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WCF in Conversation with Jacqueline Best

Follow your interest or follow the field? How (not) to leap between research interests

Held on Thursday 17th January 2019

2.30-4.00pm, University of Warwick, S1.50 (Social Sciences)

Here is a dilemma: Most of us early careers are expected to build our academic reputation in a particular topic or field which suggests specialisation with a narrow theoretical or empirical focus. But what if our curiosity shifts, and we start to be interested in topics or debates that are not necessarily related to our previous field? What if we want to bridge approaches across disciplines?

We were lucky enough to get into conversation with Jacqueline Best, Professor at the University of Ottawa, about this considerable challenge. Jacqueline is an internationally acclaimed political economist who has published on an astounding variety of topics, ranging from the roles of ambiguity and transparency in global finance, to the role of culture in Political Economy and the politics of failure in global governance. That is to say, she has been able to turn the dilemma above into a highly successful career.

Over one and a half hours, we explored the various compromises we have to struck. How to pursue diverging research interests – without being considered 'all over the place'? How to resist competitive pressures to reconcile various interests in a consistent research journey? How to import methodologies from one field to another? How to avoid being stuck with 'our' topic on the job hunt? How to dodge the risk of compromising our core interests to secure a position?

Sharing from her own experiences and commenting on ours, Jacqueline helped us making sense of it all, discussing the exasperating barriers and contradictions we often face, but also the strategies for bypassing them that may exist – not always, but more often, perhaps, than we think. Good to hear from an established scholar that there are compromises we all have to strike and to listen in on how she tried to figure them out!