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Passionate, open and transparent

Passionate, open and transparent

Photographer:Fotograaf: Joey Roberts/Simone Golob

Silvia Evers inspired by Paul Knipschild

It was her very first job, the department of Epidemiology, at the beginning of the nineteen-nineties. An inspiring and stimulating environment, says Silvia Evers, professor of Public Health Technology Assessment. She is not the only one; about one third of the group climbed the ranks and became professor. The department chairman at the time played an important role: Paul Knipschild.

“It was a dynamic group, with a lot of discussion. We presented our research to each other and discussed articles and books,” says Evers. “Paul was an atypical professor, with a loud thunderous voice. He was averse to any kind of convention. You never saw him in a three-piece suit; his work clothes were whatever he happened to have put on that day.”

An important point for Knipschild, who is now retired, was carrying out good research. “The subjects that the New University is now bringing up, being open and transparent, and the discussion in the academic world about plagiarism and fiddling with data – he already talked about that back then. He was very passionate. The environment cannot be a reason for not doing good research, he said. I was doing research within the field of mental health care. A complex environment; patients refuse care, are treated against their will, are sometimes happier when sick. You can make things easier for yourself by making concessions, but that damages your research. Be honest about the steps you take, the things that went wrong, any mistakes that you may have made and what you did after that.”

Knipschild didn’t just focus on the content side of his field; he was also interested in the personal lives of his researchers. “If you were still at work at six o’ clock, he would come and knock on your door; if it wasn’t about time you went home. We all had a coffee break together at eleven o’ clock. We talked about what was going on in the world: from global politics to matters at home. The support that you get from colleagues in this way, is very important for the pleasure you have in your work.”

Evers also tries to apply the human factor. “Although these days we no longer get to have coffee breaks together. It is a sign of the times, I think, that we don’t have time for that anymore.” She also shares Knipschild’s love of openness and transparency. “Within research, but also within the department. He kept us informed about developments at the central level. Of course there was a certain amount of structure, but the group was a democracy, age or status played no role when you spoke your mind. I think that is very important, young people must also be heard.”

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