Crossing borders with new Internationalism centre

First International conference on oral polio vaccine at PATHO Headquarters in Washington DC, 1959. (Photograph by Cameramen Incorporated. Sabin Archives)

The Centre for the Study of Internationalism has formally launched, as a new home for a lively community of researchers from a range of disciplines (from history to political science, law to linguistics and architecture to biochemistry) and at all stages of their careers, who share an interest in “internationalism” and questions about the make-up of our world.

And it certainly is a time for questions. As the news continues to be dominated by debates about the future of international organisations and the roles played by individual nation-states within them, we are as convinced as ever that there is plenty of work to be done for scholars of internationalism.

The Centre emerges out of conversations and collaborations begun during The Reluctant Internationalists research project, funded by a Wellcome Trust Investigator award and led by Dr Jessica Reinisch from the Department of History, Classics and Archaeology. This four year project studied international organisations and networks in 20th-century Europe through the lens of public health, medicine and medical science. It brought to light a history of overlapping and competing internationalisms built around a variety of political, cultural, religious, economic and linguistic factors that determined whether and how local actors thought or acted “internationally”.

The Centre takes a broad view to make sense of internationalism in its various guises, both in the past and the present. Indeed, internationalism can refer to a number of very different ideas and practices: the search for intergovernmental agreements and conventions; the practice of international assembly; the projection of national agendas across the globe; the transfer of ideas, resources, objects or people across national boundaries. These different models of internationalism each draw on different intellectual and political traditions, and in practice are shaped by different constellations of foreign policy objectives, economic policies, humanitarian concerns, and the priorities of self-governing professions.

The Centre seeks to facilitate wide-ranging dialogue and debate by organising workshops and seminars, and running a blog. We are happy to host external funders’ grant applications in relevant fields. Membership is drawn from across Birkbeck College and beyond – a full list of members and a selected guide to relevant publications and online resources is available on the Centre’s website.

You can also follow the Centre and its activities on Twitter and on Facebook or contact us via:

Further information:

Centre for the Study of Internationalism

The Reluctant Internationalists

Department of History, Classics, and Archaeology

Dr Jessica Reinisch

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Who knows wins: the validity of employee selection methods

Duncan Jackson, Chris Dewberry, Jarka Gallagher and Liam Close discuss the effectiveness of different candidate selection methods for businesses.

Photo by Nick Hillier on

In our recent article published in the Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, we were interested in how HR practitioners perceived the validity of employee selection procedures, and how their perceptions aligned with validity estimates published in academic literature.

We summarised the discrepancies between published validity evidence and the perceptions of those who reported holding:

  1. CIPD (Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development) qualifications
  2. HRM (Human Resource Management) qualifications
  3. OP (Occupational Psychology) qualifications
  4. and laypeople, who do not hold formal HR qualifications.

Our findings suggest that the responses of those with CIPD- and HRM-related qualifications did not differ significantly or substantially from the responses of laypeople.  However, those with OP-related training tended to respond in a manner significantly and substantially more aligned with findings reported in the research literature. What do these findings imply?

They could imply that those trained in OP have a better awareness of the research literature regarding employee selection than the other groups sampled.  This is consistent with the fact that research in this area is predominantly published in journals that are psychology-oriented.  Our findings might also imply that those with CIPD- and HRM-related training do not tend to access – or perhaps do not have access to – contemporary, high-quality research related to the validity of candidate selection methods.

Dr Chris Dewberry from the Department of Organizational Psychology and a co-author on this paper states:

‘For organisations, selecting the best job candidates is very important. To achieve this, familiarity with the results of high-quality scientific research on the effectiveness of different selection methods is vital. The results of the research presented in this article clearly indicate that practitioners without a background in organisational psychology are at a disadvantage here. The implication is clear: initiatives to familiarise practitioners with an HR background about the results of scientific research on personnel selection are urgently needed.

As a community of applied researchers and practitioners, perhaps we need to do more to make research findings available and to communicate those findings.  For example, occupational psychologists could work in conjunction with the CIPD to ensure that findings published in occupational psychology-related journals are shared in an appropriate format with HRM practitioners.

If practitioners do not hold an awareness of the latest and greatest vis-à-vis employee selection research, then they might not be using candidate selection methods optimally.  This could, in turn, affect the careers of individuals and the optimal function of organisations.  Dr Scott Highhouse from Bowling Green State University offers a related explanation and suggests that practitioners might not see selection research as being relevant to their practice.  This perspective suggests that it is important to educate about the importance of validity in selection and how it impacts on practice.  A clear example of where selection applies to the bottom line for an organisation is seen in utility analysis – a function which shows how validity relates to monetary gains for organisations on the basis of using valid selection procedures.

