Divides his time
It is possible to use the map to search för different countries and periods, showing how poverty changes in Africa.
Initially, he’s difficult to get hold of, Adel Daoud, associate professor in sociology in the Institute for Analytical Sociology (IAS), and newly elected to an association of leading young researchers in Sweden. It takes us three weeks to find a window of 45 minutes where we can hold a Zoom interview, with Adel in his office at home in Uddevalla. He divides his time between IAS in Norrköping, Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg (where he is an affiliated researcher), working remotely, and in-service travel.
When only a couple of minutes remain of the scheduled interview period, two completely new people join the Zoom call.
“Hello guys! Can you just hold on a minute. We’re nearly finished,” says Adel Daoud, and then explains:
“Sorry. They’re my next meeting – some students who are interested in doing an undergraduate project with us. I’ve got meetings scheduled all day, and forgot to create a digital waiting room.”
This researcher working at LiU and Chalmers was elected this spring to the Young Academy of Sweden, a prestigious position for young researchers from different scientific disciplines. The Academy provides a platform for researchers to meet, exchange experience and work together in outreach to influence developments in various areas.
The selection of members is based on excellence in their field of research, and a commitment to uniting research and society.
“It’s a great honour. It’s an amazing opportunity to get involved and influence research policy and international issues,” says Adel Daoud.
He describes his current work as a mixture of computer science, research into poverty, and more general social science. With a doctoral degree in sociology from 2011, he is today leader of the The AI and Global Development Lab, an interdisciplinary research group that is using artificial intelligence and satellite images to measure poverty in Africa.
Adel Daoud at a meeting of the Young Academy of Sweden.
The research group has drawn up digital maps in which developments in several African countries can be studied and analysed with respect to both time and position. The maps can be used to evaluate and compare the effects of poverty interventions, such as different forms of development aid.
“Why is poverty so widespread, even though our planet has the capacity to produce a surplus of many resources? For me, this is a fundamental question,” says Adel Daoud, who points out that we don’t have any satisfactory answers at the moment, despite extensive research into poverty in several scientific fields.
Could it be that the use of many scientific disciplines is itself one of the problems? Economists study poverty from their perspective, those working with international development from another, health researchers from a third, and so on. Adel Daoud brings up Dr. Hans Rosling, and makes it clear that he has huge respect for the man, but doesn’t share his optimism.
Rosling believed that things were going in the right direction, despite many reverses and challenges.
“And while it’s true that humanity has historically achieved an amazing economic development, I don’t believe that this has been unequivocal. If we are honest, we can’t actually say that we’ll still be here tomorrow. The climate is under threat, narcisists som Putin are starting wars – there are many factors that threaten a positive development.”
“This is why we must nurture what we have achieved, and unceasingly strive for improvement where this is needed.”
In his research, Adel Daoud tries to collect various perspectives on poverty and use knowledge and methods from different disciplines. As a researcher, he wants to occupy the borderland between different fields, which he finds both rewarding and challenging. Rewarding, since he can increase knowledge and explore new territory, but challenging in that few people have been here before and experience is limited.
Adel Daoud has a particular mission at IAS and LiU – to advance sociology research with the aid of computer science. Before taking up his present post in 2021, he was employed as researcher at the leading American university Harvard. He finds his international experience very positive – Swedish universities have much to learn from American ones. And vice versa.
“You can achieve much with a big ego, but it’s important that you can also collaborate. What is an ingrained Swedish tradition – to be envious of success – may in some situations spur you to greater efforts. I believe it's a matter of creating an environment in which we researchers can both compete and collaborate with each other, just as in sport.”
- To find out more about Adel Daoud and his work, you can tune into his podcast The Journeys of Scholars, available on YouTube and soon on Spotify. There, he interviews scientists about their pathway to success as a researcher.