JESP/ESPAnet Doctoral Researcher Prize

The Journal of European Social Policy (JESP) and the Network for European Social Policy Analysis (ESPAnet) are offering a prize to the best paper by a doctoral researcher presented at any of the ESPAnet conferences,

The Journal of European Social Policy (JESP) and the Network for European Social Policy Analysis (ESPAnet) are offering a prize to the best paper by a doctoral researcher presented at any of the national or European ESPAnet conferences, workshops or seminars in 2022 or 2023.

The prize-winning paper is provided with a high-profile opportunity for publication in JESP, and the winner also receives 1 year’s free subscription to the journal.

Deadline for submissions: 31 December 2023.

Submission rules

The authors may nominate themselves by submitting a paper they have presented at an ESPAnet event. Papers must have been presented at, or contributed to, an ESPAnet workshop, conference or seminar in 2022 or 2023. Authors should not yet have been awarded their doctorate at the time of presentation. Jointly authored papers are acceptable, provided that none of the authors have been awarded their doctorate at the time of presentation.

Submissions must address an aspect of comparative social policy with relevance for European countries and they should contribute to our understanding of social policy in Europe. Otherwise, papers are free in their choice of subject, country/countries, theoretical perspective, methods and discipline.

Authors are encouraged to revise and improve their papers in the period between presentation at an ESPAnet event and the submission deadline.

Submission process

To enter this prize contest, authors should email their papers to on or before the deadline. In the subject line of the email please state “JESP/ESPAnet Doctoral Researcher Prize 2024.”

Please attach the following to your email (in MS word format):

  • A separate title page containing the title of your paper, your full contact details, institutional affiliation, name of PhD supervisor, and ESPAnet event at which the paper was originally presented.
  • An anonymous separate Word document containing the paper’s title and abstract (abstract of no more than 150 words).
  • A separate document containing the main text of the article. This also should be anonymous.

Style, format and guidelines

Submissions should follow the JESP house style. Details are available on the journal website and on the inside back cover of each issue.

Criteria for assessment

All submissions will be judged by two JESP editorial board members and two ESPAnet board members. The judges are particularly looking for exciting and innovative scholarly work, which challenges existing perspectives; poses new research problems and develops answers that offer sophisticated or subtle insights and interpretations from empirical evidence; and/or which develops new methods, or applies old methods in new ways to illuminate our understanding.

Judges are specifically requested to assess and rank the submitted papers in terms of:

  • their scholarly interest and originality
  • analytical and, where appropriate, methodological rigour
  • quality, coherence and structure of argument
  • publishable quality following one set of relatively minor revisions, and where necessary,

    clarification/improvement of language.

    Please note: If the judges conclude that none of the submitted papers meets the required standard, the prize will not be awarded.


The judges will evaluate, rank and return the papers and their decision to the editorial office. Candidates should receive feedback and the results of the competition in April 2024. The winning author(s) must return her/their final version of the paper, conforming in length and style to JESP requirements, to the JESP office by the end of June 2024. Authors will be required to revise their submission in the light of judges’ comments as a condition for publication and for receiving the prize.

A formal announcement of the prize winner is made at the annual ESPAnet conference in the autumn.

Read the published JESP/ESPAnet Doctoral Research Prize winners:

