Throughout this summer, I worked with Professor Julia Gray and other students in her research team to help in her research titled “How do international organisations work?”. Professor Gray is currently writing a book that will discuss the vitality of international organisations (IOs). She divides IO vitality into three categories: ‘alive’, ‘zombie’ and ‘dead’.
To easily categorise IO vitality, Professor Gray evaluates each IO from the frequency of their meetings annually, and how successful each IO is in achieving their goals. To do this, Professor Gray tasked us to create timelines for each IO where we recorded the details of their annual meetings (i.e. between members, with other IOs, etc.), why/how they were able/fail to achieve their goals that year, discussions for new initiatives, along with any security/military efforts taken by an IO.
By using Penn’s Franklin library database, Nexis Uni, to look up primary and secondary sources regarding IO activity, there were times when I had to read up to seven thousand articles for one IO. As such, it could take a whole week to finish one timeline and up to about 50 pages in length. The longest IO that I got to work on was the Pacific Islands Forum which is an inter-governmental organisation between countries in the Pacific that started in 1985. Aside from Nexis Uni, Professor Gray also encouraged us to use other online scholarly sites such as JSTOR and Google scholars, or check out the website and articles published by the IO itself. Sometimes, certain information was only attainable by visiting an IO website written in a foreign language. Therefore, I had the chance to implement my foreign language skills, such as Chinese and Indonesian/Malay, when reading these articles. I was also impressed with some of my teammates, who are able to speak up to five different languages.
Although the timelines were mostly done alone, Professor Gray often divided us into groups to do other tasks, such as recording which election monitor groups attended which elections, and looking at UN speaker profiles to investigate gender representation there. This was a great way to prevent the overall experience from becoming too monotonous.
Overall, Professor Gray was kind enough to let me work on organisations in the Southeast Asia and Pacific regions. Coming from Indonesia, I am really grateful that I was able to learn so much about IOs in my region. In addition, I would also like to thank Professor Gray for her invaluable insight on what having a career in academia is like; I am certain that it will be helpful for me in the future.