“There are Always More Questions to be Asked” ‒ 5in10 with Neus Vidal Martí
Neus Vidal-Martí is a political scientist and journalist. She is currently a Professor at the Open University of Catalonia, where she teaches data journalism, investigative projects and digital communications. She has worked in the United Kingdom and in Spain and has published in several international media outlets. In the academic year 2019/2020, she is a Fellow of re:constitution – Exchange and Analysis on Democracy and the Rule of Law in Europe, a joint programme of the Forum Transregionale Studien and Democracy Reporting International, funded by Stiftung Mercator. During her fellowship, she is working on her project “Transparency Laws in Europe”, in which she aims to understand the differences between European countries regarding the right to access public information.
What was intriguing to you when you were a child? What is it that you always wanted to know about the world?
It is extremely hard to pick just one thing because everything intrigued me. I was a very curious child who was constantly asking why things happened and trying to find the right explanation for everything I wanted to know. I eventually decided to become a journalist, so asking questions is now part of my job. My profession has given me the chance to understand many of the issues that intrigued me as a child but there are always more questions to be asked.
How do you explain your current research project to your students?
I am working on a project about the right to request public information. In the past decades, most European countries have implemented Freedom of Information Acts or Transparency Laws. However, these pieces of legislation do not guarantee the same rights in all countries and each state has its own Transparency Law. In practice, this means that European citizens do not have an equal right to access information. This is extremely relevant in a region like Europe, in which countries have many financial, social and political ties with one another. The main goal of my research project is to understand the differences between European countries regarding the right to access public information by sending the same information requests to several states and comparing the answers.
Which stations of your academic journey were particularly formative to you?
There have been many but studying abroad was a turning point in my career. I moved from Barcelona to London to study a Master’s degree in Investigative Journalism and I spent some time working in the city’s newspapers after graduating. After a few years working in Spain, I decided to go back to the United Kingdom to pursue a PhD in Politics. Being surrounded by interesting colleagues in such an international environment was key to my academic and personal development.
How are you ‘doing’ research? What are your most important research methods?
I use both qualitative and quantitative methods. I started my career working as a journalist and I like to use the investigative skills I learnt then for my academic research. Interviews are extremely important for my projects but so is data analysis and legal reading. My research is very practical and permanent contact with everyone involved in the process of requesting public information – from NGOs to civil servants and academics – is absolutely essential.
Which publications or academic events (workshops, conferences, lecture series…) inspired you recently?
It is very hard to choose just one event or publication because there are so many interesting ones! I believe the most useful conferences are the interdisciplinary ones that bring together people from different backgrounds. As a journalist interested in cross-border investigations, I never miss the European Investigative Journalism Conference in Mechelen, Belgium. There, I have met many international colleagues from different backgrounds and I also came up with a project idea which then became my thesis topic
Citation: “There are Always More Questions to be Asked” ‒ 5in10 with Neus Vidal Martí, in: TRAFO – Blog for Transregional Research, 09.03.2020, https://trafo.hypotheses.org/23010.