The 2020 CABAR.asia School of Analytics, with the participation of junior analysts and experts from Central Asia, has come to an end.
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From 21 to 26 September 2020, the Representative Office of the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR), with the support of the OSCE Academy in Bishkek, organized the 2020 online CABAR.asia School of Analytics. The program brought together more than 30 young researchers from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.
On the first day, the third School of Analytics had its official opening with speeches from IWPR Central Asia Regional Director Abakhon Sultonazarov and Head of International Office of the OSCE Academy in Bishkek Victoria Orazova. After announcing technical rules and regulations, participants’ meet and greet, Chairman of the Committee on International Information Activities under Kazakhstan’s Foreign Ministry Timur Shaimergenov elaborated on the introduction to analytics, common standards, and formats.
Abakhon Sultonazarov, Victoria Orazova
“Analytics primarily aim to resolve uncertainty for a better understanding, for assessing our capacities, for seeking solutions, and simply acting. The art of analytics is to see more than what is being presented to you; the ability to read between the lines, to detect broader trends from distinct events, to gauge risks and opportunities. The analyst’s flair is in “producing reliable whole from heterogeneous parts that are only semi-reliable”. That is, from vast information flows that are not always credible, the analyst has to construct a single impartial picture and provide the reader with a clear understanding of what is happening, what are the implications, and what could be done. Analytical construct always has to do with an imagination that is validated with arguments.
The formula for robust analytical document goes as follows: 50% – information, 40% – the quality of data processing and analysis, 10% – information delivery to the consumer.
Expert on Central Asia and consultant at Carnegie Moscow Center Temur Umarov spoke about the Central Asian analytics network and shared how to become an independent and prominent expert.
“It is imperative for an independent expert to be independent of a certain source, as the latter might pursue some concealed goals. You need to consume lots of information each day and read more than you write. You need to understand your subject, whereas searching for that subject is everyone’s individual path. But it is essential that while narrowing down your focus and following your subject, you should not be forgetting about the world’s overall picture. You need to observe the events that to varying degrees may impinge on your subject, the region, or even the whole world. This, for its part, is useful for networking, as open-mindedness makes communication between people much easier. It is critical that you create your own list of “white and black” of agencies that you do or do not consider reliable. You also need to monitor the activities of experts engaged in a similar or related subject. Sources you read manifest in your analytical work.
The second day of the School of Analytics was launched by Rustam Burnashev, Professor of the Faculty of Social Sciences at the Kazakh-German University.
Dr. Burnashev later reviewed the experts’ practices. He argues that young researchers often choose the wrong sources.
“Unfortunately, our young professionals rely on the sources they first find. That is, there is no strict criterion and understanding to differentiate between credible significant sources and frivolous sources, ” Burnashev highlighted.
He advised young experts to refer to primary sources.
Moreover, he believes young experts pay little attention to “empirical methods” and show “too much love for desk studies”.
“Still, I would focus more on field studies that facilitate new knowledge,” Burnashev said.
The second day of the School of Analytics ended with a speech by Ivan Zuenko, Research Fellow at the Center for Asia-Pacific Studies, Far Eastern Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, and Fellow at the Carnegie Moscow Center.
Zuenko spoke about the processes taking place in modern China and the PRC’s policy in the Central Asian direction.
The third day of the School was devoted to data collection methods and types of analytical work with Maxim Yakovlev and Rashid Gabdulkhakov as instructors.
Maxim Yakovlev, head of the International Relations Department and Dean of the School of Political Analytics at the National University “Kyiv-Mogilev Academy”, discussed the research process and organizational details. Yakovlev focused on various types of social surveys and their significance in decision-making.
Rashid Gabdulkhakov, Ph.D. candidate and part-time teacher at Erasmus University Rotterdam, discussed interior aspects of the analyst’s professional life. He shared how his work process differs depending on the type of analytical paper, be it a voluminous scholarly article or a short policy brief.
The fourth day of the School was devoted to data visualization in an analytical paper. Andrey Dorozhny, data journalist & data visualizer from Russia, divided the training into two sessions: in the first part, he discussed the importance of data visualization and how visual thinking works. The trainer also reviewed ways to choose the chart type, the main elements in the chart, the value of the chart annotations, and focus areas.
The second part of his session was allotted to practical classes. Dorozhny focused on visualization tools. The participants, together with the trainer, drew diagrams in one of the programs during interactive exercises. An expert instructor reviewed the storytelling techniques and making a presentation in Google Slides.
The fifth day of the School was held under the banner of Western think tanks’ expertise and practices. Lubica Pollakova, Assistant Director of the Russia and Eurasia Program at the Chatham House (the UK), discussed how think tanks work in theory and practice, and also shared an engaging insight about of trendy analytical tools among think tanks.
Pollakova’s session was followed by a workshop from a senior researcher at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI), Roman Vakulchuk. He discussed forecasting and strategic planning, helpful for a novice analyst, and ways to differentiate between the two. Vakulchuk’s session ended with an exercise where the participants had to construct a prognosis for China-Central Asia relations in many years.
The last session of the fifth day was moderated by Sherali Rizoyon, an independent expert from Tajikistan. He shared his experience in writing analytical papers for various agencies while showcasing his works. Rizoyon also discussed the difference between “closed-loop” and “open-loop” analytics, common mistakes in writing, and has given advice for emerging analysts.
Apart from lectures, the School of Analysts also gave the floor to participants for them to present their countries sharing little-known or unusual facts. After the country presentations and his welcoming speech, the editor of analytical materials at CABAR.asia Ermek Baisalov discussed the standards for analytical materials. Baisalov gave helpful tips on improving writing skills for analysts, whilst also illustrating technical and content writing mistakes authors often make.
The second session of Jamilya Maricheva, editor, producer, and author of the PROTENGE.kz project, has been a final one. In her session, Maricheva discussed personal branding and the use of social media for promotion.
“Social media is a tool. It can be applied to get immense feedback and address negative factors. You can find online friends based on interests and create a comfortable space on social media. You don’t have to be present at all platforms at once, but it’s important to experiment and give other platforms a shot. You need to seek a platform that is most convenient for you. Before ditching the investment in personal branding, try social media first as a viewer and then become an active user. And even after that, if you still feel uncomfortable using social media, you need to realize that this is also okay. Content creation is a craft. The only way to pump it up is to decide your area, your strengths, and weaknesses, your “superpower”, whilst creating content.
Apart from lectures, the School of Analysts also gave the floor to participants for them to present their countries sharing little-known or unusual facts, customs and traditions of individual countries.
Country Presentations by School Participants
Following the third School of Analytics, the participants finalized their previously drafted articles with new details and elements, thanks to the new knowledge and skills gained. Their works will soon be published on the CABAR.asia analytical platform. Alongside with their current work, the School graduates now have a great opportunity to become regular contributors to CABAR.asia publications, where they can cover the issues and challenges in the region.
Participants of the 2020 CABAR.asia School of Analytics and their feedback on social media.
Please visit our YouTube channel to learn more about 2020 CABAR.asia School of Analytics and watch video sessions.
The CABAR.asia School of Analytics is part of the IWPR project “Giving Voice, Driving Change – from the Borderland to the Steppes”, supported by the Norwegian Foreign Ministry.