Report on LOBFRAM – Marie Sklodowska-Curie Research Fellowship. Principal investigator: Benedetta Voltolini

The project

 The LOBFRAM project aimed at advancing our understanding of lobbying and framing in foreign policy in the European Union’s (EU) system of multi-level governance. Its main goal was to analyse how non-state actors (NSAs), such as business groups, NGOs and solidarity movements, contribute to the construction of frames, defined as cognitive ways to interpret information (refined or relevant data) in order to define ‘cause-effect’, ‘good-bad’, etc. relationships and attribute meaning to the surrounding reality. By analysing the role of NSAs and the interactions they have among themselves and with policy-makers, the project intended to show how frames are created, get codified and become collective frames that shape EU and member states’ foreign policies. The initial hunch was that these processes are possible through networks of actors that interact among each other and function as transmitters of ideas.

 The work conducted during the duration of the project consisted in desktop research, fieldwork in Brussels, London and Paris, and outreach activities, aimed at communicating my research to the academic community as well as to the student population.

Main results and activities

  1. Three articles in peer-review journals (two published, one under review). Four articles are currently in preparation and the submission of a special issue is also under consideration.
  2. Co-editorship of a special issue in Mediterranean Politics on the impact of framing on EU policies towards the countries on the Southern shore of the Mediterranean.
  3. Participation in five international conferences (ECPR Standing Group on the European Union (2016), EISA (2015 and 2017), UACES (2016), AFSP (2017)), invitation to two workshops on EU foreign policy vis-à-vis Israel and Palestine (London School of Economics (2017) and University of Copenhagen (2017)), invited talk on EU/Israel/Palestine (London School of Economics, 2016) and on framing in EU foreign policy (King’s College London, 2017).
  4. Organisation of two workshop at Sciences Po (Lobbying and Diplomacy in/of the EU: Two Faces of the Same Coin? in May 2017 and The Framing of Crises in Europe in December 2017).
  5. Outreach activities: two guest lectures at Maastricht University on the topic of EU-Israel/Palestine and of lobbying in EU foreign policy (2016), invited talk for students of the MA in European Affairs at Sciences Po (2016).
  6. Enlarged network of contacts within the academia and with policy-makers and representatives of interest groups in Brussels and in France.

 Training objectives and results

 LOBFRAM had three main training objectives:

  1. To acquire proficiency in social network analysis and content analysis to be applied in the field of lobbying and EU foreign policy.
  2. To learn how to use specific software for network analysis and content analysis.
  3. To acquire enhanced communication and professional skills to strengthen my profile as a researcher.

 The objectives were reached by attending the ECPR Winter School in Methods in February/March 2016. I took a course in Introduction to Social Network Analysis and a short course on how to use the software MaxQDA, which is a relevant software for content analysis. Furthermore, I relied on the help of the Médialab of Sciences Po to make further progress concerning social network analysis and the use of softwares, including an open source one called Gephi.

Communication and professional skills were improved by participating in a variety of conferences and workshops, including the activities organized by the CEE. This helped me to engage with established researchers and discuss with more senior scholars my ideas as well as how I could further improve my professional skills. I also learnt how to deal my project thanks to the training and support by the professional services staff of the Centre.

Involvement in the CEE’s life

  1. Participation in the general seminars of the CEE
  2. Participation in the annual meetings of the CEE in 2016 and 2017, including presentation of a paper in 2016
  3. Representative of post-docs and research assistants in the Conseil d’unité  from September 2016 until December 2017
  4. Co-organisation of the internal seminars in the academic year 2016/2017
  5. Co-organisation of a one-day workshop with Olivier Rozenberg in May 2017

LOBFRAM clearly benefited from being hosted at the CEE, as it was possible to discuss the research findings and the direction of the project with the numerous colleagues of the Centre. Contacts were also established with colleagues from other research centres of Sciences Po, especially the Centre de recherches internationals (CERI).

LOBFRAM also contributed to the research conducted at the CEE. Its focus, while covering a fundamental research area of the Centre (EU integration and policies), is complementary to the research conducted by CEE staff, as foreign policy, lobbying and the Middle East are areas which add to the ongoing research carried out at the CEE. Moreover, the organisation of two research seminars also contributed to the scientific life and activities of the CEE.

To know more about Benedetta Voltolini