Youth and History — the Project’s History

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The His­to­ry of the Project 
The first meet­ing of inter­est­ed col­leagues invit­ed to Bergen Novem­ber 28th to Decem­ber 1st 1991, was host­ed by {Magne Angvik} and spon­sored by The Nor­we­gian Research Coun­cil for Sci­ence and the Human­i­ties (NAVF) and {Bergen Col­lege of High­er Edu­ca­tion}. 12 per­sons from 9 coun­tries were present. The project idea was received with great enthu­si­asm by all par­tic­i­pants, and the ini­tia­tors were asked to devel­op the project fur­ther, to apply for mon­ey and pre­pare a com­mon ques­tion­naire. To all the involved per­sons it was very impor­tant to secure a suf­fi­cient par­tic­i­pa­tion from East­ern Europe, and {Lás­zló Kéri}, {Insti­tute for Polit­i­cal Sci­ence of the Hun­gar­i­an Acad­e­my of Sci­ence}, Budapest, was asked to take the respon­si­bil­i­ty for this task.

Since he was man­ag­ing the project, {Magne Angvik} got the respon­si­bil­i­ty for con­duct­ing the work of devel­op­ing a com­mon ques­tion­naire for a planned pretest, and {Bodo von Bor­ries} was asked to take care of ana­lyz­ing the results of this test. Fur­ther­more, the ini­tia­tors planned to meet again about one year later.

The pretest was arranged in spring 1992 involv­ing the fol­low­ing 9 coun­tries: Nor­way, Swe­den, Poland, Rus­sia, Hun­gary, Italy, France, Ger­many and Great Britain. 900 stu­dents, most of them attend­ing the 8th class, par­tic­i­pat­ed. The pre­lim­i­nary results were pre­sent­ed by{ Bodo von Borrie}s at the sec­ond con­fer­ence of the project at Tisvildele­je near Copen­hagen Novem­ber 26th to 29th 1992, with {Vagn Oluf Nielsen} as host. The con­fer­ence was spon­sored by NAVF. At this meet­ing 12 per­sons from 10 coun­tries par­tic­i­pat­ed. The results of the pretest were so encour­ag­ing that the meet­ing decid­ed to accom­plish a full scale inves­ti­ga­tion on nation­al sam­ples from some more coun­tries in Europe as soon as possible.

We were aim­ing at a con­fer­ence for all per­sons involved approx­i­mate­ly once a year, and the next con­fer­ence for the involved per­sons in the project was held at Alc­sut­doboz, Hun­gary Octo­ber 21st to 24th, 1993.{ Lás­zló Kéri} was our host, and at the meet­ing spon­sored by The Hun­gar­i­an Nation­al Sci­en­tif­ic Research Fund (OTKA) 14 per­sons from 12 coun­tries took part.

In 1994 our meet­ing for the per­sons involved in the project was held at Suit­ia, Fin­land, from August 25th to 28th, with {Sirk­ka Aho­nen} as host­ess. The meet­ing was spon­sored by {The Nation­al Board of Edu­ca­tion} in Fin­land, and attend­ed by 20 par­tic­i­pants from 15 countries.

Until 1994 the expan­sion of the num­ber of par­tic­i­pat­ing coun­tries had been mod­er­ate. The next year the num­ber explod­ed, and at the con­fer­ence in 1995 in Bolzano/Bozen in Italy Octo­ber 5th to 8th, 34 par­tic­i­pants from 23 coun­tries took part. The meet­ing was spon­sored by the{ Kör­ber Foun­da­tion}, Ger­many, and {Franz Lan­thaler}, respon­si­ble for an inves­ti­ga­tion among bilin­gual stu­dents in South Tyrol, was our host.

As 1996 was going to be the year for plan­ning the first com­mon pub­li­ca­tion of the project, we were hop­ing to be able to arrange two con­fer­ences, and we man­aged to do so. The first one was held at Sde Bok­er, Israel, May 26th to 29th, part­ly spon­sored by {Ben Guri­on Uni­ver­si­ty of the Negev}. With {Dan Bar-On} as our host. 30 per­sons from 22 coun­tries were present.

Our sec­ond con­fer­ence in 1996 took place in Del­phi, Greece, Octo­ber 10th to 13th, part­ly spon­sored by The Greek Min­istry of Cul­ture, with {Thalia Dragona}s and {Anna Fran­gouda­ki} as our host­esses. 26 per­sons from 19 coun­tries participated.

These details on the annu­al meet­ings are men­tioned above because of the impor­tance of the con­fer­ences in our project. Democ­ra­cy and coop­er­a­tion are two key words in the organ­i­sa­tion of the project. To par­tic­i­pate means a lot of extra work and bur­dens the per­sons involved with a lot of respon­si­bil­i­ty. There­fore a body with all the per­sons involved with open dis­cus­sions and demo­c­ra­t­ic deci­sions is very impor­tant as a forum where one can influ­ence the work. As the project has devel­oped the par­tic­i­pants have been brought into the deci­sion mak­ing as much as pos­si­ble. The meet­ings have there­fore func­tioned as a “gen­er­al assem­bly” giv­ing the par­tic­i­pants “own­er­ship” to the project and giv­ing the lead­ers of the group sug­ges­tions and rec­om­men­da­tions for future work. The ques­tion­naire has e.g. been dis­cussed at many meet­ings: Every­one had the pos­si­bil­i­ty to pro­pose and for­mu­late ques­tions (some used this pos­si­bil­i­ty to a high extent) and deci­sions con­cern­ing the con­tent of the ques­tion­naire were often tak­en through major­i­ty voting.

