MGIMO Institute for International Studies Publishes Article in Leading European International Relations’ Journal

MGIMO Institute for International Studies Publishes Article in Leading European International Relations’ Journal

18 September 2020

Researchers of MGIMO’s Institute for International Studies (IIS) and the Laboratory of International Trends Analysis (LAMP) published their paper in the established European Journal of International Relations. The journal is included in Q1 of both Scopus and Web of Science, ranking top-6 in Web of Science “International Relations” category.

The authors of the article “International studies in an unpredictable world: still avoiding the difficult problems?” found that forecasting international relations in most research publications is usually undertaken through broad generalizations rather than in a form of analysis of specific events probability. This hypothesis was proposed in 2000 by Richard Lebow and his co-authors in a study God Gave Physics the Easy Problems. MGIMO staff set themselves the task of testing this hypothesis empirically and determining if the situation in the field of forecasting international relations has changed over the past 20 years.

The researchers carried out a large-scale undertaking: a team of 18 specialists analyzed 5,559 articles published in leading academic journals between 1992 and 2014 over the period of two years. The task was to select and study the papers predicting the development of international events.

The team used the data already available on articles on international relations from the TRIP database, which allowed researchers to avoid independently coding information on the methods, approaches and subject focus of each publication. At the same time, each of the 5,559 articles was classified in a special way.

The group developed a specific research methodology and divided all forecasts in two groups: nomoscopic (seeking to formulate generalizing predictive patterns) and idioscopic (for situations unfolding in a specific timeframe with a specific set of actors).

Although international relations in general tends to produce more and more forecasts from year to year, the authors of the article note that such a growth is mainly due to the increase in the number of nomoscopic forecasts. The number of idioscopic forecasts, however, remains low. This means that researchers still tend to avoid difficult problems associated with forecasting social processes following the path of generalizations and identifying generalized predictive patterns.

“It is important for international relations to have a clear picture of its own limitations and imbalances for further development. We were able to better understand what these imbalances and limitations are in terms of the ways of setting and solving predictive issues. By interpreting our findings, we can locate a tension at the very heart of international research. This tension is associated with the question of what is the purpose of world politics studies – to identify general patterns or to understand specific practical problems. Our analysis shows that in prognostic international studies, striving for generalizations still prevails today,” summarizes the leading author of the article, Ivan Fomin of LAMP.

According to the Director of LAMP and IIS Andrei Sushentsov, “Russian researchers rarely manage to publish research articles in journals of such a level. The average impact factor of European Journal of International Relations for the last five years is 3.925, which can be compared with economics journals traditionally cited more actively than other journals on social sciences and humanities. Since the foundation of the journal in 1995, only two articles by Russian researchers have been published in it with last time being ten years ago.”

“Publishing articles in top-10 journals indexed in international citation databases should help strengthen MGIMO’s position in international rankings. Since 2010 MGIMO staff has provided around ten articles to journals of this level. We continue to encourage the high academic results of our employees,” says MGIMO Vice-Rector for Research and International Cooperation Andrey Baykov.

Boris Ananiev, Nikita Neklyudov, Dmitri Tkach, and Alexander Chekov of LAMP and IIS, as well as a senior lecturer of the Russian Presidential Academy Constantine Kokarev and interns of LAMP took part in the abovementioned research. The research was carried out within the framework of a grant project “Transformation of the system of international relations in the context of a changing technological order” under the supervision of LAMP leading researcher William C. Wohlforth.