New voluntary work placements at the ICCS

The Institute for Conflict, Cooperation and Security (ICCS) is inviting applications for short term voluntary placements.

The ICCS is based in the School of Government and Society at the University of Birmingham. It adopts a multi-disciplinary approach to global security challenges to create innovative research, education, and training in conflict and cooperation in world politics.

Joining the ICCS provides an excellent opportunity for those considering a research-based career in security studies or international relations. You will join a vibrant academic community at the cutting edge of policy-related research; experts across the ICCS provide mentoring and support at all times. You will be able to join one or more of our research working groups: Trust in World Politics, Political Settlements, International Political Psychology, and Unmanned and Remotely Piloted Aerial Systems.

We are currently offering a range of positions, including:

Emotions and Young People's Reasoning about Rights

Supervisor: Dr Tereza Capelos

Overview: This placement involves helping Dr Capelos gather and analyse data on how young people reason about rights. The placement will build your research skills on interviewing, and training will be provided. You will also be able to use the data for your own research needs if you wish to do so. The project examines how young people reason about the rights of asylum-seekers under conditions of heightened emotionality. This project addresses a pressing social and political issue, contributes to ongoing academic debates, brings together research in political science and psychology and paves the way for a comprehensive study on political tolerance and reasoning about ethnic minorities among young people. The placement involves interviewing young (16-17 year-old) participants, traveling to local schools, transcribing interview data and coding transcripts of already collected interviews.  A DBS check will be a requirement for conducting interviews with young participants. The project has received ethics approval from the University of Surrey and University of Birmingham.

Nature of activities to be undertaken: The volunteer will administer survey questionnaires (pending DBS check), interview adolescents at local schools (pending DBS check), interview transcription and data coding, gather online data on tolerance and human rights, bibliography searches on tolerance and human rights.

Learning objectives: The placement offers ample research training. The volunteer will be able to develop and strengthen interview skills, survey administration skills, time management and collaborative engagement in research. The volunteer will also gain/strengthen their knowledge about the topic under investigation and will be able to use the collected data for dissertation purposes. 

Supervision: Initial meeting to discuss the objectives and learning outcomes. This will include an introduction to the project and the main sources to be examined, and an overview of the methodologies used. Dr Capelos will be available throughout the placement to offer further advice and guidance. A debrief will be arranged at the end of the placement to assess how the learning objectives have been achieved.

Notes: Good communication skills and the knowledge of MS Excel would be an advantage. 

Crises, Emotionality and the Media

Supervisor: Dr Tereza Capelos

Overview: This placement involves helping Dr Capelos gather and analyse data on emotions in the media in the context of Brexit. The placement will build your research skills on online document collection and content analysis and training will be provided. You will also be able to use the data for your own research needs if you wish to do so. The project investigates the relationship between emotions generated in the context of discussions of the financial and immigration crisis to how people comment on the Brexit—and the relationship of UK with the EU more generally. The project involves coding commentaries and editorials from British newspapers and test predictions about the nature of public debate and whether it has potential to mobilize political action in the context of BrExit discussions.  Dr Capelos seeks someone to code the content of a sample of pre- collected news items onto an excel database on the basis of an existing coding frame. Additionally, the placement involves retrieving additional media content if necessary.

Nature of the activities undertaken: The volunteer will collect data online (survey reports and printed material), content analyse media documents, and make bibliography searches on Brexit and emotions using university resources.

Learning objectives: The volunteer will receive ample research training in content analysis research methodology and will be able to develop and strengthen content analysis skills, time management skills, and collaborative engagement skills. Working on the project will also strengthen the volunteer’s knowledge of the topic under investigation. The volunteer will be able to use the collected data for dissertation purposes. 

Supervision: Initial meeting to discuss the objectives and learning outcomes. This will include an introduction to the project and the main sources to be examined, and an overview of the methodologies used. Dr Capelos will be available throughout the placement to offer further advice and guidance. A debrief will be arranged at the end of the placement to assess how the learning objectives have been achieved.

Notes: Good communication skills and the knowledge of MS Excel would be an advantage.

Modern Slavery and compliance to regulations: Institutional Reputations of Efficacy and Reliability (Trust) in Business Supply Chains

Supervisor: Dr Tereza Capelos

Overview: This placement involves helping Dr Capelos gather data for an exciting new project that investigates the role of institutional reputations in business supply chains.  The placement will build your research skills on online document collection and content analysis and training will be provided. You will also be able to use the data for your own research needs if you wish to do so. The focus of the research: Modern slavery in business supply chains is a major problem, as many workers in the global economy often toil away for extremely long hours in inhumane conditions without proper access to food, water or shelter.  In 2015, the UK Government passed the Modern Slavery Act, which among other things, mandates that global businesses formulate a statement about how they plan to identify and eradicate slavery in their supply chains.  We are interested to examine how businesses with strong efficacy and reliability (trust) reputations respond to the UK Modern Slavery Act to enhance and protect their reputations. Dr Capelos seeks someone to analyse the content of a sample of 300 business statements.  This means reading through each business statement and identifying particular features of the business plan onto an excel database.  Additionally, the placement involves looking through electronic newspapers to identify news stories about each business prior to their statement as well.

