Simona Vezzoli is one of two research officers at the new Leiden-Delft-Erasmus Research Centre Governance of Migration and Diversity. Based at the Leiden Institute for History, Vezzoli is a migration researcher as well as the centre’s new ‘matchmaker’ between researchers of the three universities and funding opportunities.
Right off the bat, what do you do as Research Officer at the LDE Centre of Governance, Migration and Diversity (GMD)?
‘I am one of two research officers, the other one being Kimberly Seibel, who works in Delft. Our main task is to promote collaboration among faculty members of the three universities. We want to create innovative projects to harness the expertise that is available within the universities. In today's competitive world of funding, this will help us to stand a better chance.’
‘As a research officer, I seek out possible collaborations between researchers from the three universities. I am working on new research proposals, which is one of the main goals of the LDE Centre of GMD. The institute is fairly new - it was founded this year - and its main goals are to advance research and education as well as engagements with stakeholders in the area of governance of migration and diversity.’
Can you tell us about your background as a researcher?
‘My research focuses on the root causes of migration. Before coming to Leiden, I conducted research at the International Migration Institute (University of Oxford) and the University of Amsterdam, where I researched the underlying processes and mechanisms related to migration decisions – the motives and the conditions that made people decide to migrate at a specific point in time, to a certain destination and following a specific migration channel.’
‘Although my research focuses on people’s migration decisions, I am also quite interested in exploring why some people decide to stay. For some people staying behind and adapting is more appealing than migration. So, I look at migration not as a problem, but more as a societal process that takes place anytime, anywhere.’
What have your first weeks as a research officer been like?
‘I spoke to many people to get to know the faculty and get a sense of the research interests present in our universities. At the same time, I am constantly looking at the latest funding opportunities to see if there are any grants that we can pursue.’
‘For example, if we find a new funding opportunity within one of the EU funding schemes, we reach out to our LDE network to explore whether there are any researchers whose interests match the funding call. If so, we make contact with the researcher, start discussions about the possibilities and eventually draft and carry out a plan to prepare and submit the proposal collaboratively.’
‘This job requires a lot of social interaction as it involves networking and staying updated on research across the faculty. What makes this job even more enjoyable, is that it requires creativity to spot opportunities where they might not be so obvious and to propose these to researchers.’
Can we expect more collaborations between Leiden Humanities researchers and Delft or Erasmus researchers?
"Yes of course! We should have no disciplinary boundaries. Topics such as migration and diversity are interdisciplinary in nature. Our strength is that our expertise lies in different areas. What matters is that, by working together, we can complement each other’s research. In that way, we can create research proposals that are both innovative and creative."
A centre like ours, through the combination of research, education and outreach, can make a difference.