, approach institutions and channel the many interesting proposals already arriving for this venue. Besides, the Conference Committee has also worked to launch a call for conference bids for ESA2023 ahead of time, so that colleagues from all over Europe can start envisioning this possibility in their cities and institutions.

Finally, we have a dynamic and energetic team on finance, led by Teresa Consoli as ESA Treasurer and chair of the Finance Committee. They are doing an amazing job in structuring and clarifying the ESA budget in order to be able to make a projection for the following years. This will help the Executive Committee to take better informed decisions and to increase transparency for all ESA members.  

It is exciting and inspiring to be among such excellent scholars in Europe who dedicate their time, energy, minds and expertise to the passion of making our discipline of sociology grow and our association improve. There is obviously still so much to do, but ESA is already an example of the democratisation and collaboration that citizens desire in their societies and organisations.

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