The Centre for Independent Social Research (CISR) was founded in 1991, and in 1996 the official status of Autonomous Non-commercial Organisation was received.
In contrast to many other organisations conducting social research during the last 20-25 years, CISR does not carry out commercial orders or conduct polls. CISR’s fundamental goal is to develop academic social research. The position that CISR occupies in the sociological community is connected with the organisation’s methodological preferences. CISR’s researchers are primarily guided by qualitative sociological methodology. Up to 40-50 projects are conducted annually, most of them in cooperation with specialists from all over Russia and abroad.
CISR is one of eight winners of the 2009 John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Award for Creative and Effective Institutions, who “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, awardees was 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 most of the award will be used for development of recently launched a high-quality, peer-reviewed, independent, and bilingual journal of sociological research “Laboratorium. Russian review of Social Research”.
Today CISR has three basic objectives:
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 100 articles each year in Russian and foreign scientific journals. These are often cited in the scientific literature in Russia and abroad, and are highly rated by reviewers.
CISR regularly conducts seminars in profiling directions and subjects attended by experts and interested persons from St. Petersburg and other Russian cities, and from abroad. Recently CISR seminars have included such outstanding sociologists as Thomas Luckman, Ulrich Beck, Saskia Sassen, Theodor Shanin, James Scott, Fritz Schuetze, John Urry and others.
The Centre’s organisers are interested in promoting and encouraging talented young researchers in assisting in the development of their sociological careers. Sensitive to the complexities involved with preparing the new generation sociologists, CISR actively cooperates with a number of St. Petersburg-based universities in order to organise student trainings and to support studies initiated by students and post-graduates. Dozens of students are engaged in continuous research work as volunteers, working on their diplomas and theses while getting essential support from CISR researchers. CISR specialists deliver lectures in higher education institutions in the city and the leading specialists give lectures in universities abroad.
As a partner of the Heinrich Boell Foundation, CISR holds competitions for young Russian sociologists to win the Foundation’s research grant.
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 activity is the formation of research networks which specialise in studies of social processes in post-Soviet society. CISR encourages scientific communication as well as the creation of non-commercial and non-governmental research centres in Russian towns.
The Centre also assists educational, research and human rights organisations and institutes involved in the development of civil society. CISR closely cooperates with many non-profit organisations in Russia and the CIS countries in the sphere 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 connections 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.
The Centre’s three focuses are closely interrelated. Together they help to 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.
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 persons and organisations from both Russia and abroad. Students, post-graduates, young researchers and NGO representatives have a unique opportunity to use the Centre 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.