New Blog on Digital Research Methods: ‘SHARE-IT’

In December 2011 we won a ‘Leading in Learning’ grant of €10,000 to develop a blog on digital research methods. It was launched in April 2012 and is called: ‘Support & Help for Academic REsearchers by using Information Technology’ (SHARE-IT).

Our blog presents knowledge and experience in IT-based ways of doing research. This ranges from the use of online forums for discussing research results to the use of Google for searching for literature; from online reference managers to ways of keeping track of current developments online. Overall SHARE-IT provides short, accessible and critical discussions of such online tricks and tools.

Posts will be written by and for early career researchers. So if YOU’RE a researcher with something relevant to share with the world, why not contribute by contacting us here? You could discuss a particular tool or workaround from you own experience. And beyond sharing your knowledge, it’s a way to make your research better known.

Besides Florian Henning and Martin Rehm, our project team consists of Koen Beumer and Joeri Bruyninckx (at Maastricht University’s Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences) and Jeroen van Merrienboer and Daniëlle Verstegen (from the Faculty of Health and Medicine).

Florian Henning and Martin Rehm, Researchers at the Maastricht Graduate School of Governance / United Nations University-MERIT.

Happiness and Entrepreneurship: New Research Insights

Unemployed? Frustrated in your job? Can’t stand your boss? Then you may want to start your own business. You will not earn as much as you would have in your old job (assuming you had one); you will work much longer hours; you will face hassles with banks, tax authorities, officials and fickle customers; cut-throat competition may cause you bodily harm.

Don’t despair – on UN Photo / Evan Schneiderthe contrary, starting your own business is likely to make you a happier person. That is one of the salient facts from the scientific literature that emerged from a recent workshop on Happiness and Entrepreneurship organized by UNU-MERIT and the School of Governance in partnership with the Maastricht School of Management, ERIM and Erasmus University of Rotterdam and held in Rotterdam on 13 April 2012.

In a paper titled ‘Life satisfaction and self-employment: a matching approach‘ Alex Coad and Martin Binder showed, using a 10-year panel dataset from the UK, that entrepreneurs (the self-employed) enjoyed significantly higher life satisfaction than people who were in wage employment. “In our analysis we found that individuals moving from regular employment into self-employment … experience a positive and significant increase in life satisfaction, that actually increases from the first year of self-employment to the second”.

Although they are laughing, entrepreneurs are not laughing all the way to the bank because the average earnings of self-employed persons in UK are lower than that of salaried employees. Their average earnings are for instance much less than the earnings of bankers. It means the non-pecuniary benefits of being an entrepreneur compensate for the downsides mentioned.

What do these non-pecuniary benefits entail? It is the type of work that entrepreneurs do that matters. In a paper on ‘Determinants of job satisfaction: a European comparison of self-employed and paid employees‘, José María Millán and co-authors confirm that entrepreneurs enjoy greater job satisfaction in terms of work than salaried employees: “Self-employment has advantages in providing autonomy as compared to paid employment. Self-employed individuals are in charge and therefore capable of (re)defining their work, suggesting that introducing entrepreneurial aspects (i.e. autonomy, independence, etc.) to paid employed jobs may help to increase the job satisfaction of paid employees with their respective type of work”.

Starting your own business can therefore make you happier. It will make you even happier if you employ people. Moreover, there is a positive correlation between how entrepreneurial a society is and its national level of happiness. Consider the following graph, taken from a paper I co-authored with José Ernesto Amorós and Oscar Cristi and presented at the workshop: it clearly shows that countries that score well in terms of Global Entrepreneurship Development Index (GEDI) also score well in terms of happiness. The causality is likely to be bi-directional (Click to enlarge).

Naudé, Amorós & Cristi, 2012a

There are two caveats to the above. First, the results refer to the entrepreneurs and the employed on average. Entrepreneurs are a heterogeneous group. Joachim Merz and Tim Rathjen presented a paper based on the German Socio-Economic Panel that finds that even though poor entrepreneurs may earn incomes above the (income) poverty line, they are often still poor in other dimensions of wellbeing, such as time – i.e. entrepreneurs are often ‘time-poor’ compared to the employed.

Second, economic cycles impact negatively on entrepreneurs’ happiness. In their paper José María Millán and co-authors find that although entrepreneurs are more satisfied with their jobs in terms of the type of work they do, they tend to be less satisfied with respect to the security it affords. This may be particularly troublesome during economic downswings, such as during the current economic malaise in Western economies.

According to the Flickr / Adam CohnInternational Herald Tribune there has been a significant rise in suicides amongst entrepreneurs in European countries most affected by the economic crisis, particularly where social protection measures have been eroded by the fiscal austerity pandemic: “in the most fragile nations like Greece, Ireland and Italy, small-business owners and entrepreneurs are increasingly taking their own lives in a phenomenon some European newspapers have started calling ‘suicide by economic crisis’”.

For increasing national happiness the policy prescriptions for labour market reform and human resource management are clear: employees should be treated more like entrepreneurs; and entrepreneurs more like employees.

by Wim Naudé, Professorial Fellow at UNU-MERIT and the Maastricht Graduate School of Governance. Images: UN Photo / Evan Schneider; Naudé, Amorós & Cristi, 2012; Flickr / Adam Cohn


Neglected Tropical Diseases and the Austerity Pandemic

Dumdum fever (or visceral leishmaniasis) is caused by a parasite (leishmania) and kills more than half a million people every year. After malaria it’s the world’s deadliest parasitic infection, but little has been done to combat it until very recently.

