“Staying motivated involves stubbornly preserving time to explore questions I am genuinely curious about,” says Erik Gómez-Baggethun after being ranked amongst the world’s most highly-cited researchers for the sixth year in a row.
Erik Gómez-Baggethun is a professor in environmental governance at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences. With a prolific publication record, he consistently produces a high volume of research articles.
For the sixth year in a row, he is ranked by Clarivate to be in the top 1% in the world in terms of the number of citations in his field.
"I am sceptical of citation indexes and the extent to which they reflect quality and meaningful science, so I don't take them too seriously. They show, however, that people read and use your work, which is an honour," says Gómez-Baggethun.
An excellent ambassador
We asked him the secrets behind his outstanding academic performance.
“I am driven by curiosity and a desire for change, inherited from my parents, my sister, and my mentors. Growing up in a house full of books helped a lot.”
With around 30 000 citations in Google scholar, Gómez-Baggethun is the only researcher from NMBU to have made the world’s most highly cited list this year, and is one of 23 from Norway.
NMBU’s Prorector for Research and Innovation, Finn-Arne Weltzien is impressed.
“This is a great achievement. To make the Highly Cited list for six years in a row proves the significant influence he has within his field of research. It also shows the importance of the themes that he researches,” says Welzien:
“Erik is an excellent ambassador for our university, both through his research and in the way he communicates it. I am very proud on behalf of NMBU.”
Carving out time for curiosity
Gómez-Baggethun’s most cited articles address the links between ecosystems, economic prosperity and human wellbeing. They explore how nature is included (or excluded) in economic decision-making, and conflicts between growth and the environment.
“My research revolves around two main questions. The first is understanding the deeper cultural and economic roots of environmental problems. The second asks what transformations are required in values and institutions to achieve prosperous economic systems that enable decent lives for all, whilst staying within the ecological limits of the planet. Transformations that are compatible with ecological life-support systems and a stable climate,” explains the ecological economist.
“This requires deep transformations in the way we theorize, apply and teach economics. It involves leaving behind the ecologically-destructive, short-term profits and economic growth that guides the logic of mainstream economists. Wellbeing, sustainability and justice need to be the central focus of economic theory and practice. My most highly-cited papers revolve around such questions.”
“Keeping motivation alive can sometimes be difficult in a bureaucratized and neoliberalised university,” he adds:
“Much of the working day goes to menial tasks and commercial interests increasingly dictate what knowledge is deemed useful and worth funding. Staying motivated involves stubbornly preserving some time to explore questions I am genuinely curious about.”
“Conversations with other curiosity-driven colleagues and interaction with students are also major sources of motivation. We academics can easily get bored of ourselves, but when you see students in class with wide-open eyes you get the energy back. I also get strength from my daughter and niece. When you think of the mess that future generations will inherit from us, you see that giving up is not an option. It sounds cliché but it's true.”
Dare to think outside the box
We asked Gómez-Baggethun to share any pearls of wisdom for budding academic superstars.
“Stay truthful to your curiosities. You cannot escape the workings of the system. To survive in academia, mercenary work and strategically adapting to fashionable research areas that attract funding can, at times, be unavoidable. But if you don't keep pragmatic choices in check, you risk devoting a big chunk of your life to a meaningless endeavour.”
“Dare to think outside of the box and doubt everything - always. Do not shy away from questioning established knowledge and ideas. Sometimes we get everything wrong.”