A mobile researcher’s manifesto: be mobile, move around, get out of (your) boxes

As Mark Twain aptly puts it, “travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness […]. Broad, wholesome and charitable views of men cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the world all one’s lifetime”. I never understood the appeal of the slow death of staying in one office, chewing at the same clad of tasteless bubble gum of a topic, with the occasional travelling to conferences for getting the necessary confirmatory biases that me and my work are important. Ideally, I would like to move freely and to connect with other researchers in other locations to investigate topics of common interest. Ideally, I would have project-based, short-term consultancy or collaboration contracts, with personalised packages tailored to individual needs for mobility and autonomy. I would like to join a network of travelling researchers offering mutual support and sharing resources.

Over the past 5 years since I got my PhD, I lived in 3 countries (Slovenia, Ireland, Czech Republic), travelled moderately through the rest of Europe, while still keeping Romania as home base. Gradually, I embraced the mobility of body and mind, as well as mobility of doing work. From cafés in Brixton market, the Royal Festival Hall at South Bank in London, or cute pastry shops in Leuven, to airport terminals, I’d pretty much be everywhere else but in a typical office, sitting in a office chair (note: they’re extremely bad for you, especially for your spine) 9 to 5, 40 hours into the pre-designed for you week, sometimes more, including weekends.

Choose between left or right: therein lies our salvation
Choose between left or right: therein lies our salvation

This is the view from what should have been my office as an associated researcher (and from last week, as a project manager for a young team for two years) at the Institute of Sociology of the Romanian Academy: one monolithic institute, overlooking two other monolithic institutes: The People’s House (hosting the Parliament) and the People’s Salvation Cathedral (under construction). Over the three days of being there for signing of contracts, scanning documents and discussion of budget with my colleague, I could hardly get anything done over endless gossiping and chatter, or waiting around for the bureaucratic wheels to finally spin.

In other news, two weeks ago I picked up my passport from the Brazilian embassy in Bucharest, passport which now contains a temporary work visa for Brazil. This will be my first appointment as an independent research consultant. I shall soon relocate to Sao Paulo for four months, to work with people at CETIC.br, the Regional Center for Studies on the Development of the Information Society.