July 30, 2014

CRRC-Armenia Summer School: The First Time Does Count!

By Valeria Sargsyan

Recognizing the need and demand in Armenia for high quality social science research applying quantitative methodology, CRRC-Armenia organized its first ever Summer School on Research Design and Methodology on July 21-25, in Tsaghkadzor. Timed to the Yerevan State University (YSU) 95-th anniversary, the Summer School covered variety of topics including survey design, sampling, questionnaire development, fieldwork implementation, and data analysis. Aimed at developing participants’ theoretical knowledge and practical skills on different stages of quantitative cycle from hypothesis development to quantitative analysis, it was purposely tailored for YSU post-graduate students, junior researchers and faculty specializing in quantitative research methodology.

The Summer School was warmly hosted by the YSU recreation site stretched on the foot of Tsaghkunyants mount and surrounded by ancient mountains and green hills that make one admire and just enjoy the view. The event brought together a group of interested social science researchers and professionals, so that they could not only obtain knowledge and skills, but also have an opportunity to gain new research connections, to have interesting conversations and discussions, which  would ultimately bring about higher quality research. The participants enjoyed the excellent residential, dining, academic, and social facilities of the hotel. All aspects of the program provided opportunity for knowledge development and research experience through peer support, creative problem-solving and practice.

CRRC-Armenia CEO Heghine Manasyan mentioned in her opening speech that it was both an honor and a privilege to stand before the Summer School participants that day and welcomed them to that challenging initiative she hoped would be successful and continuous. “Probably, you are sitting there feeling different emotions and asking yourself whether you did the right choice and whether this worth the sacrifices you have made to get there. Don’t doubt that, it is. In fact, I can assure each and every one of you that you passed through the strong selection process and you are here because you deserve to be and because you can bring something fresh and innovating to the Armenian research and academic community”, she said. Later on, CRRC-Armenia Research Director Artak Ayunts, in his turn, warmly greeted the participants and continued with the lecture on Introduction to the Research Design, enriched and elaborated further by Dr. Manasyan on Developing Research Methodology.

The week-long summer school integrated separate sessions focusing on the theoretical, empirical and case-based solutions. During the succeeding week, the participants were lectured by the group of experienced and acknowledged academicians and professionals, such as Dr. Artur Mkrtchyan, YSU Sociology Faculty Dean, who talked about Hypothesis Development, Gayane Ghukasyan, and Dr. Maria Zasvavskaya – both YSU professors (Sampling Design/Database Quality Control). Later on, independent expert Arpine Porsughyan presented main theoretical and practical propositions of survey questionnaire design, while а sociology coryphaeus, director of the “Sociometer” sociological center Aharon Adibekyan concentrated on organizational moments of survey fieldwork. Finally, last day was wholly dedicated to data analysis with SPSS program, including cluster and factor analysis brilliantly elaborated by CRRC-Armenia’s devoted friend and bright professional Dr. Vahe Mosvisyan.

Based on the feedback of attendees, the whole course  was valuable and informative on its every stage. The participants admitted that “…this summer school provided a week to remember for everyone” (Gayane), and “… the program was so intense we were not able to walk around, and we didn't know whether to complain or to be glad about that” (Arpine); however, they were very excited and “… looking forward to implement the invaluable knowledge and skills received during the summer school” (Sona).

All in all, this Summer School tried to spread on approaches that better reflect the research practice, using a combination of theory and case study analysis, to clarify issues regarding applied research, and to explore strengths and limitations of current research methods, making sure that the outcomes are relevant in and for practice. With hope for continuation, it combined an interest in describing and explaining and practicing using knowledge as a means, working with practitioners and researchers to expand and promote traditional and new ways of social science research.

July 9, 2014

Extending the borders: CRRC-Armenia junior fellow presenting at the International Conference on “Religious Diversification Worldwide and in Central and Eastern Europe”

By Marianna Fidanyan, CRRC Junior Fellow
CRRC-Armenia 2013 Junior Fellow Marianna Fidanyan participated in the conference with the paper about the Armenian Apostolic Church (AAC). She gave her speech during the session on diversification of church and state relations, and talked about the historical role of the AAC, the current situation, and perceptions of the church in the Republic of Armenia (RА) and in Diaspora. Marianna’s participation was kindly supported by the Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs of the Republic of Armenia.
The Conference was organized by the International Study of Religion in Eastern and Central Europe Association (ISORECEA) in cooperation with Vytautas Magnus University and Lithuanian Society for theStudy of Religions. It took place on 24-27 April in Kaunas, Lithuania, and gathered over 90 participants.
The main purpose of the conference was to reveal the patterns of religious diversification within the Central and Eastern European (CEE) societies, with the focus on differences in approaches, adaption processes and attitudes of the states towards the changing situation. The conference had an objective of bringing together scholars from different disciplines in order to share experience and knowledge on the most foreground issues concerning the religious freedom vis-à-vis the emerging diversification processes in the region. The conference program also included the issues of religious tolerance, church and state relations, religious minorities, human rights, etc. During 18 parallel sessions, about 80 papers were presented by the scholars from 26 countries of the world.

Irena Borowik, professor of religious studies at the Jagiellonian University and co-founder of the ISORECEA, gave the first plenary speech. She mainly talked about processes transforming religious field in CEE during the last decades with focus on the changes taking place inside the religious systems and around them. The session was followed by the speech of Eileen Barker, professor emeritus of the sociology of religion at London School of Economics, devoted to the diversification among New Religious Movements, paying attention to the special characteristics that different generations of those movements have. The last plenary session mainly covered the issues of interaction between the religion, state and society in the Baltic States and was represented by Ringo Ringvee, the adviser at the religious affairs department at the Estonian Ministry of theInterior.

Ms. Fidanyan’s paper comprised of social research in addition to the extensive review of scientific literature. The most of the findings were based on 15 in-depth interviews with historians and theologians and other experts on issues in question, as well as AAC priests and representatives of minority religious organizations. Moreover, two focus group discussions with local and diaspora parish members were held in order to find out how the Diasporan Armenians perceive the AAC as compared to those from the RA. The comments made during the discussion panel, helped to further develop the paper and submit it to the Edited Collection of Essays on “Religion and Migration in the Black Sea Region”.

Furthermore, along with coauthor Arman Gasparyan, she represented the most recent findings of the study entitled “The Armenian Apostolic Church - Historical Role, Current Perceptions and Function among the Armenian Diaspora” during the presentation at CRRC-Armenia on July 2, 2014.