After leaving the US by the end of July, I spent two weeks in Madrid, Spain for holidays. I always love to go back home and visit family and friends.

Regarding the studies of my PhD, that is, learning how cities can develop their economies or not, I found always interesting that when I go back to home my ideas hardly come. That is, when I have visited North and South America, Japan or different European cities, automatically ideas about economic development pop-up, however when I am at home the ideas kind of freeze. It is not that they completely evaporate, but I can tell they simply come much more slowly. In one way it is because I know more about Madrid and its surroundings, but in another way I believe in the saying “ignorance is a bliss”. Then I wonder if it is easier to innovate when you’re out of your comfort zone. I hope you know what I mean.

I have been back in Denmark for two weeks, I had a lot of paper work waiting for me, 4 papers, and projects too. Everyone asks me about my experience in UC Berkeley, and I have to make two minor presentations with the phd students and the Geography group. Being in Berkeley was a great experience, but it’s also nice be back at home (now Denmark).

Most of the academic things are going ok, yesterday I submitted a working paper for a workshop and this next week. This paper involves some healthy academic risks. Soon I will also resend another paper, that a top journal rejected on the basis on the opinion of one of the referees.

Almost every day I spend some minutes on Twitter. It is an interesting tool. I have now 129 followers. I don’t know if they really like it. For me I only use Twitter to take notes of things that can be somewhat related to my studies, and sometimes as my life as phd candidate.

I really enjoy having Birgitte Gregersen as my main supervisor, which is currently the Head of the Department. For other projects related to the university some have not been doing that good, for example, I wanted to get some funding for a project collaborating with some colleagues from University of Barcelona, but it seems it won’t be possible now. I do not know too much of major fund applications, and being abroad, has limited me to work with my co-workers at Aalborg, as we say Geography matters.

On a note on my personal life, our daughter turned 1, and she’s a great walker. This Saturday we’re moving to downtown. This will require more biking from me, which is not that bad, and will also help my wife having things closer, also from her work. We’re excited to live downtown, although we’re going to miss good neighbors. Again geography matters :)

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I’m writing from Denver, which is a really nice city! In a couple of days I will be flying back to Europe, finishing my semester in the U.S.

I’m here in Denver because the AAEA Conference. It’s the first time I’m attending. It’s not highly pertinent to my research, but it has some interesting issues, like rural policy or regional development. Some quantitative research atmosphere is always good.

This morning I went to a session  in which they gave some tips to young researchers to publish a paper. They gave many ideas, following there are a few that I found interesting. Some I have tried to do, other I have to improve. I also mix some other ideas I heard in the past. I’d like to share to the ones who read my blog.

  1. What’s your story? The punch line.
  2. Show the hook early in the first paragraphs.
  3. Be careful to beat the dead horse (how novel is to criticize X?)
  4. When you think the paper is finished. Wait a week, and come back to it.
  5. When you think the paper is ready to send. Read it twice.
  6. Listen to reviewers advice (after a few days when you’re not mad)
  7. Do take intellectual risks
  8. Find out the interest of the literature (especially of the journal chosen), but not be uncritical.
  9. Have a journal on mind before start writing.
  10. Less effective approach “I found this cool methodology, and I want to try with a different database”.
  11. More effective approach: “Find a good research question. You don’t need a hard model, simple things that are interesting, like the Freakonomic guys”.
  12. Cover letters: if you want to make one, 3 sentences are fine.
  13. As an editor I will give a paper a second opportunity. Only in two occasions, one, if the problem they’re trying to solve is very interesting, and two, if there is a famous name.
  14. Different journals. Simple blind: only reviewers see your name. Double blind: neither the reviewers or you see their names.
  15. The second reviewer “bad cop” it’s a myth. If one says the paper is good, and the other one trashes it, that should be a coincidence.

At the end I gathered with some PhD students (or grad students how they call them in the US) we were joking that the funny thing was that the main idea was: “guys, you need to make a good paper”… Which is of course… more than obvious.

I hope some of these things work, for the papers I have in the pipeline.

“Effective economic development strategies must be customed-designed to meet the unique strengths and opportunities of local and state economies”.

