A new decade begins with the promise of a global rebrand, a new website, and a new director for UNU-MERIT. All three are currently being decided, so now is a good time to look back on 2019 – a year that featured two major developments in our outreach activities. First, European membership of The Conversation UK, which calls itself “an independent source of news and views, sourced from the academic and research community and delivered direct to the public”. Second, a non-profit account with Shorthand, known as “the visual storytelling platform for iconic brands” from the BBC to the Red Cross, Cambridge to Harvard.
In terms of op-eds by our fellows, the vast majority are now published in The Conversation UK, which boasts a monthly audience of 3 million unique readers onsite and 10 million more through republication. As of early 2020, we have 15 contributing authors, joined by around two dozen more from across the UNU network. What does that mean in concrete figures for UNU? In 2019, Prof. Kunal Sen from our sister institute UNU-WIDER achieved more than 20,000 views for his article on ‘Narendra Modi’s performance on the Indian economy– five key policies assessed’; while articles by UNU-MERIT’s Prof. Wim Naudé (over 15,000 views), Dr. Katie Kuschminder and PhD fellow Talitha Dubow (10,000 views) also attained mass readership levels.
On our institutional website, we posted a total of 112 articles in 2019 — i.e. 2-3 per week — including almost 10% in the new immersive Shorthand format. The latter covered everything from a ‘UN space internship’ in Bonn, written by Master’s alumnus Erik Meis, to a ‘UN future of work conference’ with the United Nations Industrial Development Organization in Vienna, penned by Deputy Director Neil Foster-McGregor. Meanwhile, our third most popular post (with 1300 views) was a beautifully simple recap of our ‘Master’s closing ceremony 2019’, with inspiring words and stunning images from Sint Janskerk, Maastricht. Finally, another simple yet powerful blend of media was a Shorthand post presenting seven stunning video interviews from our Master’s specialisations.
For the rest, we published articles from around 70 authors, most of whom are working in-house. Some shared updates on their research and projects, like Prof. Pierre Mohnen in a post co-authored with colleagues at Maastricht’s School of Business and Economics. Others gave insights on major topical issues, like Director Bart Verspagen in his article ‘Smart robots are inevitable, the concentration of wealth is not’. While others reported from the field – quite literally for one PhD fellow on the border of Uganda and Tanzania and one Master’s student on the border of Uganda and South Sudan.
Of our eight research themes, the Migration and Development Group was the most prolific in terms of outreach, providing 16% of last year’s posts, including three more in our long-running ‘Mygration Story’ series. First by Prof. Parvati Nair of UNU-GCM in Barcelona, who spoke poignantly about “the dilemmas of identity” – how they cannot “be easily resolved through reference to place, because places also, in a sense, migrate or transform”. Second by Francisca Sassetti of UNU-CS in Macau, who spoke about war from her grandmothers’ perspectives in Argentina, Mozambique and beyond. Third by Soha Youssef, an Egyptian Master’s graduate who previously worked in India for UNHCR.
We also continued our outreach work with international organisations, including a content sharing agreement with the Asian Development Bank and more joint training seminars with UNESCO in Latin America, this time in Bolivia and Uruguay. Plans are now underway with Nature India and the New Delhi office of UNESCO – possibly for a ‘supersize’ workshop in late 2020 featuring 50 participants and 500 externals commenting on proceedings. More details coming soon via our science reporting landing page.
The opinions expressed here are the author’s own; they do not necessarily reflect the views of UNU.
Flickr / NASA Johnson