FOCUS ON – The position of “operational researcher”: an intervention from Dr. Nathalie Herlemont-Zoritchak | January 24, 2017
Nathalie Herlemont-Zoritchak wears two hats: the one of researcher with a PhD in political science and the one of director of an NGO’s study unit. To this extent, like others in her position, she likes to refer to herself as an “operational researcher”. A few words of explanation… The position of “operational researcher” explained to […]
Nathalie Herlemont-Zoritchak wears two hats: the one of researcher with a PhD in political science and the one of director of an NGO’s study unit. To this extent, like others in her position, she likes to refer to herself as an “operational researcher”. A few words of explanation…
The position of “operational researcher” explained to PhD students
In December 2016, Nathalie Herlemont-Zoritchak, the Director of Handicap International Foundation, and Alexandre Largier, Head of the French Railway Society Study Unit, were invited to address young researchers from the Doctoral School in Human and Social Sciences of Lyon. There were around twenty-five attendees to discuss the epitome of any doctoral journey. This took them from the discovery of the academic world to the one of professional life.
Alexandre Largier and Nathalie Herlemont-Zorichak both described themselves as “operational researchers” rather than strictly “researchers”. Both indeed see themselves as catalysts promoting and strengthening research approaches within their organization. Nathalie, for instance, explained to the audience what it was to work as a “connector” between the academia and the world of development and emergency action. Concretely, this means that within Handicap International, assisted by her team, she translates, explains, and provides, on a daily basis, a space for reflection and discussion on development and humanitarian issues. Her goal? To ensure that her association swiftly and successfully acts when responding to crucial issues… and always in the most appropriate way and in accordance with international law.
The (not-so) distant worlds of research and emergency action
Together with Alexandre Largier, Nathalie Herlemont-Zoritchak discussed, not without humor, the challenge of being a social researcher in a non-academic environment. For her, there are the jokes, of course, with colleagues regularly asking “if she has found anything yet?” but also the difficulty of combining the time of research work to the one of emergency action, development project, NGO life, etc. Moreover, working as a “connector” between the academia and the world of development and emergency action means she has to be able to address the right issues and their practical consequences in the most appropriate way … but also in a timely manner!
According to Verena Richardier, co-organizer of this seminar (and FYI has chosen a particular process of Handicap International as a research topic), “the intervention showed how non-academic research is both promising and challenging”. In her opinion PhD students enrolled in social sciences are always fond of new perspectives outside of the traditional academic boundaries knowing that research in France is more and more linked to the private sector.