What is a research semester, and what is it good for?

The German system of academia has many peculiarities. One of these idiosyncratic features is the famous “research semester” – half a year in which a professor will not have to teach courses at the university. A professor can apply for such a semester if two conditions are fulfilled: First, she or he has to have served as university staff with full teaching load for a certain amount of time – depending on the Land, this varies from seven to nine terms (see the overview here). And, second, she or he has to assure that the classes are taught by someone else or that, at least, there is enough teaching to run the study programs. It is then up to the faculty board and the President of the university to decide whether this research semester is granted.

This fall, I am in the comfortable situation that both conditions are fulfilled. Thanks to the WSCEP-project, where I have applied for teaching buy out, Dr. Colette Vogeler has been hired to take over my usual classes taught every fall term (e.g. lecture in political economy). And as I have been working as a professor at TUK for four years now, I could also apply for the research semester – an application which the faculty board and the President have accepted. But what do I do now with all this time?

Well, in fact, the time is running and running very quickly. The first weeks were still characterized by reading thesis and term papers from the summer term, participating at Conferences (such as the DVPW) as well as some administrative tasks. Since mid-October, I begin to feel that more space is free to do research. I have two main tasks that I will pursue during the upcoming months:

First, I will write the first chapters of a book entitled “Reforming the welfare state” and co-authored with Carsten Jensen. In this monograph, Carsten and I will use the data collected in the WSCEP project on changes to welfare legislation in Britain, Denmark, Finland, France and Germany. We analyze the reforms of the welfare state from different angles and investigate how the substantial changes that have occurred in the last 40 years can be explained. The book is under contract with Routledge and will appear in 2019.

Second, I will finish up my book on the partisan politics of law and order (with Oxford University Press) which will be published in 2019, too. The book is based on the research project on law and order financed by the German Research Foundation and uses large-N-quantitative analyses as well as comparative case studies to explain patterns in law and order politics and policies. The main argument of the book is that partisan politics add substantially to the explanation of the variance of law and order policies in Western industrialized countries. As I am at around two thirds of the next body right now, I am confident to succeed in finishing it until January.

Photo: Georg Wenzelburger

All this work will be done from my home office (for the great view from my desk into our november garden , see picture) and from an office at Aarhus University, where I will stay for a couple of weeks in November. Thanks to the research semester, I can manage to work in close collaboration with Carsten on the book project and hopefully make a big step forward when being in Denmark.

Georg Wenzelburger