Practitioners should consider the following actions:

  • Ensure that the choice of selection method is guided by validity evidence as published in high quality, peer-reviewed sources
  • Understand that knowledge of validity is power in employee selection: practitioners need to take the time to familiarise themselves with the literature on the validity of selection methods
  • Know that the degree of validity makes a difference to the quality of selection decisions and to the bottom line for organisations

Further information:

  • For the original, peer-reviewed article, see:
    Jackson, D. J. R., Dewberry, C., Gallagher, J., & Close, L. K. (in press). A comparative study of practitioner perceptions of selection methods in the United Kingdom. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology. doi: 10.111/joop.12187
  • About the authors: Duncan Jackson, Chris Dewberry and Liam Close are members of Birkbeck’s Department of Organizational Psychology. Jarka Gallagher works for Arctic Shores Ltd, where Liam Close also works.
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Why are women prisoner numbers rising so rapidly?

Catherine Heard, from the Institute for Criminal Policy Research (ICPR) at Birkbeck, discusses the latest data released in the World Female Imprisonment List. Catherine directs the World Prison Research Programme at ICPR, which hosts and publishes theWorld Prison Brief.

This week at ICPR, we released the most comprehensive global dataset ever produced on women prisoner numbers. The fourth edition of our World Female Imprisonment List – published on 9 November – shows that the world’s female prison population has increased by about 53% since 2000. In comparison, the male prison population has gone up by around 20%. Numbers of women prisoners are rising in every continent of the globe, with significant increases reported in both developed and less developed countries.

The surge in numbers of incarcerated women is all the more troubling given the high levels of vulnerability we know exist among women who get caught up in criminal justice processes. Women and girls in prison usually come from backgrounds of disadvantage. They are highly likely to have been victims of crime themselves and are far more likely than other women to have histories of trauma, abuse, neglect and mental ill health. The World Health Organisation estimated in a 2009 report that up to 80% of women prisoners have an identifiable mental illness.

For virtually every country across the globe, the List gives information on the total number of women and girls in prison; the percentage of that country’s prison population comprised by women; and the number of imprisoned women and girls per 100,000 of the national population (the ‘prison population rate’). The List also includes information about trends in female imprisonment, at national, regional and continental levels. For most countries, the List gives trend data back to 2000 and at intervals since. (On the World Prison Brief website, trend data going back much further in time are available for many countries’ overall imprisonment levels.)

The List shows, for example, that in England and Wales, the total number of women prisoners has fallen somewhat since the high levels seen in 2005 and 2010, although it’s still higher than it was in 2000. We learn that our female prison population rate is 6.7 per 100,000 of the general population, compared with the Netherlands’ rate of 3.2 (reduced from over 11 per 100,000 in 2006).

Some of the biggest increases have occurred in countries struggling with severely overcrowded prisons, where conditions are already reported as inhumane. In El Salvador, for example, female prisoners are now at 10 times the level they were in 2000, while in Cambodia and Indonesia, numbers have increased six-fold. The data present a worrying picture of uncontrolled growth in numbers, often in countries whose prison systems are being expected to deal with ever-larger influxes, while deprived of the resources to do so.

If we set these new figures within the wider context of what we know about prison conditions and human rights infringements in some parts of the world, the implications are alarming. In Brazil, for example, where around about 44,700 women and girls are now in prison – more than four times the number in 2000 – severe resource constraints make it impossible for the country’s prison system to comply with laws stipulating that women prisoners be housed in separate facilities from men. As a result, some women are held in designated wings of men’s prisons, leading to a risk of assaults and violence from male prisoners and staff, as Human Rights Watch has reported. Female prisoners who are held in women-only prisons endure appalling levels of overcrowding and a lack of access to even basic medical care and treatment.

Our prisons research at ICPR aims to bring about a deeper understanding of the many interwoven factors that combine to drive increases in countries’ use of imprisonment and to find concrete, practical solutions to end the unsustainable increases in imprisonment levels that we have seen in recent history. To do this, we need to focus on providing a much better account of who it is that our states choose to imprison, and why.

This is the aim of our current project, Understanding and reducing the use of imprisonment worldwide, which we are undertaking in collaboration with a network of NGOs, academics, lawyers and criminal justice practitioners. The project entails an in-depth exploration of imprisonment in 10 jurisdictions across all five continents. Those countries are Kenya, South Africa, Brazil, the United States, India, Thailand, England & Wales, Hungary, the Netherlands and Australia. Among these are countries with some of the largest prison populations in the world: the USA, Brazil, India and Thailand are all in the top six globally. Most of these 10 countries have seen very significant increases in their female prison populations since 2000, as the List shows.

In our report, Prison: Evidence of its use and over-use from around the world, we discuss some of the key themes to be addressed if we are to reverse this worrying trend of rising prison populations. Perhaps the most challenging, yet important, among these themes is the need to ask what purposes imprisonment can reasonably and realistically be expected to serve, both as a matter of general principle and in individual cases.

