Photographer:Fotograaf: archive Irina Burlacu
MAASTRICHT. When Irina Burlacu from Moldova finished her Ph.D. at the Maastricht Graduate School of Governance, she realized something. “Only a few people will ever read my thesis. It’s technical and there are so many Ph.D. theses; who has time to read them all. I didn’t want that to happen. It was the outcome of years of work.” So how could she – and other researchers – reach a broader audience? The answer: Researchista, a blog about life as a researcher.
Burlacu has several aims with her blog. “I want to slowly raise the interest in people to read academic papers, in an informal way. I also want to engage researchers into a discussion about our profession. What is our vision, mission and role in current economies? Is it going the right way? How do we solve the gap between research outcomes and the broader audience? How do we get policy makers to use our studies? How can we go beyond the publication mechanism of publishing paper after paper? I feel that we as a group lack a common vision.”
On the site, Burlacu covers all kinds of topics, from academic writing tips to love during the Ph.D. period (an interview with couples who met while doing their Ph.D.s), to short blogs about researchers and their life (“Are researchers boring?”), and health-related stories (What is RSI? Anxiety during a Ph.D.). “I’ll have a new blog post every Monday, a paper of the week every Wednesday and something lifestyle/health-related on Friday. I want to encourage people to take the weekend off. Therefore, I will not be publishing in the weekend. It’s not that I know it all – not by far. I am inviting special guests to answer questions. I’m just trying to encourage people and get them together, not telling them what to do. Being a Ph.D. student, especially when you’re in a foreign country, can be lonely at times.” But it can also result in funny stories. “I’m planning a section on Ph.D. confessions, where people share their stories. Knowing that someone else experienced it too, can really help.”
It’s not the only project Burlacu is working on. She also wants to encourage researchers to make their research visual, for instance in a product. As an example, she’ll take her own Ph.D. research on the impact that differences in social security systems and tax rules in European countries have on migrants. “I want to develop a board game. Players will go through life – making all kinds of choices people actually make in life such as marrying, getting a job, etc. – while crossing borders. The information on the cards they have to pick, saying they have to pay taxes for instance, will be correct. So it’ll be a kind of The Game of Life, but in an educational crossing-borders version. I’ll present it at the PAS Festival in September.”