On making choices and the continuation of the project
As I wrote to you in March, since I am in the last phase of the PhD research, the time has come to look beyond and see what I can do next. It is a bit of a two-faced experience; on the one hand, I want to focus all my attention to reporting on and bringing attention to the TRNC case study, and to finishing the PhD book. On the other hand, I have to think about my next project, for otherwise I am going to find myself without work once the PhD is finished.
It is not so much about me having a job as it is about being able to continue my research on children’s rights. I honestly feel like I have only just started, and there is a sound basis yet also so much more work still needs to be done! However, to be able to do so, I need at least a basic income and some kind of institutional support. Basically: I need a contract.
In March I told you I’d applied for a job at the law faculty where I now work, for a position of empirical legal researcher, which I thought could be a good way in. Unfortunately, I was not even invited for an interview. So now what? Although I know I have some research money left and I also have some opportunities to raise more, I just don’t know exactly what shape or form to give it all. I started looking for external opportunities (mostly job openings at other universities). At the same time, I worked together with my intern on processing the data from the TRNC case, we wrote a recommendation (UPR) to the UN Human Rights Committee which we are hoping to submit together with two NGOs, and I finished the three courses/projects I was teaching.
Then two new opportunities presented itself; on the one hand, I was asked to teach certain courses next semester for my department. As part of this would fall outside of my current contract, they would have to give me one. It’s not yet clear what shape or form this would take – a teaching-only contract was an option, but I refused that because I want to do research. Then, secondly, I was approached by some other colleagues about a research proposal; apparently, Maastricht University has the opportunity to apply for funding with NWO on a program that is specifically meant for interdisciplinary research on SDGs (“Sustainable Development Goals”). First I was asked if I wanted to join as a post-doc researcher, to spend my time researching legal education in different low- and middle income countries. I said no, because I want to study children’s rights. Later, they came back to me and offered the opportunity to write a proposal myself. What a chance!!!
I proposed the subject of “children’s rights in unrecognized states” and the team agreed. So I decided to throw around my whole schedule – because the deadline for the proposal is in September -, to delay the PhD by a month and spend a month on this proposal. The best thing about this call is that not only does it give a chance to do this kind of valuable research, but it also gives a budget for implementation of the research results!! The worst thing about it is that even if you spend a lot of time writing a good proposal, it might get turned down.
In this proposal, I have to decide how much time I’d like to spend on the project and how much time I might want to spend on teaching, management, communication (writing these blogs, for example). It is all quite overwhelming and to be honest, at the moment I don’t really know which way to go from here. This also because many things are uncertain, and I haven’t even given you the full picture yet – I am also written into another research proposal and may get a post-doc position there, I am also asked to teach several courses, some of which directly, some “maybe”, and this has to be decided around now, the university board is also considering a proposal which I wrote with a team for a Platform which, if granted, I would manage… -.
Today I went for a long bike ride, to calm down and clear my mind. I did not find an answer yet, but what I did realize is this: any decision I take has to be guided by my mission: to support children all over the world. More specifically: to use research to understand why children are made to suffer at the hands of authorities (operationalized as “situations where children’s rights are violated”) and what can be done about this; and: through research, to make the voices heard of the most invisible, marginalized children in this world.
My mission is not to please my bosses. It is not to be liked by colleagues. It is not to bring money to the institution. It is not to become a successful academic (at least not in the classical sense). It is not to earn a lot of money. These may be side-effects, and maybe pleasant side-effects, but they are not the goal. I want to make a change. I want to use research to understand why children are made to suffer at the hands of authorities. And it should be that mission guiding me in the tricky choices that I will have to make over the coming months.