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Dear Researchista friend, today I have 3 stories for you in 1. The first is the introduction of the story. The second is the story itself and the third is a little story about me – and the first story goes like that:
The intro: I started this blog as a 1-year experiment in which I planned that every Monday, I would post a new story. So, I promised to myself that whatever happens, there will always be a post on a Monday day, regardless how sick or busy I would be. If I commit to my readers, I go till the end of the year, every week (52 posts of the 52 weeks of the year). And here I was, thinking for the first time since I launched Researchista that maybe… I should have no Monday post this week.
I realized that this is not a typical decision and I was trying to understand what ‘hypnotized’ me from keeping my promise? Apparently, after my post called “Magic element: Academia” part of the “Magic 3 and the Earth” short story that I wrote about Academia-Policy-Business , I froze. I felt like I opened the ‘Black box’ that once opened, it is simply difficult to talk about other things. By no means, I mean it in a negative way (although, there are some things that we can’t deny),
but I mean more that academia plays such an important role in our society and current economy that it is simply impossible to leave this topic in the shadow. Did you know that probably the biggest inventions in the world were actually done at the university? Read the book of Mariana Mazzucato, for example, called the “The Entrepreneurial State” and she will tell you all about it (or watch some videos with what her views are on it). One of the her arguments is that big businesses and ideas like smart phones or facebook might never been here if it wasn’t for universities and we might never have enjoyed these at the price we have it now…
Indeed, no wonder I froze, I want to talk about it ALL, but I need to gather all my powers to stop and tell you bit by bit about what is happening behind the university walls. Step-by-step, we will discover Research as you might have never imagined it before.
To make the transition smoother from the Academic magic spell story to my next Month topic Fashion and Research (stay tunned), I will take this chance and talk about the 4th character of the “Magic 3 and the Earth” story and that is “50/50” concept that I attributed to myself and many others who are working 50% in academia and 50% do policy consultancy work for national or international organisations. Just take the 50/50 character as anyone who is carrying out activity and here .. and there.. it could be also 50% in academia or 50% in business or just in general anyone working in 2 different areas.
PhD students or just Researchers at the university are often encouraged to tell to other people about their research topic in simple words, so that anyone can understand it. This is why my stories will often sounds a bit like that, but I promise that I believe in your greatest potential and you know it all and have seen it all.
The story itself: So, how does it feel to work in academia and do policy work at the same time? First, let us talk more about these 2 areas to understand how these work in practice. As we can see from the previous Magic 3 & the Earth story, both academic or policy have a certain cycle or mechanism on which in general things rely on. I am by far the most knowledgeable or experienced Researcher to enlighten you in-depth about these 2 worlds, but this is how I see it and I am open for discussions, please comment on my posts sometimes, ok? 🙂 🙂
So, let us have a look at the cycles below. Hmm, very interesting beautiful circles, but what do these in fact mean? One seems to be busy with publishing (academia) and the other seems to be busy with solving problems (policy).
And now comes the part where I will imagine I am telling this story to a child or to anyone who is new to the topic. Let’s imagine how a bread is baked. Academia is probably the best environment to make the dough and balance the salt and other ingredients in it, until the perfect taste is created. It is then maybe overnight waited to make the dough softer and then.. you have to wait a little bit more till it is baked in the oven and voila the bread is ready. This is academia, perfect environment for growth, for steady, but certain growth……
This is why so many inventions were done on the university benches……. you can not come up with a perfectly tasty bread if you did not give it enough time to grow or bake! Well, you can, but remember my word, this will never be done with natural ingredients and basically, you will get an artificial bread.
Now, imagine that you burned your bread a little bit or even more or so bad that you won’t be able to eat it. Oho! You have a problem!
and this is when the policy comes in. First you have the problem, you see the problem definition on the top of the graph? Your problem is that the bread is burned and you have nothing else to eat. So you take your burnt bread and go to your mayor or any governmental representatives (also called civil servants) and say, look, I really need to it, so please help me out. Your mayor has to react to the problem and he would ideally say: Alright, let us put it on the agenda! Then he will try to develop a strategy around the problem to try solve and ask: How many guys are you? Why did you burn the bread? Maybe you need some training to bake a proper bread? (in policy, trainings are famous) and so on, until the problem is solved. That is the implementation phase. To see how well the problem was solved, the mayor one day drops by and evaluates whether everything is OK and you have a good bread back.
Policy won’t wait for you, it is always uptempo, there are many problems to solve in this world. It is a little bit like in business, but maybe risking less money and these are most of the time tax-payers money… because… a public policy is done by the government. (By the way, you ever wondered if policy a synonym of police, you were almost there, but not quite. Police is also assigned by the government, but a policy can be in any public area you can imagine: security, transportation, food industry, cosmetics, electricity, taxes, social protection, technology, etc.)
That was it, in a nutshell, but more seriously, academia and policy go very good together.
A Researcher that works both for the academia and in public policy domain has the privilege to carry out two important roles: to help developing a theoretical ground for a certain problem in the academia and to promote academic findings to policy makers, based on these findings can make decisions that can improve the life of people that live in a country. Sometimes, public policies like in environmental area climate change can affect the life of millions of people around the world… but this would have never happened without scientific reports and warnings from the university walls.
Musical conclusion for all those going through the entire post:) There are probably many people who carry out their work in 2 different fields.. and this is challenging. I wish you find that mid-way and enough forces to successfully combine them and enjoy the best of the two worlds, and notice that just like in life we need to cope with fear and courage, perseverance and laziness, day and night, love and hate, struggle and sunshine on a beach.
The part about me: Alright, now that this is clear I want to share with you a little story-fact about me, because we have never met before and this is my first audio-post. So, why not letting me talk a little bit more.
So, this is me.
Just kidding, I don’t look like that all the time. This is me on Christmas evening, feeling my best myself. When I was small, I was not that pretty, because my lips were big and the boys would tease me at school, calling me “big lips”, but there was a point when I remember how the same boys were queuing to dance with me when I returned for holidays to the school in the village where we used to live. This is when I knew that something has changed.
Later when I grew up, in professional environment I would always hope that nobody would notice that I have big lips and they would appreciate my skills and just simply who I am. Well, I still hope so, because after all, this is why it is called “professional” – nothing personal, right?
The reason why I share with you this picture is because you can see it, appreciate it and create yourself an image about me (a probably false one, because I do not look like that all the time)). Well, this is more difficult to do when you see a report or an academic paper or a policy study. You can not appreciate it only by having a look at it, you need to read it, understand it and then see how it it fits in where you need. Just for you to have an idea how difficult it is sometimes to communicate academic or policy outcomes in general.
This is was one very long post, congratulations, you made it to the final! 🙂
With love for Research,