The CSS Blog Network

SNIS Day 2 – The Policy Relevance of Research

Video of the podium discussion, SNIS Conference, 16 October 2009

Video of the podium discussion, SNIS Conference, 16 October 2009

The second day of the SNIS conference was devoted to interaction between the academic and policy worlds (I introduced the conference in my previous post).

While everyone agreed that not all research must necessarily be policy relevant, the participants stressed the need for more cooperation.

The tension between demand-driven research and academic excellence dominated the discussions. On the one hand, research should provide information to help solve practical policy problems. On the other hand however, research must remain independent from the policy realm in order to guarantee objectivity and innovation.

A panelist argued that this tension was very present among European researchers, but that it didn’t bother US academics as much. Fellow Americans, if you read this, how did you solve the problem?

Here are a few (summarized) thoughts from panelists, both academics and policymakers. » More

Swiss International Studies, Migration and Finance

Swiss Network for International Studies / snis.ch

Swiss Network for International Studies / snis.ch

I’m writing from Bern, where I’m attending the Swiss Network for International Studies‘ (SNIS) first yearly conference. The Network was established two years ago to promote interdisciplinary research in issues of international relevance among Swiss academics.

The international relations field is still pretty new at Swiss universities. It might well be a corollary of the fact that, for much of the past century, the country’s neutrality in international politics boiled down to passivity. Several speakers at the first day of the conference reminded us that Switzerland only joined the UN in 2002.

In any case, the young Swiss’ interest in international affairs is exploding at the moment: A Geneva professor talked to me about the exponential rise in student numbers since his university launched an undergraduate program in international relations.

Here are two highlights from the first day of the conference – based on my own biased personal interests…
» More

Detours of Swiss Foreign Policy

Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey / Photo: Wikipedia

Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey / Photo: Wikipedia

A new analysis by the ISN’s mother organization Center for Security Studies (CSS), Swiss Foreign Policy 2009: Crises and Challenges, discusses current issues of Switzerland’s foreign policy. Before the backdrop of conflicts over banking secrecy and the infamous clash with Libya, it looks at corner stones of Swiss foreign policy. Daniel Möckli especially highlights the domestically unpopular issue of a possible future EU membership.

You can download the paper here.

Seek And Ye Shall Find, Sort Of

seektruth.org / imhalal.com

seektruth.org / imhalal.com

The latest addition to the search engine world is Imhalal.com, an Islam-based service:

According to the site: “ImHalal.com is search engine designed for Muslims to be able to continue their online activities in a safe and clean environment. Using ImHalal.com will prevent you from ‘accidentally’ bumping into explicit content.”

For example, if you search for “pig” or “beer” using the engine, you receive a warning telling you that your results may be haram (forbidden in Islam).

Search result for 'pig'from imhalal.com

Search result for 'pig' from imhalal.com


The word “sex” gets you on level 2 of the site’s haram scale. “Porno,” sends you to level 3, which welcomes you with a very strong red message.

But ImHalal isn’t the only religion-based search engine I’ve recently encountered:

Seekfind.org provides “God-honoring and spiritually encouraging” content, making sure all results are Bible based.

If you search for “Darwin” (as in Charles), you’ll find articles questioning his mental health. “Abortion” gives you tons of “pro-life” links and arguments.

Both sites promote themselves as providing a safe framework for followers to search the Web in.

And perhaps they’re right. The World Wide Web is also the ‘World Wild Web.’

ISN Weekly Theme: Islam in Southeast Asia

Muslim girls walking to school in Indonesia, photo: Shreyans Bhansali/flickr

Muslim girls walking to school in Indonesia, photo: Shreyans Bhansali/flickr

Islam, Islamic politics and religiously motivated violence are usually issues associated with the wider Middle East region or South Asia.

Less visible, yet no less significant is the presence of Islamic politics, tensions and political expression in Southeast Asia, particularly Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand.

A region marked by immense historical and religious diversity, by painful historical schisms, and in certain cases by an unrivaled dynamism and ability to marry Islam with modernity, Southeast Asia deserves closer inspection and more contextually sensitive analysis.

This week the ISN publishes a Special Report on the issue with a backgrounder on Islam in the region and a case study of the Abu Sayyaf Group in the Philippines.

We have a wealth of further information on the topic in our Digital Library and Current Affairs section- check out:

  • In our Links section, check out the website of the National Bureau of Asian Research which analyzes less visible issues related to Islam and Muslim societies in Asia.
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