It is 8th of March. I would like to dedicate this post to Kristalina Georgieva, the former Vice-President of the department that is behind financing of all EU programms that exist in the European Union (even behind Horizon2020!;), that is the: DG Budget.
They say that without political will you can not make a change in a country. I would add that without the will of policy makers (to not be confused with politicians), the change will be incomplete. Here is one way for policy makers to support Research among colleagues, see minute 7.15.
You can now also listen to Researchista’s new audio channel on SoundCloud: https://soundcloud.com/user-354620747
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! 🙂
“The Story of the Magic 3and the Earth” is prepared to introduce you to more types of Researchers, because Researchers are not only in academic circles (namely, the university). There are so many Researchers in business or in all sorts of organisations (e.g. lobbying organisations, think tanks, international aid organisations) and in all sorts of fields (e.g. electricity, food industry). *They are all coming from the university benches, but let us come back to this topic another time. So, we are many and we are different, read further to get to know us better 🙂
The storyis about the importance of cooperation between policy-academia-business and the overall society when a change needs to take place in society, in a certain area of life. To better remember each party, I associate an element of nature to each of them (just like in “Sailor Moon” 🙂 ). In this post, I will briefly remind/introduce you to the Magic element, called: Policy.
Figure 1. Public policy cycle (how a policy ideally works in practice).
So, this is how it approximately and usually works. It can go in many directions and some stages can be skipped by policy makers, but these are roughly the phases through which a policy goes through: first, there is a problem in a certain area of life: for example, no energy supply for an area of a city due to the lack of funding.
The inhabitants of that district will then write complains to human rights organisations or other parties to solve this problem (or one or more organisations will notice and the initiative will come from them). Those organisation discuss further with the authorities in charge of electricity supply, who then discuss with specialized authorities who decide to provide with funding for buying all the electricity supplies. It is then when the problem arrives on the agenda of policy makers (authorities in charge).
If approved to be important enough, the policy is then developed step-by-step from who, when, what, when the electricity in that area is going to be installed. After which, it is then decided who and when will actually do the work (implementation). After the district has been provided with electricity, the policy is evaluated to see how good or bad what was decided by authorities was applied in practice. Now, let us have a look at the following Researcher involved in policy Research to better understand what one might do in this area:
Olga J. Skriabikova-Coenen, works for local public authorities in the Netherlands. She is Researcher at the Regional government of Limburg, South of the Netherlands [doctorate graduate 2014 at Maastricht University]: “I have a PhD in Economics and since two years I work at Limburg regional government. In my role as Strategy research and evaluation advisor I provide critical reflection on proposed research questions, methods and design. The main difference between fundamental research and policy-oriented, or in other terms, applied research is that policy research should ideally provide directly applicable results which can be used to address urgent policy matters. Formulating research questions in such a way that policy-makers receive information that they can use is therefore crucial. Another issue related to applicability is timeliness, since policy-makers need to be able to react quickly and cannot afford waiting for a year or more to plan a policy action. The other side of the coin is that policy research cannot provide the depth, precision and generality of conclusions of fundamental research. Nonetheless, high quality policy research is crucial for adequate planning, design, implementation and evaluation of policies.”
In my story, Policy is associated with water,because hypothetically speaking, it touches upon all areas of public life and unlike fire (business), it might take a lot of time until it is going to be implemented (since it can involve a lot of bureaucracy, for e.g., approval from many authorities).
When I was small, “Sailor Moon” was one of my favourite cartoons, especially when she and her girlfriends gathered in a circle and took out their magic sticks with magic powers from the nature: fire, air, water and earth – to unite their powers and fight the evil… When these elements are apart they have one power, but when combined, they can create effects that could never happen independently. Just like in life, Research is useful, but if not discussed and transmitted further into policy or business, it might just stay there for years, without serving it’s purpose.
Please welcome the Magic 3(fire, air and water) and the earth (you and me and everyone).
To avoid confusion, policy is not politics, nor police ;). Policy (or public policy or a policy in an area) is a governmental programme addressed to solve or to take care of a specific sector of public life; for example, energy. In the energy sector, there are people who install the electricity in your building and there are people who pay these people to do this work and there are people who decide how much will the electricity cost this month for all the citizens of a country (and by body, I mean, of course a group of people with a specific role, not the actual human bodies 😉 ). Although it might seem as if they do not talk between them, they all function according to a plan. So, that plan – is a policy – created by the government with budget and right structure to make sure that area of public life will work.
