Miron Avidan, Post-doctoral Research Fellow, University of St. Gallen
“Since academia is taking up a lot of my time, pursuing any kind of impact must go hand-in-hand with keeping my emotional well-being in check. I find that engaging with my close professional surroundings often allows me to achieve at least some level of impact while also increasing my sense of satisfaction.”
Miron Avidan is a post-doctoral researcher at the University of St. Gallen (HSG), working with Prof. Judith Walls in the Institute for Economy and the Environment (IWÖ). His research interests encompass sustainability metrics, corporate disclosure and governance, and corporate water management.
Starting with your local community
As a junior scholar, Miron finds it important to have an impact within his own academic community, and having impact starts by building such a community. When he joined St. Gallen, Miron missed engaging through seminars with top scholars. “One of the first things I did after joining HSG was to establish the brown bag sustainability research community,” he explained “once a month, we host a top scholar in our field for an interactive discussion about their research. Before the pandemic, such events were actually quite rare around here. COVID made it easier to meet online, and we are leveraging the situation quite well.”
Miron aspires to make the seminars as engaging as possible, for example, by encouraging speakers to talk about their working papers and seek out feedback. Miron reflected: “One of the main challenges for me coming with a Ph.D. from North America is that the organizational culture was different there. Through the brown bag series, I am trying to straddle both cultures while creating a collaborative and dynamic working group. To me, it is crucial to be able to discuss my work with someone on an ongoing basis.”
Miron had also been one of the founding members of the HSG Impact Scholar Community. Launched in July 2021, it was designed to “bring sustainability scholars from all over HSG under the same roof”, and to support one another through online platforms such as Discourse, LinkedIn, and Miro. It is different from other impact scholar communities of larger scale and scope as it is specifically targeted at the German-speaking areas of Switzerland, where they have a better understanding of their own contextualized challenges and opportunities. The community may expand by engaging with neighboring institutions such as the University of Zürich and ETH Zürich.
Engagement outside the office
Alongside building a supportive professional community, Miron mentioned other types of engagement such as writing an article for the local magazine about supply chain management, volunteering to talk to student organizations and high school students about the future of sustainability, and helping with private sustainability disclosure initiatives taking place in Switzerland. “I may not solve climate change and save the planet, but I’m doing my best on a small scale.” He said. “You can’t just stay in your office all day long anyway.”
Advice for early-career scholars
Miron shared some advice for junior scholars and Ph.D. students who want to have an impact through their research and academic work:
Consider a post-doc position so you can have more time to decide your impact route. “Don’t get pushed to start your tenure clock if you don’t feel ready.” Miron shared his experience, “The post-doc period was very helpful because it gave me more time to figure out what it is that I really wanted to focus on, and what is my ideal balance between research, teaching, service, and impact…It’s important for Ph.D. students to realize that they can take more time to figure things out .”
Expose yourself to more than one culture so you can get a broader perspective of what impact means in different places and be more creative in generating your own impact. When it comes to impact, there is no one-size-fits-all or single right way. “Gaining experience from three different regions of the world – North America, Europe, and Israel (my home country) – has given me a very rich perspective. Different places have different norms, expectations, and evaluation schemes, so it’s important to realize there is more than one way to do things and make an impact. There are many opportunities and career models out there if you’re willing to explore a bit.” Miron added, “part of what makes our profession interesting is that we can “sell” ourselves slightly differently to different audiences, so we shouldn’t shy away from that.”