Dr. Aneta Piekut

Aneta tells us how she loves to get lost in data and why she should be more like her Insta-famous dog.

a cute little dog with very big ears

Describe your job in three words
Researching, teaching, managing.

How long have you worked for The University of Sheffield?
It’s almost seven years (since September 2012). Before starting a lectureship at SMI in 2014, I was a postdoctoral researcher for a Living with Difference project investigating responses to social diversity in the UK and Poland.

What do you enjoy about the work you do?
I’m passionate about doing research and teaching students about the process of scientific discovery. My research is driven in my interest in migration and various forms of international mobility, and how moving across state territories impacts lives of people on the move, migrants themselves, and people who are sedentary, how they respond to immigration. Another favourite part about my work are international collaborations though my research projects and the IMISCOE network I’m part of, and related frequent travels.

What research are you working on now?
I am looking at patterns of non-response in large surveys, like European Social Survey (ESS). I am particularly interested in discovering who people are that do not reply to questions measuring social and political attitudes, such as opinions on immigration, and why. Are these true no-opinions, or rather people who hold more complex attitudes and find it difficult to fit their attitudes into the provided response categories?

Why is your research important? What are the possible real-world applications?
Usually, research focuses on people who answer survey questions. Meanwhile many respondents might not reply to some survey items, for example, app. 15-20% of respondents in some European countries do not answer questions about allowing in some minority groups to their countries in the ESS. Does it mean they do not have any opinion about that? Or prefer not to express it during the interview. If the latter – why? Even if we work with representative samples overall, some respondents choose not to answer a question about what they think about a policy, immigration, and their voting intention etc. – the estimates we obtain (such as percentage of support, who people will vote on) might be still biased if data missingness is not random.

Why is your area of scientific discovery important (or relevant) for the ordinary citizen of this country?
The exploration of non-response patterns is important because political actors and stakeholders use results of surveys and opinion polls to make policy decisions and they often inform debates. What if the picture they show is not fully right? In my other strand of research, I explore perceptions of immigration across Europe, how they differ across cross-nationally, and what is it about country context what could help in explaining this variation. Despite launching the European Agenda on Migration in May 2015, EU does not have one, coherent immigration policy, and its legal framework (as in most countries) still operates on the basis of simplistic, binary migration categories of ‘economic’ vs. ‘forced’ migration, or ‘highly skilled’ vs. ‘low skilled’ workers etc. The migratory reality is much more complex. If EU would like to consolidate its common approach to immigration, it is necessary to understand first why people perceive it differently.

What is your favourite thing about what you do?
Getting lost in Stata script and output tables.

If you could choose anyone, who would you pick as your mentor?
My dog Czarek - you can follow him on Istagram a rescue dog, migrant from Poland. He has a great work-life balance and cherishes small moments, like belly rubs or lying in a sunny spot doing nothing. I need to do that more!

What is currently on your bedside table?
‘Border: A Journey to the Edge of Europe’ by Kapka Kassabova about the border-zone between Bulgaria, Turkey and Greece. This is her personal memoir, emotional travel to her past, yet interwoven with stories about local folklore and cultures. It is a timely reading on how we define the borders and practice everyday bordering in times when Europe is strengthening its external borders, but also xenophobic sentiments are on the rise in a number of EU countries.

If you could learn to do anything, what would it be?
I guess cooking and driving would be quite handy.

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