Melissa Plath says goodbye to UniPID, but does not say goodbye to strengthening academic partnerships in higher education. Have a read on her famous last words!
During 2022, UniPID is celebrating 20 years since its establishment, an occasion which has spurred reflections on the role UniPID has played in the development of Finnish universities, in academic work in development research, and in the Finnish science and innovation ecosystem. For me, it has also been a chance to reflect on the impact of UniPID on my own professional development.
I started working in UniPID in 2009 as a research assistant, hired to help organize an event in South Africa for the CAAST-Net project on Africa-EU science, technology, and innovation (STI) cooperation. While I knew very little about Africa-EU science collaboration, I was excited to get to work in the field I’d studied, even if I wasn’t exactly interested in the topic.
It would be neater to be able to say that my interest in STI was captured at this event, but the truth is, it took time for me to appreciate the importance of science policy, international cooperation, and university partnership in shaping understandings of the world. As my role in UniPID evolved – leading me to have worked at least for some time in every one of UniPID’s activities – so did my interest and enthusiasm for international science policy, diplomacy, and cooperation. I learned everything from how to run a course on moodle to how to deliver a policy statement at a high-level meeting on science cooperation. Did I expect to end up hosting the Detangling Development Podcast and dedicate a whole episode on Finland’s Africa Strategy? Absolutely not.
What I found as I listened, learned, and eventually contributed to, is that the way scientific cooperation is designed, funded, managed, and implemented can have huge implications on what is researched, how it’s done, and who benefits from that research. Creating more equitable, responsible scientific and policy partnerships is not something that just happens but is a goal that requires intentional action from policymakers, research funders, research institutions, and researchers. Contributing to discussions around these issues is a profound honor and responsibility, and something that can help create positive change.
Almost 13 years after I started in UniPID, the time is right to explore the impact of research partnerships in a new light. But even though I’m moving to a new position, the lessons and experiences I’ve gained in UniPID will come with me. The most important of those is that successful partnerships are based on mutual respect, trust, and understanding. So thank you, UniPID colleagues, Board, and the many people taking part in UniPID activities for the wonderful partnerships we’ve had over the years. It’s been an honor to work with and learn from you all!
Photo credits: Javier Allegue Barros, 2018 on Unsplash