Welcome back to our very occasional “Better Know a Ronin Scholar” series, where we learn more about the journeys of our Research Scholars and their current projects. It’s also doubling as the first post in a new “Fellow Travelers” series, conversations with the different organizations which share some common goals, approaches or philosophy with the Ronin Institute. In late 2018, I talked to the founder of one such traveler, Dr. Rebecca Willén, the founder of IGDORE, also a Research Scholar with Ronin. Rebecca has a PhD in psychology from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden in which her main focus was on deception detection and development of interrogation techniques. After finishing her PhD in 2016 she has since focused on metascience – science about science.
In this interview, we start by discussing the motivations for founding IGDORE, how education fits into IGDORE’s mission, and discuss what “New Academia” is all about. We next talk about the importance of retroactive disclosure statements for transparency in science. We finish on the topics of co-working spaces, changing academic cultures and the future. [This is a edited version of our conversation. Full disclosure: I am an affiliated researcher with IGDORE].
Tell me a bit about IGDORE?
IGDORE stands for the Institute for Globally Distributed Open Research and Education. It’s an independent institute I founded in 2016, directly after I had finished my PhD. It’s a virtual research institute, just like Ronin. We have one non-virtual facility and that is on Bali in Indonesia.
What motivated you to start IGDORE?
There were mainly two reasons why I started IGDORE.
First of all I finished my PhD remotely. I lived the last year of my PhD, I lived in Canada and in Indonesia. I was just working from co-working spaces, from home, from cafes. And that’s how I finished my PhD. I only went to Sweden for my actual defense. And when I started to look for jobs, just before I finished my PhD, and during the Spring of 2016, I found it difficult to find a place where I felt that, “I want to go there with my family and live there”.
I did a job interview in the UK, and when I and visited the university, I felt that, “is this really where I’m supposed to live with my family, we have no connection with this country or that town?”. It didn’t feel right, because we were quite happy with the life we had, and it is also relevant here, that the father of my daughter – we are not a couple any longer – so it makes it more difficult to expect someone to come to a new location when you are not even a couple. So for that reason, that was one of the reasons why I started IGDORE – because I wanted to do research from wherever I was.
“I didn’t want to end up… [experiencing]…the same pressure to publish and to get the low enough p-values to get something published. I wanted to be free to do good science, and to do it from wherever I wanted to reside at the moment”
And the second reason was that during the years that I was at my university as a student, I had lost my faith in science. Because there were a lot of questionable research practices being employed and I had struggled with that, and I struggled to change that from within, and failed. And I didn’t want to end up in a new such situation where I’m doing a postdoc or something at a new university and again experience same the pressure to publish and to get the low enough p-values to get something published. I wanted to be free to do good science, and to do it from wherever I wanted to reside at the moment.
How are the scientists at IGDORE funded? What’s the current funding model?
We have several of the people are affiliated with traditional universities so they have receive the salaries from there. Several of them are preparing, they want to become location-independent for different reasons and want to move away from traditional academia. But are right now standing with one foot in each. IGDORE is not offering any funding.
How is IGDORE set up legally?
In Indonesia we are non-for-profit. In Sweden, we are a limited company. The plan is to become a non-for-profit too. It’s easy to do, but we haven’t done it yet.
So some of the individual scientists at IGDORE have positions, and some of them are freelancers. How do you specifically get your funding, at the moment?
I get my money from seed money from IGDORE. I’m basically living on a minimum.
So Bali can be helpful for that, I imagine?
Bali came before I finished my PhD. No, but living in Bali, makes it possible for me to live on the money I have for a long-time.
Right, the cost of living is probably much lower than in Sweden?
IGDORE and online education
In the future for IGDORE, are you thinking something more like Ronin where it facilitates but doesn’t necessarily provide salaries. Or are you thinking that IGDORE would provide some of that centrally?
I haven’t given it too much thought yet. I want IGDORE to start offering online education, and if we get that going, then there might be the possibility to hire someone. To be able to pay proper salaries to a bunch of researchers. Because I think education will be the main thing that is needed if you want to be able to pay salaries to researchers.
And that’s the “E” in IGDORE?
Where do you see IGDORE evolving the future?
The long-term plan for IGDORE is to become a proper university. A location-independent university. I hope we will have co-working spaces, and laboratories in different parts of the world. And then if people are working for, or studying at IGDORE, then it doesn’t matter where in the world they are, they can be at home, they can choose to go to their nearest campus, co-working space or laboratory. But the long-term plan is to become a full non-formal university.