Author Archives: Isobel

Birkbeck hosts ‘Environmental Finance for the Common Good’ Conference

The conference, organised by Dr Ellen Yu, was generously funded by the Money Macro and Finance Society and the School of Business, Economics and Informatics.

A group of people standing in the lecture theatre.

Birkbeck’s Department of Management was delighted to host the ‘Environmental Finance for the Common Good’ conference from 31 March – 1 April 2022.

More than 170 people registered for events during the two-day hybrid conference, which was organised by Dr Ellen Yu, Senior Lecturer in Finance.

Speakers included representation from international organisations and industry (the World Bank, Climate Policy Initiative, the US Conference Board, and the CFA Society of the UK), religious communities (the Vatican and the SGI UK), and academic peers from all over the world, who presented and shared ideas on environmental finance.

The conference aimed to understand the investment implications of environmental and social factors across different economies to achieve greater common good. Workshops over the two days included studies from industrial and middle- and low- income countries, providing a platform for all people working on environmental finance issues to discuss the latest insights and foster dialogue between academics and practitioners.

The diversity of speakers and attendees was highlighted at the evening keynote lecture, where representatives from industry, academia and religious communities came together to discuss pathways to a more inclusive, greener future.

The conference was funded by the Money Macro Society and the School of Business, Economics and Informatics.

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International students tour Houses of Parliament

William Richards, International Administrator in the School of Business, Economics and Informatics shares the highlights of the latest international student excursion.

 

On Friday 22 April, Birkbeck made an exciting trip to the home of British law-making and democracy. La Young Jackson led a cohort of international students on a visit to the Houses of Parliament in Westminster.

After a quick security check, the group of twenty international students discovered Westminster Hall – the oldest part of the current palace of Westminster.

From there, the group was shown around the most famous corridors in British politics, before seeing the House of Commons and the House of Lords up close.

Whilst it is the House of Commons that yields the most power, students were amazed by the glamour and glitz of the neighbouring House of Lords.

Unfortunately, photography within the two chambers is forbidden – you’ll have to take our word for it!

From historic traditions to modern media coverage, this visit exposed the quirks and intricacies of political power in London and the UK.

To top it all off, the group was delighted to see the newly refurbished Elizabeth Tower, exposing one of the worlds most iconic clock faces – Big Ben.

 

The College would like to thank La Young Jackson and all the students who attended this historic visit. We look forward making similar visits and excursions throughout this year’s summer term.

Join us, next time!

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Researching gender inclusivity in Shared Mobility as a Service

Dr Maurizio Catulli, Senior Lecturer at the University of Hertfordshire shared insights into women’s use and perceptions of Shared Mobility as a Service in our latest Responsible Business Centre seminar.

On Friday 25 March, Birkbeck’s Responsible Business Centre was delighted to welcome Dr Maurizio Catulli, Senior Lecturer at the University of Hertfordshire to present research into gender inclusivity in shared mobility. Maurizio’s presentation shared results from a preliminary study which has been awarded a British Academy Grant.

The seminar was chaired by Dr Ioanna Boulouta, Director of Birkbeck’s Responsible Business Centre.

What is Mobility as a Service?

Personal mobility is essential for the functioning of society, whether for commuting to work, visiting family and friends, or transporting goods and services. Often, these activities are combined in a chain of trips.

Currently, personal mobility relies heavily on private cars. According to the Department for Transport, 83% of total passenger distance travelled in the UK is done by car.

Maurizio highlighted that cars are efficient in terms of journey time and enable users to be more spontaneous. Ownership of private cars is also associated with safety and a sense of belonging. However, cars are also the mode of transport with the greatest impact on the environment, accounting for a fifth of all UK emissions.

Various solutions have been proposed to minimise dependency on cars, such as greater use of public transport or shared cars, bicycles and scooters. Mobility as a Service (MaaS) looks to make shared mobility options more appealing to users by providing a one-stop platform to book multiple forms of transport in one place, including shared vehicles, and to see journeys with multiple steps as a coherent whole.

Maurizio commented that the diffusion of MaaS has not been very successful, but it has the potential to reduce the environmental impact of personal mobility. MaaS delivers environmental benefits by encouraging walking and cycling and reducing single occupancy of vehicles.

Mobility as a Service and Inclusivity

Maurizio reflected that women are at a disadvantage compared to men in terms of mobility as they have less access to private cars and fewer women hold a driving license. Research shows that women are more likely to embrace sustainable consumption than men, so they could be enthusiastic users of MaaS. However, Maas – like other forms of shared mobility – worsens gender injustice due to safety concerns for women. According to research by Gekoski et al. (2017), 15% of women report sexual harassment by men when using shared transport.

