Department of Comparative Politics

Outstanding Evaluations of PROTECT Project in External Report

The Right to International Protection (PROTECT) is now colncluded. The project has received an outstanding review from external experts.

Hakan Sicakkan
Professor Hakan G. Sicakkan. Department of Comparative Politics, University of Bergen.
Eivind Senneset, UiB

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PROTECT The Right to International Protection, a large-scale international project with 12 partner universities, coordinated from the Department of Politics at the University of Bergen and funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Framework Programme, is now concluded. The project has received an outstanding review from external experts.

-  I’m very happy to see that the enormous amount of work that more than 60 PROTECT researchers and administrative personnel put into the project is now recognized and regarded so highly by external reviewers. We are already at this stage getting citations from leading scientists in the field of migration and refugee studies, says Sicakkan.

According to the reviewers, PROTECT “has delivered exceptional results with significant immediate or potential impact. The contribution to scientific knowledge on the Global Compacts and the changing governance of migration through peer reviewed outputs is the main contribution of the project.”

It has been a long journey, from February 2020 to June 2023, for the 12 universities that participated in the project. The journey was even longer for the project leader personally. He started developing the project idea and building the 12-university PROTECT consortium during his sabbatical year in 2016 at Sciences Po, Humboldt University, and European University Institute. Later, in collaboration with the UiB’s Division of Research and Innovation, Brussels Office, Social Sciences Faculty, and Global Societal Challenges Scientific Steering Group, he organized a positioning conference in Brussels in March 2018 to make his efforts visible to the relevant audience in the EU policy circles. The project application was submitted in spring 2019. During the project implementation, the challenges posed by an extremely ambitious project plan were multiplied by the Covid-19 restrictions, which necessitated additional measures and radical changes in data collection methods in some project components.

According to the reviewers, "the large-scale production of academic articles, and their gradual acceptance for publication will likely influence scholarship on the Global Compacts and the CEAS for years to come. The project's scientific production has been particularly strong, with several peer reviewed publications at various stages in the publication process. The project submitted a very large and varied number of deliverables.”

- Looking at the quality and previous performance of the PROTECT partners, I had no doubt that we would be able to deliver as planned. Not only were we able to deliver more than we had promised, but we did so at a very high level of quality, says Sicakkan.

According to the reviewers, “the proposal also indicated theoretical ambitions, which have remained the focus, and have been advanced. It is likely that the contribution of the project will be felt in years to come. The conceptual coherence of the project has insured an overall intellectual coherence to a wide range of deliverables.”

The review report also praises the PROTECT Consortium and the University of Bergen for good scientific leadership, administrative coordination, and financial management.

The most important shortcoming pointed at by the reviewers is ‘insufficient’ engagement of the policymakers in the Consortium’s communication activities. Though, the review report recognizes that the Consortium has done everything in their power to engage policymakers in different stages of the project. However, Sicakkan does not entirely agree with this critique:

- When seen from the perspective of mere numbers, the critique is right and proper. However, our communication strategy was based on reaching out to the most relevant policymakers and practitioners with hands-on influence and power in the United Nations’, the European Union’s, the African Union’s and Canada’s policymaking and policy implementation. We managed to get policymakers at the highest levels to read, comment, and discuss our results. They have described how they intend to use our results. In this sense, we are probably one of the exemplary H2020 projects. The only shortcoming in our communication efforts is that we could not have the International Organization for Migration at very high levels, although they participated in multiple PROTECT activities with representatives at middle levels of decision-making, says Sicakkan.

This is the third European Union-funded project that Sicakkan has initiated and led. He believes PROTECT may have a big impact on the European Union’s policy if its approaches and recommendations are more broadly recognized by the scholarly community. Such an achievement is contingent on the project researchers’ continued efforts to publish their results internationally.