Dumdum fever is what is known as a Neglected Tropical Disease (NTD). Other NTDs include buruli ulcer, chagas disease, cysticercosis, dengue, dracunculiasis, echinococcosis, endemic reponematoses, helminthiases, leprosy, lymphatic filariasis, onchocerciasis, rabies, schistosomiasis, trypanosomiasis, and trematode infections.

More than a billion people UN Photo / Sophia Paris are affected by NTDs, yet treatments are rare. On the one hand this is because they are ‘diseases of poverty’, i.e. they mainly affect poor people who can afford neither vaccines nor medical treatments. So there is little incentive for profit-oriented pharmaceutical firms to invest in R&D for treatments.

On the other hand poor-country governments are often fragile states which lack the resources (and often the commitment) to invest in basic amenities which would limit the spread and impact of NTDs, or to provide access to existing medicines. For instance 2.5 billion people still lack proper sanitation and safe water, and 1.5 billion live without electricity.

Continued growth and economic development, coupled with appropriate policies and government investment, is clearly a necessary condition for reducing and eventually eliminating the impact of these diseases. But development takes time, and the benefits of growth are often slow to ‘trickle down’ to the poorest in society.

Moreover, the debilitating effects of these diseases are a contributing factor to poverty. Global intervention is needed to (i) provide access to existing treatments and best practices, but also to (ii) generate, diffuse and use new and more affordable vaccines and other treatments – for many NTDs existing treatments are ‘old, cumbersome to administer, or toxic’ (WHO, 2012:iv).

The World Health WHO NTDsOrganization (WHO) recently announced a Roadmap to deal with NTDs, which is an encouraging step as far as the former (i) is concerned. It aims to control or eradicate most of these NTDs by 2020. The report notes a growing number of contributions by multinational pharmaceutical firms to contribute resources– e.g. donating free medicines – but also notes that more than US$ 2 billion is still needed.

The WHO’s Roadmap also calls for increased R&D for treatments, but doesn’t go into much detail. Hence the question remains, how can we stimulate innovation to control and eradicate NTDs?

In a recent MSM-MGSoG-MERIT Joint Seminar presentation on 16 February 2012, Professor Nicola Dimitri from Maastricht School of Management and the University of Siena argued that from a R&D perspective NTDs are now less neglected than they were before the 2000s.

However much more needs to be done, particularly if the Roadmap’s goals are to be achieved and maintained. Dimitri discussed a number of recent initiatives to stimulate private sector innovation for better treatments.

These initiatives are at the forefront of thinking about public policies, procurement and innovation for socially desirable outcomes, and include push (such as public private partnerships), pull (such as advanced market commitments and priority review vouchers) and hybrid forms of incentives.

Thus (hopefully) in a few years’ time there may be no more ‘neglected’ tropical diseases. The only discordant note was sounded in December 2011 by a G-Finder (Global Funding for Innovation for Neglected Diseases) report which asked ‘is innovation under threat?’ With many rich countries facing high debt burdens and implementing fiscal austerity measures, funding for innovation has been declining.

The report documents that funding for innovation on neglected diseases was slashed by over US$ 100 million in 2010, mostly in European countries. For instance Sweden cut its funding for NTD innovation by 43 per cent, the Netherlands by 39 per cent, Denmark 49 per cent, Spain 30 per cent, Germany 12 per cent and Norway by 20 per cent.  A neglected consequence of the austerity pandemic in Europe is thus the further neglect of NTDs.

Wim Naudé, Professorial Fellow at UNU-MERIT and the Maastricht Graduate School of Governance

Working to Boost Social Protection in Cambodia

Cambodia has come a long way since the UN sponsored elections of 1993. Much remains to be done however in terms of social protection and poverty reduction. Although per capita GDP rose 5 per cent per year between 1993 and 2010, Cambodians still face precarious employment, low quality healthcare, and poor basic infrastructure. Plus chronic malnutrition and a high risk of natural disasters.

To address these issues the UN Photo / Pernaca SudhakaranCambodian Government launched a National Social Protection Strategy for the Poor and Vulnerable in late 2011. This is part of the country’s plan to rebuild its social services and raise living standards for all its citizens.

The Cambodian Government and UNICEF-Cambodia contracted the Maastricht Graduate School of Governance to help in this work. Our role is to estimate the rates of return on social protection investments in Cambodia, and so help design social protection instruments.

Our study focuses on non-contributory social transfers and their role in socio-economic development. In this context, we find that social transfers reduce income poverty and inequality but also affect household behaviour. For example they increase consumption and the resources available for investment in health, education, livelihoods and productive activities.

The study started in January 2012 with a period of fieldwork to collect data and connect with various governmental institutions and development partners. Overall the study analyses four social protection instruments: cash transfers, scholarships, public works and social pensions.

For this work we are using various UN Photo / Kibae Parkquantitative techniques to generate a comprehensive analysis of the potential benefits of social transfers in Cambodia. These draw on national surveys from 2004 and 2009, as well as static and dynamic micro-simulations. The results will be presented at the end of summer 2012 during a workshop in Phnom Penh.

Andrés Mideros Mora, PhD fellow, Maastricht Graduate School of Governance