Bearing a disproportionate amount of childcare and household responsibilities, women are also at a disadvantage in using shared mobility as they need to carry infants with prams and car seats or carry shopping. Women tend to cycle and use buses more than men, but are less likely to car share or use e-scooters.

The research so far

Drawing on transport practice theory and consumer culture theory, Maurizio’s research addresses three key questions:

  1. How can shared mobility through offerings such as Mobility as a Service fit into women’s personal transport practices?
  2. What factors shape women’s choice for its adoption?
  3. How can shared mobility offerings such as Mobility as a Service be made safer and more inclusive of women?

The preliminary study was based on nineteen qualitative interviews with a mix of providers, academic experts and users.

Policymakers interviewed commented that the problem of safety, privacy and general awkwardness of sharing vehicles does not affect women alone. This group was not specifically concerned about women’s safety, but highlighted COVID-19 as a risk.

In contrast, female participants shared concerns about sharing vehicles with unknown people and receiving unwanted attention from men. The shifts between mobility modes, for example getting out of a car and onto a bicycle, were perceived as vulnerable moments, especially when services such as buses or trains are delayed. Participants were also wary of autonomous vehicles and the possibility of encountering an unknown person inside.

A possible solution would be to allow background checks on users of MaaS apps and to allow tracking so friends could check in on each other when traveling home. MaaS could also inform users about the safety of different areas, as Google Maps does by offering a safer route home.

Maurizio noted that a sense of community can support users to feel safe. For example, sharing vehicles within a smaller area, or between apartments within a building, fosters trust. Maurizio is open to collaborators and prospective PhD students who would like to explore this research further.

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Thriving at different stages of an academic career

Professor Morten Huse discussed making an impact at different stages in the scholarly life cycle in his second talk for Birkbeck’s School of Business, Economics and Informatics.

On Tuesday 15 March, Birkbeck’s School of Business, Economics and Informatics was delighted to welcome back Professor Morten Huse for the second talk in a series discussing ‘How to become and thrive as an impactful scholar.’

The series, organised and chaired by Dr Muthu De Silva, Assistant Dean (Research), aims to develop Birkbeck’s scholarly community and to support academic colleagues in their research endeavours. The second talk, ‘Thriving at different stages of an academic career’ draws on insights from chapter 9 of Morten’s book ‘Resolving the crisis in research by changing the game’.

Morten encouraged attendees to consider their academic career as a life cycle, reflecting on his own experience of being affiliated with many different universities and the lessons learned along the way. He reflected on some key philosophies that have guided his academic career:

  • ‘Ritorno al passato’ – the need to reconsider the modern approach to scholarship.
  • ‘From POP (publish or perish) culture to a sharing philosophy’.
  • ‘Life is too short to drink bad wine’ – we don’t have unlimited time, so it is important to prioritise what matters most.

What is true scholarship?

Morten commented: “It is easy to think that we are measuring scholarship by publications,” arguing that, as early as the 1990s, academics were already feeling pressurised to publish in certain journals. This has resulted in ‘hammer and lamp syndrome’, where scholars address problems that are already under the lamp, i.e., where data is already available, instead of seeking out difficult problems, as this is an easier route to getting published. Similarly, Morten explained: “If you have a hammer, you see the world as a nail and will look for the easiest way to getting published.”

Reflecting on Boyer (1996), Morten argued that scholarship is not what scholars do, but who they are. When aiming for excellence in research, the goal should reach beyond getting published to thinking about the impact research is having. According to the European Research Council, excellence in research involves:

  • Proposing and conducting groundbreaking and frontier research
  • Creative and independent thinking
  • Achievements beyond the state of the art
  • Innovation potential
  • Sound leadership in training and advancing young scientists
  • Second and third order impact.

Defining your scholarly ambition

Morten noted that academic careers can look different for everyone and that scholarly ambitions are personal and will vary. Career paths can take a teaching, administrative or research route and reach could vary from local, national, to global.

Morten reflected: “It’s easy not to do the proper reflections, integrations and scholarly enquiry. It’s easy not to make a contribution to developing the scholarly community. It’s easy not to give priority to doing something for society. In reality, the scholarly life cycle is not just about getting published; there is so much more that is needed.”

He shared an image of what the scholarly life cycle could look like, enabling senior scholars to give back to junior colleagues:

Graph showing the different stages of an academic career.

We would like to thank Professor Huse for a thought-provoking presentation and discussion. The next event in this series will take place in May, where we hope to have the opportunity to bring our community together in person. Details to follow soon on the Department of Management events page.

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