No teaching, but the work goes on
MY EDUCATION WEEK:BRIAN LUCEY, Professor of finance, Trinity College Dublin
This week is Trinity Week, culminating in the Trinity Ball, which means that teaching semester is over. Which, if one believes everything one reads in the papers, means that I and every other third-level academic is off work until the autumn. Would that this were so, but it remains a pleasant fantasy. No scheduled teaching means one can catch up further on the Sisyphean tasks of administration, research and student management.
Sunday evening is generally when both I and Mrs Prof, a primary-school teacher, organise our work week. She plans the weeks lessons; I outline my to-do lists and deal with any weekend issues.
As a college tutor at TCD one finds oneself dealing with all sorts of odd requests. This Sunday the fire to be fought is a student who has that weekend been given a chance to go on an internship in Singapore, very relevant to her degree, but this would entail missing examinations, and a decision is needed fast. I email her, she rings me, we talk and plot out a route to be tried on Monday morning.
Monday morning I stop off at Kildare FM en route to work, and talk for half an hour on both my new book, What If Ireland Defaults?, and on general economic issues. Local radio is a powerful force in Ireland, and too often ignored by commentators. Part of the job of all professors is to profess, and what better way than to discuss one’s works with the public – who, after all, pay a large chunk of my salary?
The remainder of the morning is taken up with finalising my thoughts on paper for my appearance on Wednesday at the Oireachtas subcommittee on European affairs, regarding the fiscal compact.
Monday is Trinity Monday, and as always there’s a great buzz in Front Square when the names of new scholars and fellows are announced. This year there are 103 scholars, a record, reflecting the exceptional quality of students we are privileged to have. The afternoon is taken up with finalising and submitting a paper to a US journal. Submission costs €125, and I decide to pay that myself rather than go into my research funds (where I divert my media earnings), which I use for travel for myself and for postgraduates.
I set aside time to talk to MSc finance students, but some exam issues mean that a number can’t make it. We talk anyhow to those that can make it and reschedule the rest. These are students who are to be under my supervisory wing throughout the summer as they undertake their dissertation, which accounts for a third of their degree.
I have 10 to manage but am also the general go-to person in the supervisory group for issues around data and statistical analyses beyond the norm, so I usually get to see most of the 50-plus students at some stage. The students will work on these projects for the summer and hand up the work in late August. Some projects are industry linked, others are pure research, others expanding on previous work. Of the 10 students I am supervising, three are Irish. It’s hugely challenging and enormously rewarding to work with the master’s students on their projects.
We get an update on the fundraising for the new business-school building (going surprisingly well given the times that are in it) and hear news that a new colleague has accepted (at lecturer level) the position in strategic management created when Prof John Murray died, 18 months ago.
I talk to a Finnish newspaper on the Irish banking collapse, and they keep asking the same question as all overseas commentators: why on earth did we do the bank guarantee? I have no printable answer.
The dean of students’ honour roll is announced, recognising students for nonacademic involvement in college life, such as volunteering and tutoring or mentoring second-level students in the inner city. Of the 400 honoured, 38 are business students. College is, of course, much more than classes, and the creation of rounded, socially aware business graduates is a good thing for the future.
The morning is taken up with attendance at the Oireachtas subcommittee, in the company of several others. We present our views on the fiscal compact. I concentrate on the effect on the financial markets; the others concentrate on the macroeconomics. We have a good round of questioning.
Afterwards I have lunch with Megan Greene, senior economist with Roubini Global Economics, who also attended the committee. Over lunch we have a lively exchange with some parliamentary researchers about the future of the euro.
I get pleasant news that a paper of mine has been accepted by a reasonably decent US-based journal.
Today involves sorting out the sessions for a large conference I run every year, with more than 150 papers in all areas of finance. As usual, in excess of 95 per cent of the papers are from overseas, and we expect about 200 delegates. Having run this for 10 years in Ireland, it’s probable that the conference will go overseas from 2013, as the lack of sponsorship from domestic financial institutions makes running it here increasingly difficult.
Despite having attracted Nobel laureates, attained significant international credibility and had the leading finance researchers in attendance each year, there is worryingly little commercial interest in pure knowledge.
This is in stark contrast to France and Italy, where the conference is bound for the next decade and where financial institutions are more than willing to interact from the very start with academia
I catch up with some PhD students, and we discuss how they will overcome some issues and publicise the research, and also discuss how to interact with an overseas financial institution that is funding one study.
I talk to a Norwegian academic who is researching the Irish banking crisis, and try not to be embarrassed when they note that not only did they not get anywhere in getting an interview with official sources but they didn’t even get a reply. We have a long way to go before we realise that sunlight is the best disinfectant.
Later in the afternoon I meet with the people from Orpen Press, which is publishing What If Ireland Defaults?, and we discuss a series of talks to be held in bookshops to push the debate that I and my co-authors, Constantin Gurdgiev and Charles Larkin, have opened with our book.
I spend the day working from home, as I try to do each week for at least a day. Knowledge work requires a brain and a computer. The physical location is of minor relevance, and research requires, for me at least, uninterrupted time to think and muse. So the attic it is, where I work to finish a paper on small-firm finance I am doing with a colleague in DCU, and another collaborative project on gold prices that involves researchers in the US and Australia. Although none of these will generate patents, they should, I hope, advance human knowledge a little bit.
This week I was . . .
I stream baroque or early church choral music when I’m writing or doing research. For walking and commuting, it’s 1970s and 1980s rock: Led Zeppelin, Thin Lizzy and Guns N’ Roses.
In the Shadow of the Sword by Tom Holland and Blue Remembered Earth by Alastair Reynolds.
The Good Wife (starring Julianna Margulies) and Homeland, two top-notch US series. Also Alcatraz.