  • Laenen, Tijs (2018): “Do institutions matter? The interplay between income benefit design, popular perceptions, and the Social legitimacy of targeted welfare.” Published in Journal of European Social Policy issue 1 in 2018.
  • Kowalewska, Helen (2017): “Beyond the ‘Train-First/‘Work-First’ Dichotomy: How Welfare States Help or Hinder Maternal Employment” published in 2017 in Journal of European Social Policy, 27(1): 3-24. 
  • Chevalier, Tom (2016): “Varieties of Youth Welfare Citizenship: Towards a Two-Dimension Typology”. Journal of European Social Policy February 2016 26: 319.
  • Garritzmann, Julian L. (2015): Attitudes towards student support: How positive feedback-effects prevent change in the Four Worlds of Student Finance. Journal of European Social Policy, 25(2): 139-158.
  • Biegert, Thomas (2014): On the Outside Looking in? Transitions out of non-employment in the United Kingdom and Germany. Journal of European Social Policy, 24(1): 3-18.
  • Vlandas, Tim (2013): Mixing Apples with oranges? Partisanship and active labour market policies in different European welfare regimes. Journal of European Social Policy, 23(1): 3-20.
  • Künzel, Sebastian (2012): The local dimension of active inclusion policy. Journal of European Social Policy, 22(1): 3-16.
  • Jo, Nam (2011): Between the cultural foundations of welfare and welfare attitudes: a possibility of an in-between level conception of culture for the cultural analysis of welfare. Journal of European Social Policy, 21(1): 5-19.
  • Reibling, Nadine (2010): Healthcare systems in Europe: towards an incorporation of patient access. Journal of European Social Policy, 20(1): 5-18.
  • Jensen, Carsten (2009): Institutions and the politics of childcare. Journal of European Social Policy, 19(1): pp 7-19.
  • Polakowski, Michal and Dorota Szelewa (2008): Who Cares? Patterns of Care in Central and Eastern Europe. Journal of European Social Policy, 18(1): 115-131.
  • Kühner, Stefan (2007): A new facet of the ‘dependent variable problem’: Simple comparisons of expenditure based ‘welfare reform’ measures and its ‘not-so-straightforward’ consequences for the comparative analysis of the welfare state. Journal of European Social Policy, 17(1): 5-18.
  • Häusermann, Silja (2006): Changing coalitions in social policy reforms: the politics of new social needs and demands. Journal of European Social Policy, 16(1): 5-21.
  • Naumann, Ingela (2005): Child care and feminism in West Germany and Sweden in the 1960s and 1970s. Journal of European Social Policy, 15(1): 47-64.

Here some comments by the last years awarded:

Tijs Laenen about winning the 2017-Prize:

“In addition to being an honourable recognition of your hard work, the JESP/ESPAnet Doctoral Researcher Prize is a great opportunity to take one of your papers to the next level. At the ESPAnet conference in Rotterdam, where I presented my paper for the first time, I was already  under the impression that it was well received. Some of the participant’s words of praise even convinced me to submit to the prize.
The detailed feedback of the anonymous reviewers, however, made me realize that much work remained to be done, as they made it clear that there was still ample room for improvement. Thanks to their stimulating feedback, the paper evolved from a Dutch case study to a study whose findings and implications stretch far beyond the Netherlands, and hopefully inspires future research on the link between welfare
>institutions and welfare attitudes in other countries. To all PhD-students who are in doubt of submitting their paper to the JESP/ESPAnet prize, I can only tell: If you want to better your work, do not hesitate to participate!”

Tom Chevalier about winning the 2015- Prize:

“When I started my PhD on the topic of young people and European welfare states, I was aware neither of the scientific debates at the international level nor of the theoretical and empirical issues my argument would raise. Yet, thanks to the support of my supervisor, as well as the larger community of academics working on the welfare state, I received great advice and feedback, which helped me to considerably improve my thesis in general, and this paper in particular. That is why I feel both honoured to receive the JESP/ESPAnet doctoral researcher prize and extremely grateful to all those who have given me such amazing feedback. Not only does the prize result in a publication in a well-known peer-reviewed journal, but it also symbolizes for me the dialogue with the larger international community of scholars working on the welfare state, especially represented within ESPAnet. Therefore, I strongly recommend other PhD students submit their papers to the JESP/ESPAnet prize! Thank you!”

Julian Garritzmann about winning the 2014-Prize:
“I feel very honored that the four reviewers and editors found my paper worthy of the JESP/ESPAnet prize! Actually, I first hadn’t thought about submitting my paper at all because I thought there were much more exciting papers around and much better papers won over the last years. But then I decided to give it a try when several colleagues strongly suggested I should do so. I received very critical, but also very constructive feedback, so already the review-process itself was helpful in improving my work. What is more, I think the prize is very important and highly valuable as it draws a lot of attention to my research and brought me already now in contact with several scholars – and hopefully it continues doing so! Thus, I would strongly encourage all PhD-students to also submit interesting papers – the worst that can happen is that you get free feedback…!”

