The age of maturity

The beginning of 2017 marks the half-way point for the National Centre of Competence in Research LIVES – Overcoming vulnerability: Life course perspectives (NCCR LIVES). We have six years behind us, and six to come, if the Swiss National Science Foundation goes ahead with their third and final grant (2019-2022). Given the feedback received after the recent visit by its expert panel, we can be optimistic. They congratulated NCCR LIVES for its "remarkable scientific productivity" and likened the programme to a "scientific treasure chest".

This treasure's wealth lies primarily in the originality of the data collected by the NCCR LIVES, which provides precious information about a wide variety of research themes including: couples, aging, career paths, social integration of second-generation immigrants, precarious and single-parent families, health, the work-family balance, etc. LIVES is also rich in interdisciplinarity, making it possible to associate methods and themes that have often been compartmentalised. As a result, approximately fifty PhD theses demonstrating this approach have been made possible; some of which have already been finalised, others are still in progress. These pearls add to the existing wealth of scientific publication which continues to increase in number and quality.

To harvest the value of this treasure and ensure our symbolic fortune as researchers, two other elements were essential: contribution to the advancement of the theory, and an impact on the international stage. The NCCR LIVES has now met these criteria, as you will discover in this newsletter. By publishing a special edition in the prestigious American journal Research in Human Development and by contributing to the content of the Handbook of Theories of Aging, a benchmark in aging research, the NCCR LIVES demonstrates its maturity. Our activity on the international stage and the increase in our scientific recognition is also apparent through other initiatives, such as the creation of the LIVES Best Paper Award for Early Scholars and the directorate of the Life Course Research and Social Policies series published by Springer, of which the seventh volume is in progress.

The NCCR LIVES' mission also includes sharing and redistributing our results to beneficiaries outside the scientific community. That is why LIVES participates in projects outside the academic sphere and which concern society as a whole, such as the Assises de la Famille (Conferences for family) and the Observatory on Family for which the University of Geneva and LIVES are the linchpins. A similar project is now up and running in the canton of Vaud. You will hear more about this in the future.

But it is not because we are a national research centre which has won a certain amount of credibility that we should take ourselves too seriously. Means other than scientific research can contribute complementary and productive points of view for understanding life courses. That's why the LIVES directors gave their agreement to our communication officer to use the notion of television series to elucidate research about vulnerability in this newsletter. The aim of this association is not to suggest that television series and research have the same role. The first entertain by highlighting the salient details of extraordinary lives; the second discovers the regularities, sometimes dull, which structure the lives of many. Nor is our aim to convince that the methods are similar: one uses artistic stylisation, the other quantitative and qualitative modelling. Quite simply, the comparison aims to illustrate similar attempts to give coherence to the multiplicity of events and relationships that individuals meet throughout their lives. We hope you enjoy it!

Eric Widmer, Co-Director