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The Post-Soviet TV Experts

By       Message Andreas Umland     Permalink
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- be regularly making contributions to specialized periodicals, including peer-reviewed, high-impact or, at least, recognized journals, as well as to collected volumes published within specialized book series, under the imprint of recognized academic presses, or/and by relevant think-tanks which, preferably, are not a creatures of the putative expert her- or himself;

- be - at least, occasionally - participating in important international symposia and conferences, including the regular conventions of the major scholarly societies in her/his field, like, in the case of political expertise, for example, the International Political Science Association or European Consortium for Political Research;

- have completed one or more doctoral and/or postdoctoral research visits to some reputed higher education or research institution which, if highly ranked, will be typically located outside the post-Soviet world;

- have been awarded, at least, one student-, scholar- or fellowship for realizing a study or investigative project from a reputed funding institution specializing in the support of social scientific education or/and research;

- have a full- or part-time position at some serious local university or think-tank, and, perhaps, a previous temporary teaching or research affiliation abroad - preferably at a recognized foreign research institution; and

- be able to claim membership in relevant scholarly advisory or editorial boards, and recognized academic associations or research networks.

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Serious experts over the age of 35 may not have all of this on their CV. But, if real specialists in their field, they will usually meet, at least, some of these criteria more or less impressively.

From amateurism to professionalism

A lower presence of amateur pundits in post-Soviet mass media and public life may have three beneficial effects. First, it would decrease the impact of uninformed opinion on the public discourse in the societies of the post-communist states, and reduce the amount of simplistic, half-true or plainly wrong explanations of this or that pressing socio-political problem. Second, it should lower the political weight of dilettantes involved in decision-making processes within the state apparatuses of these countries, and could eventually lead to a normalization of political, economic and social consulting, in the transition countries. Third, it should increase the public and political space for serious experts - whether from local research institutions or from the respective nation's foreign diasporas - with adequate credentials.

These effects should allow both governmental and non-governmental organizations in the post-Soviet world to base their decisions and policies on better diagnoses. That, in turn, should help the post-Soviet nations to eventually leave the societal and political deadlocks in which most of them today find themselves.

[Final personal note : As some readers of this article may know, I live in Kyiv and am thus myself a participant of the post-Soviet discourse I am criticizing here. My attack could thus be seen as a defamation of my local competitors in public political punditry. However, while I am frequently interviewed by Ukrainian mass media and sometimes invited to TV shows, my opinion is mostly sought because I am a German citizen, or (wrongly) seen as a representative of the EU. While I would regard myself as an expert on some selected political topics, my role on Ukrainian TV is rather that of providing an outsider's, German or "European" view on this or that Ukrainian domestic matter. I am thus only sometimes directly competing with local real and pseudo-experts. Being funded, on a long-term basis, by a German government-supported scholarly organization, I am not competing with local pundits for Ukrainian research funding, consulting contracts, academic posts, etc. - none of which I need in order to sustain or advance myself.]

First published in English in: Eurasia Review, October 2nd, 2012 , click here

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============================================================================== Andreas Umland, CertTransl (Leipzig), MA (Stanford), MPhil (Oxford), DipPolSci, DrPhil (FU Berlin), PhD (Cambridge). Visiting fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institution (more...)

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