Thomas Biegert about winning the 2013-Prize:
“What I did was simply follow the advice of those who previously have won the prize: I certainly did not expect to win as I was unsure about the value of my work as most Ph.D. students are. But why not take the chance to receive four thorough and insightful reviews to improve my paper? I felt incredibly honored to have actually won and I can say it boosted my confidence in what I do quite a bit. The raised visibility for my research subsequently led to many great new contacts in the field and helped me move forward in Academia. Thus, I can only repeat what the other researchers on this site have already expressed: Do not hesitate to submit your paper to the JESP/ESPAnet prize. The reward will be at least four greatly helpful reviews. And maybe you will get treated to the great honor to repeat this same advice next year.”

Tim Vlandas about winning the 2012-Prize:
“I was both delighted and honoured to be awarded the prize. Like most PhD researchers, I had doubts about my research and winning this prize was therefore a great motivation to persevere through the vagaries of doing my PhD. Moreover, submitting my research to this prize was a unique opportunity to receive excellent feedback on my work from leading scholars in the field. Winning the prize also allowed me to get my research published in a top social policy journal, thereby getting my argument across to the wider academic community. I would therefore encourage all doctoral researchers to submit their research to the JESP/ESPAnet prize.”

Nadine Reibling about winning the 2010-Prize:
“Winning this prize early in my PhD process has had a great impact on my future work and provided me with the opportunity to get in contact with many leading international scholars. While the prize certainly made a big difference for having my work recognized and achieving next steps in my career, the most important thing about it was that it provided me with the confidence that I can make an important contribution to the field. I did not believe that I would win the prize at the time when I submitted the paper. I just thought: I will definitely get comments from several reviewers which will help me move my research forward and on top of that I have the chance to win the prize. In fact, I did receive excellent and detailed feedback which would have been a great benefit even without the award. Thus my advice for current doctoral researchers is: you can only win from submitting the paper, just do it!”

Nam K. Jo about winning the 2009-Prize:
“It was only a couple of years later from its beginning, but the reputation of this prize was already widely known, making me hesitate to apply – as many PhDs do, I had doubted my work for the whole duration of my PhD. Now I can only agree with former winners – this prize is a great confidence-booster and an entry ticket into academia. It will be recognised (by you and ‘them’) that you have been on the right track and actually doing well! This opportunity should not be missed not only for the prize but also to get comments from the very leading researchers in ‘your’ field.”

Stefan Kühner about winning the 2005-Prize:
“Receiving this Prize has not only encouraged me to stay in academia, it also played a huge role for my appointment as a permanent Social Policy lecturer even before I had passed my viva. The recognition that comes with this prize has helped to convince a sponsor to facilitate a research visit in the US, and the same is true for my employment at a major international organisation as an external collaborator last year. ESPAnet has provided a chance to meet and discuss my work with leading researchers in the field, and I can only encourage all current ‘Doctoral Researchers’ to consider submission of their work for the prize.”

Silja Häusermann about winning the 2004-Prize:
“Winning the Prize made quite a few people take notice of my research and of the arguments I wanted to make. It has helped me enormously in being admitted and getting funding for a research stay in the US. It is a crucial early single-authored publication in a well-known peer-reviewed journal, and it turned out to be an important “signal” in academia, both for people within and outside of the welfare state research community. Last but not least, it made me belief that my Ph.D. research was not completely on the wrong track and gave me the confidence to consider a professional future in academia in the longer run.”

Ingela Naumann about winning the 2003-Prize:
“I certainly did not think my research was good or original enough for a prize – and I know many students feel the same about their own work. In fact, it was a friend of mine who persuaded me to send my paper to ESPAnet on the very last day of submission. The Prize was, of course, a great confidence-booster, and it has encouraged me to keep developing my own ideas irrespective of what’s “en vogue” in my research field at any particular time. It has basically been my entry ticket into academia. It’s brought me many interesting offers to co-operate in research projects and an open-ended lectureship even before I had finished my PhD.”


We ask our judges to read, rank, and comment all submissions for the prize: allowing two-to-three months for this activity is only reasonable. (The normal time allowed for refereeing one journal paper is usually 4 weeks!) The period between deciding on the prize-winner, and the completion of the final version of their paper is to …