Meet Vasso Kalaitzi, a political scientist passionate about communicating science!

What is your scientific background?

I hold a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Public Administration, a certificate of specialised training in Cultural Units Management and an executive MSc in European Studies. My MSc thesis was on the role of lobbying in the integration process of the EU secondary legislation into national law. I am thinking/hoping about starting a PhD, but it’s still a little bit vague in my mind. I envy the people that have clear ideas of what they want to do!

Why did you choose to become a scientist?

Funny thing: I don’t consider myself a scientist! I mean, I am a political scientist by training, but I always enjoyed advocacy, lobbying and communication. So, I am interested in science and academia and how these work in terms of structure, administration and content, in order to be able to communicate science in a “user-friendly” way for the public good. Especially when science is publicly funded, its outcomes should not only be accessible to different levels within the society, but also communicated in a way that they can be understood by people of various disciplines and background, from academics/researchers to companies and the general public.

Poster presentation on the EUDAT research data management support for libraries at the annual LIBER Conference, 2017./ Vasso Kalaitzi

How did you choose your field of study?

I remember my dad insisting on me going to law school. I also remember a very happy me on my first day at the university. I wouldn’t be that happy in law school. Political and administrative science cover so many historic, organisational, structural, functional, even ethical aspects of our society. The BSc that I’ve chosen provided a transdisciplinary academic environment that I found exciting while studying. This is what triggered my interest in later studying how political science and public administration work within the European Union.

Which topic are you working on at the moment? Why did you choose this topic and how do you think you’ll make a difference?

I currently work as an EU projects communications officer. I am responsible for various project-related events and engagement activities in the context of EU funded projects related to Open Science, Open Access to outputs of publicly funded research and research data management. The more I work in this field, the more I learn, so it never gets boring. I appreciate my colleagues and I enjoy meeting and collaborating with scientists from different disciplines and backgrounds. This motivates me to contribute as much as I can in communicating science and engaging various communities. I love my job!

Vasso loading her car with conference dissemination material, 2014./ Vasso Kalaitzi

Besides your scientific interests, what are your personal interests?

My scientific interests often match my personal interests, which can only be a good thing, right? I also care a lot about volunteering. I strongly believe that, when good things happen to you, you need to give something back. Caring is (and should be) a key element of society. I volunteer for blind people, by offering my voice in recording audiobooks and have provided care for children that have been abandoned or legally removed from their environment.  I care about human rights in general (although I am not an expert) and try to keep up with abuses and developments. I like traveling and the first thing I do when visiting a new area, is to spot the museums. Artistic gossip is my guilty pleasure: the secret life facts of famous painters, composers and directors, the motivation behind their Art!

Is it hard to manage both career and private life? How do you manage both?

Career and private life balance is a combination of various factors: culture, work environment, societal challenges, a state of mind and a little bit of luck. I hope to achieve this one day!

If you had the option to give advice to a younger version of yourself, what would that be?

“Any path you choose will take you somewhere. Things won’t always be easy and there will be crossroads. Enjoy the journey, learn as many things as you can, meet people, see places and don’t worry too much”. I am trying to give this piece of advice to my current self as well!

In your opinion, which changes, if any, are needed in the scientific system to be more attractive to female scientists and possible future scientists?

Unfortunately, gender inequality is a reality from science and academia to politics. Stereotypes are a fact. Young scientists need to know that gender, but also any other attributes that could trigger discrimination, should not prevent them from achieving goals and having a career in science. Structural and social barriers need to be abolished. Female scientific excellence needs to be further communicated. We need more role models! Women next door that are great scientists! They are out there! Furthermore, science needs to be more attractive in general: introducing science to kids at school, as well as providing them with incentives to explore future career opportunities could be a few ways to be followed towards this direction.


You can contact Vasso via Twitter and LinkedIn.