Overseas Institutional Visit during a pandemic

Yigit Oezcelik, Economics, University of Liverpool (2018 Cohort)

As Benjamin Franklin once said: “An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.”. This also holds during a pandemic. As the Overseas Institutional Visit funding (OIV funding) promotes such an investment in advancing and disseminating knowledge abroad, I decided to go to Berlin, after I was invited by Prof Radosveta Ivanova-Stenzel. At the beginning of January 2021, I travelled to Berlin in order to start my visit at Technical University Berlin and stayed there until the end of March 2021.

The months leading up to the visit were stressful and filled with uncertainty as restrictions induced by the pandemic were volatile and changing rapidly. Before travelling, I familiarised myself with the host university’s restrictions and overall rules in Berlin.

After my 10-day self-isolation period, I went to the host university to collect my staff ID as PhD students are treated as staff members in Germany and was allocated an office. Following the university’s guidelines, I was able to work from the office.

Even if only for a few weeks, it was great to be back in an office environment again and get a sense of normality back. As the pandemic situation worsened in Germany, however, I was asked to work from home.

Berlin is one of the world’s most vibrant research hubs, with many highly reputable academics in my research areas of behavioural and experimental economics. Going into my journey at TU Berlin, I mainly had three goals that would improve the quality of my research and increase my employability as a researcher in future.

First and foremost, I wanted to work on a collaborative research project with Dr. Vera Angelova that will be part of my doctoral thesis. Secondly, I was aiming to present and disseminate my own research and obtain feedback from renowned researcher in my field. And lastly, I wanted to expand my academic network.

Overall, I can say that I have met all my goals and have even exceeded them. This ESRC-funded visit has made a significantly positive impact to my mental wellbeing, PhD research and future career in academia.

In terms of my first goal, Dr. Angelova and I, have continuously worked on our research project. We have narrowed down our research questions and finalised the experimental design for our project. We are investigating fraudulent behaviour of experts on markets for expert services. We scrutinise whether more knowledgeable consumers can help less-knowledgeable consumers, via online ratings, to choose more suitable experts and reduce their likelihood of being defrauded.

Moreover, I had the chance to present my research at the internal Berlin Behavioural Economics Seminar that was held virtually. This seminar provided me with the opportunity to participate in intellectually stimulating discussions and receive feedback from highly reputable scholars in my field that improved my research significantly. Listening to other PhD students’ presentations inspired me with new research ideas. I also gained a better insight into the current state of the field and where it is heading.

These research seminars also benefitted me to extend my network and get to know other PhD students working in my area of research. As a result of fruitful discussions and brain storming sessions, I have started collaborative research projects with two researchers from the Berlin School of Economics. With one of the researchers, we were able to finish our online data collection already. The research paper, in which we are experimentally analysing whether consumer-provided ratings are prone to the anchoring bias, is in its final stages.

Following my successful time spent at the Technical University Berlin, I would definitely recommend the OIV Scheme to my peers, as it is a very generous scheme, that takes away the financial burden/worries that come with such a placement.

The OIV Scheme provides you with the opportunity to meet and work with established researchers in your field. Their feedback can help to improve and enrich your current research and stimulate new research ideas.

Furthermore, you learn how other institutions work. This can provide you with valuable insights into their working-environment and provide a better understanding about how other departments in the world work in comparison to your home institution. This is important as academia is highly internationalised.

Finally, connecting with peers and expanding your network is another crucial reason why I would encourage everybody to take part in this scheme, as these new acquaintances can result in future collaborations. Having a strong network is beneficial for a future career in academia.

Overall, I can say that this research visit was a great investment into my research career, that brought back a greater sense of normality, provided me with a change of scenery. I am very grateful to have been offered funding that made everything possible.

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