“Develop a trusted group of readers!”

21. Juni 2021

What do you love about being a professor?

I have always loved being a researcher! I have a background in psychology and biology and am passionate about empirical research. Working with data and discovering its underlying patterns is an insightful way to investigate complex social and political relationships. I have a longstanding interest and curiosity about global events and societal dynamics and enjoy learning about the world through data. One of the thigns I enjoy most about academic work is the opportunity to communicate the findings of social and political research. There is nothing mroe rewarding than to help others better understand the world and make better sense of their environment. As a professor and researcher you can be both creative and influential! You can have an impact in how people perceive and see their environment!

You have received a remarkable amount of grants. What are the major ingredients for a successful grant application?

First and foremost you need to know the goals and priorities of the organization to which you are applying! I have often asked researchers for a copy of a successful proposal that was funded by a specific agency.It can be difficult to know exactly what private foundations which to fund and it is then helpful to identify a a contact person in that respective institution. For the grant proposal itself you need to have a clear message and research roadmap. You need to ask yourself: how is your research going to make a difference? How would it help the funding agency to take the next step? Highlighting the merit of your project and stating clearly what you aim to do and how you proceed are the crucial ingredients.

You have published a number of papers in international and highly ranked journals and also received awards such as the Best Paper Award of the Best Book Award. What is your approach like when writing a paper?

I have two major considerations in mind when writing a paper: First, it is helpful to think in terms of the major theoretical approachs to a topic. I am very interested in group politics and thus topics related to social identity theory. Many political topics can be studied from the perspective of social identities and the question of belonging and identity. A strong theoretical framework generate predictions that can be tested against empirical findings. Second, if the data do not conform with theoretical expectioan it is importnat to dig depeper into the daat to uncover existing patterns and think about what these pattersn mean both in a practical and thoeretical sense. Put differently: The data help you to see what is lacking in the theoretical framework ! Basically, writing a paper or book is about communication. You need to know the audience you want to address with your contribution. Moreover, if you want to introduce a novel way of thinking about the problem or pursue an alternative approach, you have to make crystal clear why the new approach is needed and what insights it provides when compared to existing approaches. It is important to communicate the key contirbution of your paper in a clear and thoughtful manner! Too often, beignning researchers make the mistake of presenting their work before they have distilled its central components. The main question a researcher should ask themself is: What do I want this paper to be remembered for? The craft of our job is to grasp complex ideas and make them accessible and memorable! The sad truth is that even very good papers get remembered for one or two key poitns even if the paper says far more.

You are one of the very few women of your generation in the field of nationalism studies. Why is there such a mismatch? What are the main causes in your opinion?

Historically, nationalism studies has been a male-dominated academic discipline. For some reason, men tend to be more interested in power, conflicts, violent struggles and topics revolving around the nation. The field of political science has also historically been a male field although that is obviously changing. As more women enter political science, more female scholars are writing about quesitons linked to nationalism. In general, we are seeing an increase in successful female academics, including in the field of political science. In order to counteract the gender imbalance in academia, more work is needed! In my opinion, managing family and academia is still very challenging since tenure conincides with women’s prime reproductive years. If you want to have a family as a female scholar, you need a supportive partner to manage both family and a career.

What is the best advice you got during your academic career? And is there any advice you would like to give to young female scholars?

Generally, I set my own direction and can be hard to advise. I think my work improved the most in the review process! Though it is sometimes a tough way to learn, it is very effective! So my advice would be as follows: Make sure you take this criticism and grow! Moreover, I would recommend that young scholars develop a trusted group of readers, i.e. a select group of people whose advice you value and who are willing to give you constructive feedback. The peer review process is tough and it is important to be able to accept and learn from constructive and critical feedback. It definitley leads to improvement.