Keynotes speakers for Realist 2020

There will be five keynote lectures at Realist2020, three of which will be delivered during a plenary session on the second day (25 March 2020).


Geoff Wong will ask us to consider the current state of realist evaluation and realist synthesis and to stock, get our house in order before driving forward with methodological advances. His talk will refer to CMOCs, the jargon we use in realist evaluation and realist review, rigour, training and capacity building.

Frans L. Leeuw’s talk will focus will be on how to find and articulate ‘hidden mechanisms’ underlying (public) policy programs and interventions. Three routes will be on the agenda. One is argumentational analysis of (policy and other) documents. A second route is to use insights from social neurosciences on ‘deep’ causal mechanisms concerning human and social behaviour. And the third route is to apply Pawson’s Victore ‘model’ to understand contexts and history in which mechanisms operate, with the goal to try to make visible what is (believed to be) hidden.

Charalambos Demetriou will look at how realist explanations often refer to mechanisms operating, at least partly, by virtue of structures. This presents a challenge to non-structuralist social scientists aspiring to realist explanation: how to conceptualize and employ in explanation mechanisms not underpinned by structures? My approach, drawing from my work in the field of historical sociology, provides an answer which qualifies both the notion of realism and the notion of mechanism. The former retains ontological realism but becomes soft epistemological realism; the latter becomes elastic causal analogy.

Denise E. De Souza will look at how causation works at the social psychological level (the r/s between structure and agency from a CR perspective), in relation to the theme of fostering innovation. She will also briefly share some personal thoughts about how realism has been positioned within the field of evaluation and whether we are realising its full potential.