Ana Paula do Nascimento defended her doctoral thesis “Funding matters: A study of internationalization programs in science, technology and innovation” 17th May. Below you can find out more about Ana Paula and her research, described in her own words.
My research field is research and innovation policy. I am interested in the different strategies and instruments companies, academic researchers and governments employ to facilitate science, technology and innovation (STI), and of course, in actors’ motivations for investing and engaging in STI. I received a Bachelor of Science degree in Conservation and Resource Studies from UC Berkeley in 2001 and a Master in City and Regional Planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 2004. I moved to Sweden in 2011 and a year later, I joined School of Economics and Management to pursue a PhD in Research Policy in the Business Administration department. I realize that environmental policy and city planning are different subject areas than my current field of study. However, one can find connections between these fields. One connection is the public funding of research to develop environmental technologies. A few of the researchers and company managers I interviewed during my PhD proramme were engaged in city planning and urban sustainability projects. Generally speaking, research policy entails the management of funding, the design and implementation of different prorammes for the advancement of science, technology and innovation, some of which can be directed to sustainable urban development objectives.
During my first year as a doctoral student, I conducted interviews with researchers at Chalmers University of Technology to learn more about their research projects and teaching activities to support an earlier study on the utility of academic research and practices. The interviews helped me to define my research topic within the research and innovation policy field. Subsequently I went back to the field to conduct additional interviews with government officials across Swedish ministries and funding agencies, Swedish SMEs engaged in environmental technology projects with Brazil and China and academic researchers in Sweden participating in international research collaboration with those countries.
I have learned from my field work that scientific collaboration sounds glamourous and in most cases it is rewarding and it accrues benefits – after all, who would argue that engaging in scientific collaboration is not beneficial? However, there are a few cases where research collaboration projects are seen as challenging endeavors and not worth pursuing, particularly if the international dimension enters the equation. I have also learned that internationalization as a mechanism for moving people and ideas around the world might be taken for granted. In other words, internationalization might be viewed as a “grandiose” plan. Some might not question how it comes into being and how it emerges. The tendency is to measure internationalization outputs in tangible ways through the number of research collaboration projects or the number of students crossing international borders. But it is less common for individuals to reflect upon the motivations, intentions and policy processes that give rise to internationalization practices. Others view it as a rewarding but challenging goal. Regardless of the different views about the phenomenon internationalization, spontaneity does not enter the equation and it does explain its existence because internationalization is actor-driven and dependent on funding for its subsistence.
I have been fortunate to be the first member of my family to have the opportunity to study abroad. My undergraduate experience at UC Berkeley taught me that one needs not only to have passion for a particular topic but also purpose and focus to succeed in school and outside. At MIT, I learned the most effective ways to prioritize tasks and to deliver results in order to meet important deadlines, which are useful organizational skills in the workplace.
These international experiences shaped me as a person and as a professional. I also learned that a diverse background is not a deterrent to success but an advantage. Living in three countries gave me the opportunity to gain different perspectives about the world. Through these experiences, I improved my interpersonal skills which were instrumental in the workplace when interacting with people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. These skills were particularly useful when I worked at an American international development agency interfacing with European donors (SIDA, DFID UK and DANIDA), universities across the U.S. and abroad and corporations.
Prior to Sweden, I have worked at an international development organization in the Boston area where I was part of the Corporate Engagement Project (CEP). During my years working with CEP, I traveled to Thailand and Myanmar (formerly Burma) to conduct interviews with officers across different embassies, journalists, government officials in Thailand and Myanmar, business owners and community members. The purpose of the interviews was to listen to the concerns of the people about the presence of extractive corporations in Myanmar and to help these large companies and local communities to have a more positive dialogue and relationship. I also worked as a teaching assistant at Harvard University helping with the industrial ecology/life cycle assessment course, holding lectures and helping master’s students with their projects.