Luke, Ventriss, Reed & Reed argue on page 175, as the editors of the book Managing Economic Development – A guide to State and Local Leadership Strategies (1988). My first impression when I read this, is the striking resemblance of what I must have written a few years ago for a paper conference or project. That is, one should be careful with the ‘one size fits all’ approach than many economists have. I completely agreed with that. That is… agreed. Because now I’m kind of skeptical of this local oriented approach that treats all communities if they were in the same line of the race track.  I keep reasoning in my head:

For example, in the case of Vallejo, they can make the best possible study looking at their financing, regulation, infrastructure, public services, human capital, etc… to tackle their Local Economic Development (as the mentioned book does in chapter 9).  However, no  matter what these cities do, their options will be very limited because theyir economy is quite dependent on the city-region (the San Francisco Bay Area), State of California, etc.

I think to my self that reviewing this book is not going to be very helpful. I keep reading;

“ (…) As a result of the growing economic interdependence, there has been a significant decline in state and local governments’ capacities to unilaterally develop an implement economic development policies and programs. No one government department or individual public manager can effectively act single handedly. This situation forces the invention of new collaborative mechanisms and collective development strategies.
Successful economic development strategies not only precipitate from an intergovernmental contest of cities, counties, COG’s (Council of Governnments), and state and federal agencies, but also emerge from intersectoral collaboration between the public, private, and non profit sectors. Each sector depends on the vitality of the other (…)”

This book is better that I though!, this are so much in line with one of my working papers!. Let’s continue.

“In such an interconnected policy context, a new type of public leadership is required – catalytic leadership. Chapter Eleven examines this trend and shows how, unlike charismatic leadership, which rallies people around the leader’s vision, catalytic leadership facilitates cooperation among a group of leaders and stimulates the pursuit of a goal that is created collectively by the group”.

A pretty nice book, with good complementary articles.

Again, I remembered that one should never judge something for the first paragraphs one reads. Specially from old fellows…

[I wrote this text on April 13, while flying from San Francisco to the 2010 AAG Conference in Washington D.C.. This topic has little to do with my blog and phd research, but I’d like to share]

Yesterday I attended to a LAHMBA (Latino and Hispanic MBA’s ) conference. This was mainly organized by students from the MBA program at the Haas School at Berkeley. Even though it was the first time organized it was supported by important sponsors and the speakers were good. There were roughly 80 participants. Hopefully these conferences will keep going on in the future.

I enjoyed the conference. There are many things that I have learned. Even though I sneak out sometime, to get a few books at the Business and Economics Library.

Right now I’m on the plane flying to D.C., for the AAG 2010 Annual Meeting. So I have time to write. There are two anechdotes that I will like to share. So I will make two posts. The first one is about the sad misunderstandings within the higher education students.
In the organizing web they had a survey in which it was asked: What is the most important issue in Latin America today?

I wanted to see the results, for what I had to vote. It took me a while to decided, but then I voted for Education. The results were:

• Education (41%)
• Economy (23%)
• Politics (19%)
• Safety (17%)

I was gladly surprised that the majority of the voters also had chosen this option, which can be categorized as less business and politics oriented.

I meet really good people yesterday. Unfortunately, there is not too much relationship between these business students and the rest of the student body. What is more unfortunate is that there are basic misunderstandings between the groups of students.

As I grew up in my hometown, I always considered myself leaning towards the left. [I found interesting though, that later in my life, mainstream Americans have accused me of being in the extreme left, while mainstream Europeans have accused me to be too much in the right.] But going back to my high school years, when I said to my friends that I was going to enroll in the Business and Economics School, many were surprised that I would choose such as “right-wing” approach. My mother, who grew up in Spain disliking the dictatorship of Franco, suggested me to answer my friends with humor: “well, we should not let all the right-wing control the Economics”. And that’s how I tried to convince my best friends, that I was still the same guy, even if I was going to study Business.

To illustrate the story, during my senior year at high school and Anarchist friend of mine, while walking outside the Business School, informed me that some economists studied how to calculate the price of the life of the workers, during the exploitation process they put the workers through. I could barely believe it, and fortunately it was something that I have never had to hear. But this explains a little bit the missunderstandings that some people have on our studies. Of course she was kind of shocked when she found out that I wanted to study “how to exploit workers”.

Going back to the issue of categorizing the students of Business and Economics as “right-wing” is something that even though in many cases might be true the generalization has kind of upset me. The guys that I met yesterday, they might be as well have this type of approach, but this does not mean that they are not concerned for the well being of their cities, regions and nations. In contrast, other students I have met, that from their different origins that the businesses students one could suppose that they could be more motivated to fight towards stronger “economic justice”, however they are either quite apathetic towards this issue, or they only criticize instead of proposing feasible solutions.