Nature of the activities undertaken: The volunteer will collect data online (business reports and printed material), content analyse business statements, make bibliography searches on corporate social responsibility and modern slavery using university resources.

Learning objectives: The volunteer will receive ample research training in content analysis research methodology, and will develop and strengthen content analysis skills, time management skills, and collaborative engagement skills. Working on the project will also strengthen the volunteer’s knowledge of the topic under investigation. The volunteer will be able to use the collected data for dissertation purposes. 

Supervision: Initial meeting to discuss the objectives and learning outcomes. This will include an introduction to the project and the main sources to be examined, and an overview of the methodologies used. Dr Capelos will be available throughout the placement to offer further advice and guidance. A debrief will be arranged at the end of the placement to assess how the learning objectives have been achieved.

Notes: Good communication skills and the knowledge of MS Excel would be an advantage. 

Assessing Success and Failure of UN Peace Operations in Ethnic Conflicts: Capabilities and Context

Supervisor: Professor Stefan Wolff

Overview: The project proposes to assess the conditions under which UN peace operations succeed or fail in case of interventions in ethnic conflicts, using the interaction between the organisation’s capabilities and the conflict context as its main explanatory variables. It is positioned within existing literature on IO management of ethnic conflicts and uses data on all completed and relevant UN peace operations since 1946, building on earlier work by the project proposer and his co-author of the proposed article.

Nature of the activities undertaken: The volunteer will update an existing dataset on UN peace operations (currently up-to-date until 2012) and also update an existing literature survey on UN peace operations in general and in relation to ethnic conflicts.

Learning objectives: The volunteer will benefit from extended and in-depth engagement with the specific subject under the supervision of the project proposer; apply and enhance their analytical and writing skills; and gain experience in working as part of a small and international team of scholars.

Supervision: Initial meeting to discuss the objectives and learning outcomes. This will include an introduction to the project and the main sources to be examined, and an overview of the methodologies used. Professor Wolff will be available throughout the placement to offer further advice and guidance. A debrief will be arranged at the end of the placement to assess how the learning objectives have been achieved.

Notes: General analytical and writing skills and some background knowledge on UN peace operations and international conflict management would be an advantage. 

Institutions, trust and the Moscow-Washington Hotline

Supervisor: Dr Eszter Simon

Overview: The purpose of this project is to understand the role of trust in human interactions, and see how it influences human relationships. A substantial part of this project focuses on the role of the Moscow-Washington hotline and its trust properties in crises.

Nature of the activities undertaken: The volunteer may expect work that is strictly related to trust or to the hotline or a combination of both. The volunteer will mostly handle primary material that helps with the preparation of material for analysis. These include the transcription of archival material and interviews, the preparation of archival documents/files for research, the translation of primary sources, an online search for related information, research trip to Kew Gardens (subject to the availability of financial support).

Learning objectives: The volunteer will get a better understanding of the research process and the nature of the background preparatory work that stands behind research activities (or behind all work activities). The volunteer will also improve their time management skills, team/collaborative skills, workplace communication skills, and their ability to work independently.

Supervision: Initial meeting to discuss the objectives and learning outcomes. This will include an introduction to the project and the main sources to be examined, and an overview of the methodologies used. Dr Simon will be available throughout the placement to offer further advice and guidance. A debrief will be arranged at the end of the placement to assess how the learning objectives have been achieved.

Notes: A knowledge of MS Excel and Adobe (Pro), as well as an excellent knowledge of Russian (or German) would be an advantage.  

Attributions, Emotions, Empathy and Roles in Foreign Policy Decisions

Supervisor: Dr Eszter Simon

Overview: The purpose of this project is to understand how attributions, emotions, and empathy contributes to decision-making with a particular attention to the behaviour of the Central European MEPs and China during the European Parliament’s vote about China’s market economy status (MES). 

Nature of the activities undertaken: The volunteer will play an essential role in making the early preparations for a future research project, by helping this project get off the ground. The main task of the volunteer will be to prepare literature reviews, including the online search for relevant works, reading and annotating articles/books, preparing a summary of the literature, and, if time allows, transforming it to a traditional literature review.

Learning objectives: The volunteer will gain a better understanding of how literature reviews are prepared. Meanwhile the volunteer will also have an opportunity to enhance their library research skills, academic reading comprehension skills, time management skills, team/collaborative skills, workplace communication skills and their ability to work independently.

