Interim conclusion: extensive, interdisciplinary research

Prof. Alexander Grob, President of the NRP 76

The President of the Steering Committee, Prof. Alexander Grob, provides an insight into the work being done on NRP 76.

Prof. Alexander Grob, President of the NRP 76 Steering Committee, Chair in Personality and Developmental Psychology, University of Basel

Professor Grob, it’s been four years since the Federal Council launched NRP 76. What stage is the research programme at?

Let me put it this way: we’re definitely on schedule. The majority of researchers have carried out just over half their research work, fine-tuned their approaches and methods, collected some promising data, and conducted interviews. But it takes time to analyse and discuss it all – we expect to be able to present numerous project findings in autumn 2022. Some projects have been delayed slightly by Covid-19, for instance because of restricted access to archives or interviews that couldn’t take place.

Do the research teams work separately or together?

Many of the projects call for a direct exchange with other NRP 76 researchers, which in turn fosters reciprocal learning. The NRP consciously promotes and funds this kind of interaction. In mid-March 2021, the NRP organised a scientific conference that generated international momentum. The focus was on discussing the role of and the opportunities of science in the context of Reconciliation Policies, both in Switzerland and abroad. I hope that the exchange between researchers and beyond the boundaries of a single research project, a distinct discipline or a research institution will intensify even further in future.

We also encourage an exchange among researchers on methods. Last December, for example, more than 90 NRP researchers took part in a programme workshop on interpreting case files and on including the views of persons affected. The event also provided an opportunity to exchange experiences.

Why is discussing case files so important?

A lot of projects rely on working with case files. The interpretation of case files is challenging and often a balancing act. The files that the project teams are working with, are demanding, and sometimes even problematic, because the official intervention protocol represent institutional views on the interventions. There is a need for attention to the derivation of explanations and interpretations. And this poses a whole host of questions. For instance: How are “cases” constructed? What have case files got to do with the lifeworld of the people behind the cases? Which moral norms and economic interests determined the case management? These – and many others besides – are key questions that various projects are endeavouring to clarify. Over and above that, countless other research questions are being addressed.

NRP 76 covers a broad spectrum of topics. Do you think the projects will produce sufficient findings to thoroughly answer the relevant questions?

We are very confident that they will. Project teams were required last autumn to submit interim reports, which the Steering Committee reviewed in detail. The insight this provided into research activities gives us grounds to be optimistic. The Steering Committee also paid a visit to all researchers for the purpose of cultivating a direct exchange. Thanks to a second and third call for proposals, we are also able to close some research gaps. These projects began and still will begin their research work later than the others, but we will benefit from complementary findings. In May 2021, we will be able to select additional research projects that address adoptions in coercive situations and the placement of foster children with families.

How does the NRP tie in with the findings of the Independent Expert Commission (IEC) on Administrative Detention?

The findings of the IEC are very well documented and secured in publications. They will be drawn on directly in many of the research projects under the mantle of the NRP. What’s more, a lot of the researchers who were involved in the work of the IEC are also scientifically engaged in NRP 76. Just a few months ago, the authors of the IEC Synthesis Report, Lorraine Odier and Urs Germann, presented the key points and findings to NRP 76 researchers, and this led to a valuable exchange of ideas. It is clear though that – in contrast to the IEC on Administrative Detention – NRP 76 has a strong contemporary relevance and we also hope to produce findings which have a bearing on the immediate challenges facing us now in the dichotomy between welfare and coercion.

What are the next steps for NRP 76?

While there is an increase in research findings, the significant of knowledge transfer grows. We wish to initiate a dialogue beyond the boundaries of the NRP research as soon as possible. To be able to broadly contextualise welfare and coercion in terms of the past, present and future, we will take into account current debates among politicians, experts from the field and the public. This calls for idea-sharing and mutual discussions. We aim to achieve that by staging a series of five dialogue events in all of Switzerland’s language regions between autumn 2021 and autumn 2022. Additionally, we will be publishing NRP 76 bulletins containing concrete insights into the research. Our dialogue partners on the front line, the people affected, the authorities, politicians, NGOs and other actors will all be given an opportunity to express their views. And last but not least, the Steering Committee will also be tackling the question of how, ultimately, to bundle and present over 30 projects in a meaningful way.