With students and scientists growing increasingly mobile both at the national and international levels, universities in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region of France endeavour to attract and retain the brightest scholars. With two thirds of students, over a third of PhD theses, and 40% of scientists, social sciences and humanities are at the very forefront of this struggle. At stake is not only the existence of a significant research cluster north of Paris in the field of social sciences and humanities (SSH) but also the opportunity for Nord-Pas-de-Calais to reach the economic, social and cultural objectives it set for itself 30 years ago.
This resulted into the creation of two institutes, the Federative Institute for Research into Industrial Economies and Societies (IFRESI) and the Erasmus International Institute (IIE), which were respectively set up in 1986 and 2002, and then decided to merge into a larger federation of research programmes aimed at designing and drafting innovative, interdisciplinary, and international research proposals in SSH, namely the European Social Sciences and Humanities Research Institute or MESHS.
MESHS is a research unit supported by the French National Center for Scientific Research or CNRS and the universities of the Nord-Pas-de-Calais and Picardy regions in Northern France. We also belong to the French SSH Research Institutes National Network. Our international (6 experts are foreign) scholarly committee is made up of 18 external researchers whose knowledge is widely-acknowledged to span their own field of research as well as a broad range of other disciplines.
MESHS is involved in the regional research project (Contrat de Projets Etat-Région/CPER) for 2007-2013 and as such our mission is to serve as an inter-laboratory and interdisciplinary hub and facilitator of intellectual life, and to produce path-breaking research in the area of complex systems transcending the boundaries of established disciplines within SSH and between SSH and other sciences. We intend to raise the profile of SSH within the emerging University of Lille-Nord de France by becoming one of its core operations. MESHS is situated in Lille, is an ideal location for fostering European partnerships and cross-borders ones in particular.
Our research policy is articulated around the following areas and themes :
I : The realm of health: from individual experience to social action
1) Practices, representations, and norms
2) Health policies
3) Relationships between agents and their impacts on care practices
II : The dynamics and governance of societies
4) Public policies and European integration
5) The dynamics of organizations and markets
6) Urban mutations, territorial dynamics, and sustainable development
7) Migrations, borders, and interculturalism
8) The social construction of gender relations
9) Institutions, norms, conflicts
III : Texts, objects, interpretation, and argumentation
10) The categories of analysis in SSH
11) Argumentation, logic, and epistemology
12) Philology, hermeneutic, language sciences
13) Literary and artistic works – Creation processes
14) The genesis of civilizations and of European cultures
Through our partnership with local research centres (30 as yet), we structure and federate regional research in most SSH disciplines – sociology, economics, geography, land use science, environmental science and sustainable development, management science, law, political science, information and communication sciences, psychology, languages, linguistics, history, archaeology, philosophy, philology, literature, artistic studies and education sciences.
We also provide active support for seed projects which will in the end shape our future areas of investigation, in particular by bridging the gap between SSH and the so-called « hard sciences » which demand more and more from SSH in terms of reflections upon their own research, their imperatives and their missions.
We also organize a number of regular scholarly activities through which MESHS will be known and well-known for high-quality exchanges and meetings, e.g. MESHS welcomes internationally-acclaimed scholars within or outside the framework of research programmes in order to stimulate and strengthen seed projects and new reflections on interdisciplinary SSH research.
A double objective motivates us: to spur and nourish a fruitful dialogue among scholars; and to reach a far wider public by a robust policy of diffusion of information and knowledge. Through this process, the public will acquire a better grasp of the crucial role that SSH play in their decisions and actions.