The Centre for Independent Social Research (CISR) was founded in 1991 in St. Petersburg (Russia), and has been operating as an autonomous non-commercial organisation since 1996. Its main areas of interest are academic social research, professional edcuation of social scientists, and professional networking.
In 2009, CISR was granted the Award for Creative and Effective Institutions by John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, which is intended for organisations that “demonstrate exceptional creativity and effectiveness, have reached a critical or strategic point in their development, show strong leadership and stable financial management”. On June 11, 2009, the awardees were honoured at a ceremony at MacArthur’s headquarters in Chicago, which was attended by CISR’s Director Viktor Voronkov and vice-director Oleg Pachenkov. The bulk of the award was channeled for the development of the then recently launched peer-reviewed independent bilingual journal of sociological research “Laboratorium. Russian review of Social Research”.
Today, CISR has three main objectives:
Unlike the majority of social research entities in Russia, CISR doesn’t do marketing reseach and electoral surveys, commited to its mission of promoting academic social research and qualitative methodology in Russia. The uses of qualitative methodology for social studies has become a hallmark of CISR’s reseach and has secured the Centre’s special place in the Russian community of social researchers. Up to 15 projects are conducted annually, most of them in cooperation with specialists from different Russian regions and abroad.
The Centre’s research reflects a broad spectrum of sociological interests. However, the majority of studies conducted by the Centre deal with civil society and social structure. Within this broad framework, several specific research areas have been established:
- Ethnicity, Migration, Nationalism
- Border Studies
- Gender Studies
- Social Studies of Economy
- Social Milieu and Social Structure
- Environmental Sociology
- Cultural and Symbolic Production
- Development of Qualitative Methods
- Urban Studies
- Law and Society
- Transdisciplinary Projects
The Centre’s researchers publish as many as 50 articles each year in Russian and foreign academic journals. These are often cited in academic literature in Russia and abroad, and are highly rated by reviewers.
CISR regularly conducts seminars on topical subjects and lines of sesearch attended by experts and interested audiences from St. Petersburg and other Russian cities, and from abroad. Among outstanding sociologists visited CISR there are Thomas Luckman, Ulrich Beck, Saskia Sassen, Theodor Shanin, James Scott, Fritz Schuetze, John Urry and others.
The Centre is interested in promoting and encouraging talented young researchers and assisting them in the development of their sociological careers. Sensitive to the complexities involved in preparing the new generation of sociologists, CISR actively cooperates with a number of St. Petersburg-based universities in order to organise student trainings and to support independent studies initiated by students and post-graduates. Dozens of students are engaged in continuous research work as volunteers, working on their degree theses and dissertations while getting essential support from CISR researchers. CISR specialists give lectures at higher education institutions of the city; the Center’s leading staff (is often invited to) give lectures at universities abroad.
As a partner of the Heinrich Boell Foundation, CISR holds competitions for young Russian sociologists whose winners are awarded the Foundation’s research grants.
The work of the Centre has won international recognition. In December 2000, CISR received an award from the German-Russian Forum and the Robert Bosch Foundation for contributing to the training of young researchers.
Another important area of CISR’s activity is the formation of research networks which specialise in studies of social processes in post-Soviet societies. CISR encourages academic communication as well as the creation of non-commercial and non-governmental research centres in Russian cities.
Further, the Centre assists educational, research and human rights organisations and institutions involved in the development of civil society. CISR closely cooperates with a large number of non-profit organisations in Russia and the CIS countries in the spheres of human rights as well as gender and environmental issues.
CISR focuses on overcoming barriers between Russian and foreign sociologists. As a result of CISR’s participation in international conferences and workshops, training programs and joint research projects, the Centre has developed ties with universities and research institutes in more than 30 countries.
Today CISR is a member of several international research networks. CISR pays special attention to supporting and collaborating with young researchers and research teams in Russian regions. CISR has initiated the creation of research centres in Krasnodar, Irkutsk, Kazan, Apatity, Baku and Yerevan (все это cities, поэтому я заменил towns тремя абзацами выше).
The Centre’s three focuses are closely interrelated. Together they help shape the new generation of professional sociologists in post-Soviet Russia, a community capable of researching the complicated social processes of the transforming society in order to found a new school of sociology in Russia.
Thereto, CISR is also a resource centre. The CISR library contains over 12,000 items, including current periodicals in Russian, English and German; a rich research archive; an archive of biographical and problem-oriented interviews; and an archive of newspaper publications since 1991 covering 60 areas of research. The Centre is open to interested audiences and organisations from both Russia and abroad. Students, post-graduates, young researchers and NGO representatives have an opportunity to use the Centre’s facilities.
Aspiring to develop the Russian sociological community and consolidate research organisations studying the problems of post-Soviet Russia, the Centre regularly conducts seminars and international conferences.
The CISR’s activities have been supported by many Russian and foreign institutes, funds and programmes.
Booklet on the 20th anniversary of CISR, can be found here.