Photo: Magnus Hatlebakk

Researchers from CMI travel all around the world doing field work and studies. From time to time, students writing their master’s thesis at CMI will join them. Next week, CMI-student Thor Olav Iversen will go to Nepal together with researcher Magnus Hatlebakk. – Being able to draw on his experience gives me a totally different starting point, says Thor Olav Iversen.

Thor Olav Iversen, a master’ student at Chr. Michelsen Institute (CMI), will spend the next weeks in Tarai, in the south-eastern parts of Nepal. He is writing his master’s thesis on poverty traps and social discrimination at CMI, and is travelling to Nepal to do qualitative interviews and collect survey data among the Dalits in the area.

-The majority of Dalits is extremely poor and worse off than other Nepalese. Yet some of them manage to escape poverty. The collected data will provide insights into the dynamics of social mobility in this part of the population, says Iversen.

He is going to Nepal together with Magnus Hatlebakk, senior researcher at CMI. The student-researcher cooperation is not only reassuring to students heading for their first field work, it also yields potentially important synergies. The data from Thor Olav’s studies will be part of a larger research project on poverty dynamics in Nepal, led by Hatlebakk.


A win-win situation

Magnus Hatlebakk has comprehensive field work experience from Nepal. Ever since his first fieldwork in 1997 for his PhD he has been back to Nepal at least once a year. He works closely with researchers from the Tribhuvan University in Kathmandu as well as local research institutes, and has an extensive network in Nepal. These connections and contacts make Thor Olav’s field work easier.

When Thor Olav Iversen leaves Kathmandu and heads for the Nepalese countryside, he will be joined by two researchers from one of the capital’s research institutes. They will be in charge of collecting the survey data. He will also be accompanied by an interpretor.

Everything has been arranged in advance. He can start working the minute he gets off the plane in Kathmandu, and he firmly believes that being able to lean on Magnus’s contacts and to be included in a larger research project gives him a unique opportunity.

-It is rare for economics students to collect original data, and I sincerely doubt that I would be able to do something like this without the support of a senior researcher. The research project is far too ambitious to embark on for a mere student, he says.


Yields knowledge synergies

The student-researcher cooperation is also a unique opportunity to pass on knowledge and practical experience from years of research. For Magnus Hatlebakk, including master’s students in his research projects is a well thought-out decision.

-Working so closely with students enables researchers to pass on ways of thinking about development, and to ask critical questions. Being included in field work provides unique learning opportunities for students, he says.

Thor Olav Iversen is the seventh student going to Nepal with Hatlebakk. Possibly, the data collection and field work could also be the first step towards a career as a researcher.

-Some of the students obtain data that make their thesis truly original, says Hatlebakk.

Magnus Hatlebakk

Senior Researcher; Coordinator: Poverty Dynamics