What’s the secret behind writing an award-winning thesis? What are the criteria? What does it take? The chair of EfD’s Research Committee, Vic Adamowicz, knows the answers. He will announce this year’s winners of the Best Discussion Paper and Gunnar Köhlin’s Best Master Thesis Awards at EfD’s Annual Meeting. Meet Vic Adamowicz and get his best advice!
You have a long, successful career in environmental economics. Why did you choose this field?
I got interested in environmental economics very early. This discipline has grown a lot since then – it was an emerging field when I started. I find it really exciting how you can contribute, tackle the environmental challenges and get people involved.
Tell me about your work!
Currently, I’m the Vice Dean in the Faculty of Agricultural, Life and Environmental Sciences at the University of Alberta Canada and a Professor. So today I do more administrative work and less research than I used to. The research that I’m still involved in focuses on evaluating the costs of environmental damage (or benefits of improvement) – everything from health issues to protecting endangered species. It’s great fun that it involves natural sciences as well as economics.
Tell me about the Research Committee!
The committee helps implement EfD’s research strategy and research funding process, and supports the professional development of our researchers. I have been a member for a couple of years and chair since last year. The Annual Meeting is an important occasion for assessing research (but of course not the only one). It’s very exciting to follow the researchers’ work, from the first expression of interest to the final policy result. There is so much creativity in EfD research and it’s wonderful to see how people want to make a difference through research.
What are your criteria when you select an award-winner?
First of all, there has to be a level of academic excellence, that the theory and empirical methods are appropriate.
Secondly, we’re looking for policy-relevance. EfD’s goals are unique in that way – the research has to contribute to our themes of environmental quality, resource management, poverty reduction and gender equality.
The third criteria is communication. A thesis is obviously more technical than a discussion paper, but I always encourage my students to write in a way that is easy to understand. Communication is extra important when you do policy-relevant research. Give the most important information upfront and then you dig into the details. See it as “peeling an onion”.
The fourth one is creativity and innovation – that’s the spark that makes it unique. Do something that hasn’t been done before or only has been done in a different discipline. For economists there is a lot of room for innovation, it’s not only science that is innovative.
What does it take to achieve that?
You have to start by asking the right questions. Read the literature, learn about the policy problems, get the skills on technical methods. Good training will help you identify traps.
You also need good mentors. And take every chance to take part in relevant workshops and opportunities to interact, hear and learn from others and get feedback.
How does the Research Committee agree on who the winner should be?
We all see something different, but we pool our scores together. Sometimes it’s very clear and sometimes not, but we always reach a consensus.
What significance do you think these awards have for the recipients?
I think it’s a great encouragement. Getting input from your peers is always good, especially early in your career. In the long run I hope award winners may become more supportive of others, a kind of pay-it forward approach. And of course, it’s good to have that on your CV.