Laura Polverari is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Padua, where she teaches EU policies and policymaking, multi-level governance, lobbying in the EU, and public administration/public policy. At the University of Padua she also co-directs, with Paolo Graziano, the ‘Institutional and Administrative Capacities Observatory’ (http://www.centrostudiregionali.unipd.it/?page_id=1147) .
Until October 2019, Laura was Senior Research Fellow at the European Policies Research Centre, University of Strathclyde, where she undertook research on the design, implementation and evaluation of public policy, EU cohesion policy, regional policy in Italy, administrative capacity and capacity building, smart specialisation and accountability, often leading multi-disciplinary, international research teams.
Laura holds a degree in Political Science from LUISS University (cum laude) and a PhD in European Public Policy from the University of Strathclyde, with a doctoral thesis that was awarded first prize in the European Committee of the Regions’ annual doctoral thesis competition 2011.
She has published numerous articles, research papers, book chapters, a monograph (co-authored with John Bachtler, Iain Begg and David Charles) and co-edited the Edward Elgar Handbook on Cohesion Policy in the EU. She is currently working on the topics of institutional and administrative capacity and capacity building, and on the transferability of the smart specialisation approach.
Laura’s words of wisdom
I have been extremely lucky in my educational and professional journey so far …. which I guess is fitting for someone coming from a town that the Romans had dedicated to the goddess Fortune! Jokes aside, I have spent all my career, in Rome first, then in Glasgow (at the University of Strathclyde) and now in Padua, in friendly and supportive environments, with great people and doing work that I enjoyed on topics that I had (and have) a profound interest in. At various times I have felt that, professionally, I was exactly where I wanted to be. I was also lucky during my studies, receiving excellent tuition, both in my undergraduate and masters degrees, and scholarships to carry these out.
I undertook my PhD at the University of Strathclyde, European Policies Research Centre, while working there, receiving incredible support and encouragement from my supervisors (one of whom was also my boss) and colleagues. My doctoral thesis gained me a prestigious prize too, which is testament to the excellent supervision I received. So, yes, I have been very lucky and, indeed, luck does play a big part in anyone’s life. But, as we say in Italy, ‘la fortuna aiuta gli audaci’, fortune favours the bold.
So, based on my experience, this is the advice I would give to younger colleagues and PhD students for their careers:
- Be bold! Follow your dreams and passions with determination. Don’t be deterred by others’ opinions. Also do not compare yourself to others. Everyone follows a different journey. What is important is to be true to oneself.
- Listen to those you trust. Don’t take it at face value, rather appraise it. But make sure that you capitalise on the experiences of others. It is easier to recognise mistakes once you have already done them… And don’t be afraid to ask for help. More often than not people are happy to provide it.
- Build a network of peers that you value, respect and trust. In this, learned societies – the RSA, first and foremost, but also others (in my case PSA, APSA and, looking forward, SISP) – are truly essential.
- Read, read, read and read some more. And exchange views with peers and policymakers. This is how one gets one’s brain working to generate new ideas and contribute, ideally, to the advancement of scholarship and and policy practice.
- Identify one or two key people you admire and observe how they operate: learn from them and follow their example.
- Learn to be selective. This is very difficult to do (for me at least) but it is important to be realistic and targeted. It is a matter of finding a useful balance between ‘going with the flow’, i.e. seizing opportunities as they arise, but also choosing what to commit to based on one’s longer-term plan. Having a plan is fundamental, although of course it needs to be kept flexible.
Being an active member of the RSA has been very useful for my development as a scholar and as an individual. The annual conferences and the activities of the Cohesion Policy Research Network for example (of which I have been one of the coordinators and in which I am still involved as a co-organiser) have allowed me to develop lasting relations with a group of peers (friends even), whom I know I can rely on for advice, support and simply to bounce off ideas.
Being part in an active community like the RSA is also fundamental to disseminate research findings, to become aware of where research and policy are heading, and to be exposed to new, cutting edge methods. Further aspects that I value of the Association are its attention to gender issues, its interdisciplinarity and the friendly atmosphere.
I would advise anyone doing research on regional studies to engage with the RSA and see if for themselves how useful it is.