All in all, I just feel bad that there is a bias across the different student groups. Because it’s also true that sometimes people in Economics and Business studies they look with disdain other disciplines. They could learn a lot from each other. The University leaderships could work towards stronger collaboration among students in different disciplines. This for sure would create the needed innovation many universities require. But of course, the university leadership also have their biases.

Solution? Politicians should forget about politics and make things work. Utopia? Yeah, pretty much.

On April 1st 2008, I officially started my PhD student and research contract. So it has been two years since then. When my wife and I decided that I would enroll as a PhD student, we were living in my hometown Madrid, working for the private sector. It was a hard decision, as we love living in Spain and we were doing good. Maybe I could define it as a sacrifice, that is, giving up something good for something better. Supposed to be, at the end of the road I would have a PhD degree that would allow me the possibility to work for education. I guess it is the “neighbor’s yard is greener” effect.

I started my research and I got introduced to a complete new life. It’s hard to explain. Maybe one of the best ones to explain it is Jorge Cham with his comics, jokes that only researchers can understand, and that actually they’re not that funny. Although from my experience not as stressful as in the private sector, still is a stressful life, in which you by doing your math you know that there are very little positions in academia. In a few years, to have to make one perfect shot (phd thesis) or a few good shots (journal papers). Your supervisor is crucial for your success or failure. And also of course is extremely important how you develop your topics.

In my case all topics are related to Economic Geography theory. I had to research on several concepts such as Local & Regional Economic Development and Entrepreneurship. I also had to research the controversial concept of Experience Economy. The first two topics I love to study, a long with Innovation, Business, Economics and Policy (all quite related among them). The Experience Economy has become an interesting case, not so much for its actual academic relevance, but how it became part of my required issues to research.

I loved learning about these issues because I care about people. Now it’s the people of the municipality of Frederikshavn, Denmark (where I work for); but it could be the people of Spain (where I’m from) of Northern California (where I temporary live), or Latin America (where my father is from).

More than 10 years ago, when I was deciding what to study, my preference was Political Science. However, knowing that one day I would have a family to sustain, I didn’t think I could afford studying that. Most of the time I have always kept working in several jobs or starting businesses, but I wisely decided to enroll at the school of Business Studies & Economics. My main motive was to learn about the countries economic development*. That was in the late 90’s, now in 2010, after studying in various universities, a bachelor, a masters and a couple of years of full time PhD, reading and listening many wise people, I still have the same interest: Learn about economic development. It has evolved from a national perspective to a local-regional perspective, but in essence is the same.

Sometimes I think that the more I learn, I understand the less, but I should not be that negative. I have learned many things, even though it’s a controversial and highly complex topic.

So far I have a few clear ideas. Simple, but I am happy about them. During the next year I will test them. Unfortunately I can not openly write about them here. But if you’re interested about these topics, we can talk whenever you want. Now my email is carlos9900@berkeley.edu or carlos@plan.aau.dk

*All students from different disciplines think, people only study business & economics to become rich. That’s not my case, nor for the majority of people I have known.

Arrival to California

February 5, 2010

After beating the jet lag, I had plenty of things to settle in. Regarding practicalities we made sure we had a place to live in, buy a car (which hopefully I can sell in 6 months), get a phone, etc. Work related I visited campus, and after all the paperwork I’m a fully University of California (UC) Berkeley visiting student researcher. The campus is cool compared to European standards. People are super nice.

This first week I’m staying close to Sacramento, with some good friends. This is because the house where we’re staying the renters don’t leave until the 6th. But this week has been good to orient my self, even I had to drive some miles.

I’m looking forward to start meeting the faculty and more PhD students, as so far I have only met a few.

See you later Aalborg

January 28, 2010

2 weeks ago I came from my Christmas holidays from Japan. I have spent to hectic weeks here at Aalborg. Meeting with part of the Reference Group at the local government in Frederikshavn, examining students, attending the DRUID Winter PhD Conference, prepare my work for Berkeley and wrap up everything here. It’s sad to leave my colleages and work at Aalborg, but I’m also excited for the opportunity in California. All this travelling has been stressing though as tomorrow we’re leaving. I’m so happy my wife and little baby have so much patience with me.