There is only a small full-time staff in the project, all at the Analysing Cen­ter of the project at the {Uni­ver­si­ty of Ham­burg}, Ger­many. The cen­tral man­age­ment of the project is locat­ed at {Bergen Col­lege of High­er Edu­ca­tion}, Bergen, Nor­way, where cand.polit. Bjørn Tafjord was engaged as assis­tant for one year in 1994/95.

In each of the par­tic­i­pat­ing coun­tries a {Nation­al Coor­di­na­tor} (NC) is respon­si­ble for the organ­is­ing of all the nec­es­sary work in that coun­try. The NCs rep­re­sent a vari­ety of sub­jects, such as his­to­ry, edu­ca­tion, soci­ol­o­gy, psy­chol­o­gy, sta­tis­tics etc., work­ing at uni­ver­si­ties, col­leges of high­er edu­ca­tion, inde­pen­dent research insti­tu­tions, polling insti­tu­tions etc. Togeth­er we form a team with a vari­ety of com­pe­tence and expe­ri­ence, all rep­re­sent­ing only our­selves and our per­son­al opin­ions not the gov­ern­ment or some ide­ol­o­gy or polit­i­cal insti­tu­tion in our country.

It is one of the pecu­liar­i­ties of this research-project and one of its strengths that the com­mu­ni­ty of researchers was (and still is) quite het­ero­ge­neous. We all have met in this project on the basis of a com­mon inter­est com­ing not only from dif­fer­ent nations and cul­tures, but also with dif­fer­ent dis­ci­plines and tra­di­tions of research, edu­ca­tion and teach­ing. This sit­u­a­tion may cre­ate dif­fi­cul­ties and prob­lems. Our dif­fer­ent per­spec­tives con­sti­tute dif­fer­ing rea­sons for our par­tic­i­pa­tion in the project: we will see dif­fer­ent pos­si­bil­i­ties in the data, and we will present our find­ings in dif­fer­ent ways. A his­to­ri­an, being famil­iar to the hermeneu­ti­cal approach and inter­pre­ta­tion, will give anoth­er type of descrip­tion than a social sci­en­tist, oper­at­ing with quan­ti­ta­tive meth­ods and being used to inter­pre­ta­tion of and argu­men­ta­tion with sta­tis­ti­cal analy­ses. This mix­ture of approach­es can there­fore eas­i­ly be seen from this report.

Most of the par­tic­i­pat­ing researchers were main­ly work­ing on their own or with only a small staff or some stu­dents help­ing them. Because of this sit­u­a­tion, we are very much depen­dent of the work being done at the Analy­sis Cen­tre, in Ham­burg (led by{ Bodo von Borrie}s, man­age­ment by {Andreas Kör­ber}), where the main part of data pro­cess­ing and of the first and gen­er­al com­par­a­tive analy­ses were car­ried out. Fur­ther­more, the Norsk Social Sci­ence Data Ser­vice ({NSD}) pro­vid­ed the Nation­al Coor­di­na­tors with advice and com­ments regard­ing the sam­pling schemes (includ­ing the secur­ing of their rep­re­sen­ta­tiv­i­ty and com­pat­i­bil­i­ty) as well as the data entry module.

Almost all the NCs already have or will sure­ly have col­leagues being inter­est­ed in par­tic­i­pat­ing in spe­cial analy­ses of the data.

One of the great advan­tages of our project-organ­i­sa­tion is the lack of bureau­cra­cy. The nation­al coor­di­na­tors have a per­son­al inter­est and have invest­ed their own labour force in the project, and are push­ing on to obtain results as soon as pos­si­ble. There­fore our time has been used in a very effi­cient way: with­in 5 years after the idea was dis­cussed for the first time, researchers in 26 coun­tries have access to data from all the coun­tries involved and have the pos­si­bil­i­ty to work in a net­work with col­leagues all over Europe on the same data.

But the econ­o­my, how­ev­er, is a very com­pli­cat­ing fac­tor when a project is devel­op­ing in this way. We start­ed the project with four emp­ty hands, and espe­cial­ly the first years our lack of fund­ing lim­it­ed our work. The par­tic­i­pants in the project were invit­ed to take part only if they could pay the costs for the nation­al inves­ti­ga­tion with their own nation­al mon­ey, and this sit­u­a­tion has lim­it­ed the total num­ber of the par­tic­i­pat­ing coun­tries, and influ­enced the time at which many of the coun­tries could enter the project. The costs of the nation­al part of the sur­vey have been cov­ered by nation­al funds, insti­tu­tions, uni­ver­si­ties or col­leges. The expens­es of the cen­tral man­age­ment as well as the cen­tral analy­ses of the data are part­ly paid for by the host insti­tu­tions, strong­ly sup­port­ed by nation­al and inter­na­tion­al organ­i­sa­tions and funds. Among the spon­sors of the cen­tral work, the Kör­ber-Foun­da­tion in Ham­burg has a promi­nent place.

{Magne Angvik}

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