Women across the world are predominantly incarcerated for minor, non-violent, property or drug-related crimes and are often primary carers for one or more children or older family members. This surely suggests that the economic and social costs of imprisoning women will, in most cases, outweigh the supposed benefits, which should prompt us to look more carefully at whom we imprison and ask, in every case, why we imprison and what we expect prison to achieve.

A note on the data

Compiling the List and all the comparative and trend data it contains is no mean feat – one that Roy Walmsley has undertaken every year since the World Prison Brief was founded in 2000. Having to work to the same cut-off date for all countries inevitably means that, by the time the List is published, more recent figures will have been released for many countries. People wanting to ensure they have the very latest data available should always check the World Prison Brief website – whether they are looking for data on a particular country or region, or want to see how countries rank globally.

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What drives efficiency in knowledge transfer?

Dr Federica Rossi, lecturer in business economics discusses increasing expectations on universities to demonstrate the positive economic and social impacts of their activities, and her research into measuring the efficiency of their efforts. 

Knowledge transfer is a term used to encompass a broad range of activities to support mutually beneficial collaborations between universities, businesses and the public sector. In the face of demands from funding bodies and ultimately taxpayers, universities all over the world are increasingly expected to demonstrate that their activities have a positive economic and social impact. Direct knowledge transfer to businesses, governments and society in general allows universities to make a visible contribution outside the ‘ivory tower’ of academia and can also help them to raise additional funds.

Measuring efficiency

Since knowledge transfer has become as important as a university’s longstanding commitment to teaching and research, the question of how well they perform this mission has gained prominence. Most universities attempt to measure performance in knowledge transfer, but focus on a quantity of outputs rather than the quality or efficiency. Even studies that measure efficiency tend to focus on a limited set of knowledge transfer activities, like technology through the commercialisation of patent licenses, creation of spin-out companies or research contracting with industry.

However, universities fulfil their knowledge transfer mission through many other activities, which include delivering knowledge-intensive services such as consultancies, clinical tests, prototypes and professional development courses, engaging in informal networks and staff exchanges with industry, contributing to community regeneration programmes and engaging with the public through different media.


The efficiency of 97 universities in the United Kingdom was measured for a range of knowledge transfer activities: research contracts, consultancies, professional development courses, generation of intellectual property and public engagement. Compared with a restrictive definition of knowledge transfer that only includes research contracts and intellectual property, this broader approach produces a different ranking for the most efficient universities: more universities achieve efficiency, and the distribution of efficiency scores is less skewed.

The universities that increase their efficiency when a broader definition of knowledge transfer is used have a lower share of staff in medicine and natural sciences and a higher share of staff in the arts and humanities; they are less likely to have a university hospital, and are more teaching-intensive. By adopting a broader approach to measuring knowledge transfer, some universities that are less research-oriented and less focused on science and medicine can better demonstrate their efficiency. More efficient institutions have a larger amount of staff and students; they are older, but have a more recently established knowledge transfer office; and they are specialised in a few subject areas (although some diversified universities are also efficient). Research, teaching intensity, and geographical location do not have a significant effect on efficiency.


The findings suggest that universities with different production models can be equally efficient in generating knowledge transfer outputs, and that research intensity is not a prerequisite for efficiency. Universities can achieve efficiency by adopting a model of knowledge transfer engagement that is consistent with their resources, without needing to replicate the knowledge transfer strategies of prominent institutions whose resources may be very different. By improving their reputation for excellence in specific activities that best fit the institution’s resources, universities may increase their ability to generate further knowledge transfer outputs. In fact, institutional reputation appears to increase knowledge transfer opportunities, with more reputable older, larger and diversified institutions achieving greater efficiency.

Another implication of the findings is that, rather than having an established Knowledge Transfer Office (KTO), what affects efficiency are its practices and policies, and the professionalism of its staff. KTOs therefore need to invest in staff training and in the development of best practices. Developing specialised, subject-specific skills and structures to support knowledge transfer, rather than generic ones may also pay off.

While performance is often measured by looking at outputs, thinking about performance in terms of efficiency helps us recognise that universities work with very different resources, which affects the nature of their knowledge transfer engagement. Changes in the resources available to universities, through potential changes in the rules governing the allocation of public funds, will also change their ability to engage in knowledge transfer.

Policymakers need to think systematically about the effect of changes in funding for research and teaching (for example, the replacement of recurrent grants with competitive funding) on a university’s ability to engage in knowledge transfer. The relationship between funding sources and knowledge transfer strategies, which has been largely unexplored to date, would merit greater attention from both researchers and policymakers.

The detailed empirical analysis on which these results build is presented in:

Rossi, F. (2017) The drivers of efficient knowledge transfer performance: evidence from British universities, Cambridge Journal of Economics.

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