So, here we are… a bunch of Researcher, each of us representing one of the Magic 3 elements (we are 5, since in Academia we are 2 types of Researchers and 1 is myself (how could I leave my humble self out of the photo-shoot). Am I missing a type of Research? What type? Who?
Academia: Experienced Researcher and Early-Stage Researcher
50/50 academia-policy and of course,
So, let us start in order of the order with a small description about each beautiful and precious human you see in this picture:
Please welcome the most stylish, elegant, classy man of Maastricht (according to me. I know such labeling is dangerous, but I simply can not help it, this gentleman does not stop being elegant probably every day of the year ).
Antoine P. Simons, doctorate graduate 2010 at Maastricht University: “As a clinical specialist in the cardiovascular field, working both efficiently and effectively demands up-to-date knowledge that can be derived either from basic research or from clinical trials. Without science, health care could never have reached the level it has today, and which I use to save lives. I either use the knowledge gathered by others, accessible via peer-reviewed publications and at scientific meetings, or by simply investigating myself. Setting up my own research helps me to become a better team member, colleague, teacher, supervisor and clinician in order to help those in need: patients I like to become healthy again!”
Representing probably the closest to Researchista’s heart group of Researcher – PhD fellows, otherwise called, Early-stage Researchers. Say hi to one of the most engaging story-teller I know:
Ibrahima Sory Kaba, PhD fellow at the United Nations University – MERIT, Maastricht University: “Academic research is to economics what stretchers and legs are to a chair. It helps the discipline to stand on solid and firm grounds. As a Ph.D student in macroeconomics of development, the bulk of my work consists of controlling for potential causalities or building mathematical models, all rooted in a strong body of theory, with the main objective of guiding policy-making. Currently I am halfway of completing my Ph.D before moving on to new challenges. But as of now I am simply enjoying myself with collaborative academic research, weekly seminars and eye-opening teaching experiences.”
Magic 3: Policy Researcher.
As a former PhD at Maastricht University, she never ceased to impress with her talents:
Olga J. Skriabikova-Coenen, Researcher at the Regional government of Limburg, South of the Netherlands [doctorate graduate 2014 at Maastricht University]: “I have a PhD in Economics and since two years I work at Limburg regional government. In my role as Strategy research and evaluation advisor I provide critical reflection on proposed research questions, methods and design. The main difference between fundamental research and policy-oriented, or in other terms, applied research is that policy research should ideally provide directly applicable results which can be used to address urgent policy matters. Formulating research questions in such a way that policy-makers receive information that they can use is therefore crucial. Another issue related to applicability is timeliness, since policy-makers need to be able to react quickly and cannot afford waiting for a year or more to plan a policy action. The other side of the coin is that policy research cannot provide the depth, precision and generality of conclusions of fundamental research. Nonetheless, high quality policy research is crucial for adequate planning, design, implementation and evaluation of policies.”
Magic 3: Business Researcher.
Maastricht is simply lucky to have Mark Lewis as it’s inhabitant, a genuine promoter and simply a model to follow when it comes to social equity and solidarity. I am honoured and privileged to be his friend.
Mark Lewis, Business Analyst at APG, Netherlands (one of the largest pension funds in the world): “I think Research is really important for business: ..” Listen here to what Mark has to share with us about the role of Research in his area.
Magic 1 & 2: Academia & Policy Researcher.
Welcome to your humble partner in crime for Research, Irina Burlacu aka Researchista.
Irina Burlacu, Lecturer at the Center for European Studies at Maastricht University and Researcher (in both academia & policy sector: 50%-50%). She believes in the strong (not yet valorified at its fullest) potential of Research in current societies and economies and wishes to promote this vision at more levels. Read more about it here.
At the end of every movie, the producers always remain with the pieces that are not included in the movie (the extras). Our producer, the professional photographer Manor Lux, whom I would like to thank very much for his patience and this very beautiful pictures, also had some extras, I believe this is one of it 🙂 The location is the good old “Cafe Zondag“, who let us feel like on a shooting platform (the location was chosen for you, my friends, who left Maastricht long ago).
With love for Research,
p.s. A special Magic 3 type of event takes place yearly in Maastricht. If you are part of one of the 3 elements, subscribe on their web-page or require information from the organizing group, as the following step is to create an app in the area of circular economy that would match partners from business-academia-policy, powerful….
p.s.2. You understand that most probably I am missing something in this diagram and that the truth is relative (for example, I did not include the international organisation or local communities and non-governmental organisations), but let us assume for now that it is like that.