“Purely intellectual drive” inspires research and leads to decision to start, with colleague Johannes Pollak, the Webster International Relations Working Papers Series.
A desire to understand the workings of the world and to make a difference has shaped Dr. Samuel Schubert’s career.
That’s what led the Head of the International Relations Department at Webster’s Vienna campus to study Political Science as an undergraduate at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and to later earn a doctorate in the subject at the University of Vienna
“I’ve always been interested in attempting to understand what’s really going, what are the real forces at play,” Schubert said, “first and foremost to safeguard my own personal security and secondly for the larger, broader context of understanding them for the sake of humanity and survival.”
Working for the United Nations for a decade (his final assignment was as a senior policy adviser to the Director General of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization) helped expand Schubert’s worldview; so did working for Washington, D.C., think tanks. A paper he wrote, The Asymetric Power of Terrorism, led to frequent invitations to lecture, including one from the prestigious George C. Marshal European Center for Security Studies Program on Terrorism and Security Studies, as well as to strong encouragement that he should earn a doctorate and become part of academia. It was advice that he took to heart.
Schubert said he enjoys the freedom that comes with being an academic in Europe. “The advantage is that time moves slower, so one has much more time to think, write, produce, and discuss” he said. “One lives in close proximity to different languages and cultures, to different societies with very different polities and opinions. In certain respects, one can argue that it’s easier to avoid group think on a grand social scale in Europe in a way that’s more difficult in the U.S. One example is the inability of Europe to form a common foreign policy.”
Delving into the complex issues of geopolitics and energy
In addition to his research on terrorism, Schubert has increasingly been delving into the complex issues of geopolitics and energy. “It has become clear that from a purely normative standpoint, it’s very important to our society and our children’s that we move toward using energy—in a different way for the long-term survival of our society and economy,” he said.
Schubert said he has been investigating in detail the real causes of so-called energy wars and the complex factors that guide countries’ energy policies. Comparing all the forces that come together has led him to believe that researchers and decision makers tend to enter into their research with foregone conclusions and this tends to bias their conclusions.
“They see the outcome before they ever start with their question,” he said. “They already have the answer and they’re just looking for evidence rather than to take a more scientific—and sometimes less thrilling—approach with, perhaps, even depressing outcomes.”
Researchers tend to forget that the scientific method calls for disproving hypotheses, Schubert added. “It’s only when you’ve gone through the exercise of disproving things that whatever remains is that thing you continue to test until you disprove it, or it becomes the standard, causal conditions that you can say are more likely to exist.”
Research conclusions include doubts about concept of “energy wars.”
Among his research conclusions are that although energy wars are a popular idea, this idea “doesn’t hold water”; that a state’s desire to project power has much to do with willingness to go to war; that environmental concerns will only become important when national security is at risk; and despite what is commonly believed, that energy independence may spawn the conditions for aggression toward other countries rather than peaceful coexistence.
Schubert said it’s important to understand the underlying causes of a war such as the one in Iraq. “If you don’t know what the prize is that’s being fought for, then you don’t know what the purpose of the war is,” he said. “And if you don’t know that, you’re going to sink yourself into conflicts all over the place.”
Webster International Relations Working Paper Series
Schubert commented that he is motivated by a “purely intellectual drive,” which he also tries to encourage in students and colleagues. That drive has led him to start, with Vienna Research Professor Johannes Pollak, the Webster International Relations Working Paper Series.
The working paper submission and selection process will follow a rigorous double blind peer review standard. The co-editors (Schubert and Pollak) will decide whether a paper’s quality merits an initial pass. Then reviewers, selected from top intellectuals in their fields, will judge the papers. Unlike journals that follow a similar process, however, working papers will be published as they are accepted, without being part of an issue, and, most importantly, authors retain full rights to publish elsewhere, “which is the ultimate goal of publishing a working paper.”
Schubert said that working papers have their advantages. “Papers that are maybe time-sensitive, or controversial original works can be circulated, commented on, and revised and eventually submitted to a journal or in the form of a book—an improved version of the same piece. Working papers are frequently cited, because they’re the original pieces that are out there and they show an important time line of development of the intellectual process.”
An opportunity to test and disseminate research
He added, “It is our goal to establish an environment where Webster University’s research faculty have the opportunity to both test and disseminate their research to the wider and highly critical academic community and, in so doing, advance their and the university’s scholarly reputations.”
An editorial assistant will be hired this summer, and international relations faculty as well as those working in related fields or on related subjects — both full-time and adjuncts across the Webster network—will receive notice of the new initiative. Schubert said that authors can expect working papers that have made it through the review process to be viewable on a website within three to six months from submission.
Schubert said that he and Pollak will use great care in choosing papers for review. “We want to make sure we’re putting out working papers that have value and meaning, and that perhaps are even controversial—that will raise focus and attention and engender a response. And that is the goal of every scholar and their respective institution.”