Dear Friends of LIVES

After more than one year of existence, we can proudly announce that the National Center of Competence in Research (NCCR) LIVES is currently on track in developing an exciting program that runs in many different directions. Our first priority is furthering interdisciplinary research on vulnerability and the life course. All empirical enquiries of the 14 individual projects have been launched and scientific advance and innovation are now a must. But the most challenging goal in the coming years is to develop an integrated research program that  bridges diverse definitions and analyses of vulnerability at different stages of the life course.

Four main research spheres have been identified and will be developed: Cumulative processes of (dis)advantage and social inequalities; vulnerability diffusion of stress across life domains and in social relationships; individual and social resources to overcome vulnerability, including a focus on transferring knowledge to social policy actors; and methodological advances in life course research.

We also have another mission that we are developing: an interdisciplinary life course doctoral program with approximately 80 doctoral students from different Swiss universities, a very stimulating environment! And next March, we start the LIVES international life course Winter School, in collaboration with three other research centers.

Moreover, our equality measures program received a very positive evaluation from the Swiss National Science Foundation, and it is a pride and a duty of LIVES to act as a leading program in this realm.

All in all a wonderful opportunity for social sciences in Switzerland to develop a network and research centers on vulnerability and the life course that will be nationally and internationally recognized. The first issue of our newsletter is yet another step in this direction. We hope you will enjoy it and be curious enough to read through it!

A final thought which I would like to share with you: I have heard several times, and from official representatives of scientific institutions, that the NCCR format is not suited (I understand too much money and not enough economic pay backs) to social sciences. The responsibility that such a self-fulfilling prophecy can carry with it is very much felt by us … But that’s an additional reason to work harder, no? And indeed we do! But at the same time that should not lead us to play it safe.

I really hope that we will, as a collective, be crazy enough not to spoil this wonderful opportunity to innovate and dare to explore unknown fields. This is indeed the role of a NCCR, following Mark Twains’ well-known quote: “They did not know it was impossible, so they did it”!

Dario Spini, Director