Supervision: Initial meeting to discuss the objectives and learning outcomes. This will include an introduction to the project and the main sources to be examined, and an overview of the methodologies used. Dr Simon will be available throughout the placement to offer further advice and guidance. A debrief will be arranged at the end of the placement to assess how the learning objectives have been achieved.

Notes: All skills can be learned on the job, but an understanding of what a good literature review entails is an advantage. 

Great Powers and Nuclear Responsibility

Supervisor: Professor Nicholas Wheeler

Overview: The purpose of this project is to investigate how the nuclear great powers (i.e. states that are nuclear armed that can credibly project military power outside of their region) understand their responsibilities as possessors of nuclear weapons.

Nature of the activities undertaken: The volunteer will participate in mapping the approach of the nuclear great powers (USA, Russia, China, India, UK, and France) in relation to notions of responsibility as it relates to the management of their nuclear forces, nuclear postures, and attitudes to nuclear risk reduction. A specific focus would be attitudes at the UN, especially in relation to the Nuclear Ban Treaty (NBT) and debates in the United Nations Security Council.

Learning objectives: The volunteer will gain an understanding about the nuclear order and the current challenges to further progress in regards to disarmament. The volunteer will also have an opportunity to improve their research, analytical, time-management and organisational skills and gain an insight into the details of successful project management.

Supervision: Initial meeting to discuss the objectives and learning outcomes. This will include an introduction to the project and the main sources to be examined, and an overview of the methodologies used. Professor Wheeler and Ana Alecsandru will be available throughout the placement to offer further advice and guidance. A debrief will be arranged at the end of the placement to assess how the learning objectives have been achieved.

 

Decapitation drone strikes and peace processes in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen

Supervisors: Professor Nicholas Wheeler and Professor David Dunn

Overview: This project examines the impact of decapitation strikes on the possibilities for conflict resolution in three cases: Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen. This project seeks to identify key leaders who were the subject of targeted killing by drone or other forms of military power in these conflicts and to understand how far decapacitation attempts increased or decreased the possibilities for resolving the conflict.

Nature of the activities undertaken: The volunteer will review the existing literature on decapitation strikes and a specific mapping of strikes across the 3 cases in an effort to see how far they had an impact on peace processes.

Learning objectives: The volunteer will improve their knowledge about decapacitation strikes and will gain substantial experience in the nuts and bolts of writing a literature review, time-management and project management.

Supervision: Initial meeting to discuss the objectives and learning outcomes. This will include an introduction to the project and the main sources to be examined, and an overview of the methodologies used. Professors Wheeler and Dunn will be available throughout the placement to offer further advice and guidance. A debrief will be arranged at the end of the placement to assess how the learning objectives have been achieved. 

Further Information

The roles are for up to 20 working days over a period of 11 weeks with a maximum limit of 15 hours of work/week, based in the Muirhead Tower on the University of Birmingham’s main campus.  The work is tailored to the individual’s field of interest, to develop experience and work-related skills. Please note that the placements are open to University of Birmingham students only.

Supervision: Each volunteer will work in close collaboration with their academic mentor. In addition, the ICCS work placement coordinator will be on hand to deal with any day-to-day issues raised. Each volunteer will attend an induction to outline the objectives of the placement, and a final debrief once the placement is complete.

Remuneration: The placements are unpaid, although financial assistance is provided for any related expenses (e.g. for attendance at conferences). The ICCS does not set specific office hours or working hours, although volunteers are encouraged to discuss their weekly timetable with their supervisor.

What we provide: You will join the ICCS research community for the duration of your placement, with networking opportunities, attendance at meetings and events, and access to experts across the ICCS. We will provide mentoring and support for volunteers to help shape future dissertations or PhD research proposals. Office space and computers are offered on a hotdesking basis, as well as a temporary IT account and library access.

How to apply: You will need to send the following documents as part of your application:

  • a detailed cover letter identifying which role you are applying for; explaining why you are interested in that role, how you meet the specific skills and experience needed; and why you want to work with the ICCS;
  • a CV that has a minimalistic layout (i.e. contains no fancy design)
  • and sample of your writing (in English).

All three documents should be sent as attachments in .docx or .pdf formats.

Please email your applications to Dr Eszter Simon at e.simon@bham.ac.uk by 23.59 on Friday 17 November 2017. It would be useful to indicate the date you would be able to start, together with the days of the week that you would be available.  

Queries: All general questions regarding work placements, including the application process, should be directed at Dr Eszter Simon at  e.simon@bham.ac.uk.

What happens next?

Your application will be assessed and you will be notified in early December. The current round of placements will take place in the Spring term. They will commence on 15 January 2018 and are envisioned to conclude by the end of March.

A second round of placements will be advertised in March 2018 with work placements to be undertaken in the Summer term.