This is a short summary of a presentation given at the Second International Conference on Quality in Interpreting, in Almuñecar, Spain 2010. The summary my own perception of the presentation and any mistakes in the summary are of course due to my misunderstanding.
Daniel Gile (Université Paris 3, France) talked about institutional and social issues in research in interpreting. He presented an interesting overview of PhD theses in conference interpreting defended the past 40 years. From the seventies until today the number of defended theses dealing with conference interpreting per decade went from 7 to 45 (beautiful development but depressingly low, still… and I dare not think of the figures for community interpreting or sign language interpreting). He pointed out that there seems to be a strong psycho-social motivation behind the PhD work, committing to a PhD thesis is taking on a long-term engagement and something that is promoted through the atmosphere in the professional environment. One possible reason for an increase of the number of PhD theses that comes out of certain universities may be the leading researchers active there. Without the psycho-social motivation you are more vulnerable when it comes to getting institutional motivation and support. Since the interpreting training is practical, unless there is a strong conviction from teachers there is no familiarization with theory. Another important issue is the competition between teaching and practice. A good market creates less time and incentives for students or practitioners to go into research.