‘I Decided To Get Closer To Where Things Actually Happen’
Interview with Jean Guinet, participant of the XII International Academic Conference on Economic and Social Development, who will head the new Laboratory for Science and Technology Studies which was created last year at the HSE Institute for Statistical Studies and Economics of Knowledge.
— Professor Guinet, why did you decide to go for this change in your career, to head an international laboratory at the Higher School of Economics ?
— I have been working for many years as an international public servant, and as a professional economist at the OECD in Paris where for the last few years I headed the OECD’s work on innovation policy particularly regarding the evaluation of national innovation policies. And I thought it was a good time for me to get closer to ground level, where things actually happen: I’ve evaluated these national policies and the national context from some distance, and I thought it was a good opportunity to get some experience from the inside.
Another motivation was that my previous work was at the juncture of research and policy-making and I thought that I’d like to get a bit closer to research and education. So, the context of a research university like the Higher School of Economics seems to me very appropriate given this motivation.
The third motivation was more personal: I knew the reputation of the Higher School of Economics, I knew the work of the Institute for Statistical Studies and Economics of Knowledge led by Professor Gokhberg, because this center has collaborated with the OECD for many years, and I knew this was a very fertile ground for interesting activities. I also believe it is a good time to study innovation policies, since this topic is seen as very important in Russia now by all actors in society from the top level of government down, so I thought this was also a very good moment if I could provide some contribution and transmit some experience through my participation to this laboratory in a situation where the wider environment was very receptive to the work being carried out at the Higher School of Economics.
— What research are you going to conduct in the new Laboratory?
— The first thing is to capitalize on what has been started already. I know that there is a critical mass of very bright, highly motivated people, and my first priority will be to get a better sense of what is going on with that intellectual capital. I know part of it, but I will discover more, learn what has been accumulated and try to help develop it further and give it some more visibility, helping to connect better to the international network of science technology studies, science technology policy-making and adding my own personal contribution where possible.
— What are your impressions of this conference in general?
— I’m quite impressed, first by the format. Usually, conferences which are large are generally not so good. But this is both large and excellent. So I am quite impressed by the fact that it showed the ambition, the prestige and the comprehensiveness of the work of this university, a very important beacon in the higher education system in Russia. I also was very impressed by the range of topics, I was just looking at them and couldn’t find anything missing. And I’ve noted the level of participation, I saw the international opening ceremony with many international speakers invited to talk and give lectures and contribution.
— What have been the most interesting papers on the topic of innovative policy?
— The discussion and the presentations are still going on, and I’ve found most of the presentations interesting. At the session that’s just ended I was fascinated by the mix of general economics and more detailed innovation and science and technology analysis and the bridging of the conceptual and linguistic gaps between science and technology studies and generic economic analysis. I think what has been presented has shown me that this gap has already been narrowed down quite successfully in the Higher School of Economics. And for example, I was very interested to see the discussion on foresight and on the Skolkovo roadmap. I’m interested in the session on energy efficiency, which is undoubtedly a very important topic in Russia given the size of the market for energy and Russia’s importance as a producer with the participation of the U.S., the largest consumer of energy. After the disaster in Japan, discussion is starting up again about energy choices for the future around the world. So I think this subject is very topical, very timely and I’m looking forward to discussing it from the perspective of technology and innovation, what science technology and innovation can bring as a solution to the dilemma we are facing.
Ekaterina Rylko, specially for the HSE News Service
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