Thriving on deep and supportive relationships

Scandinavian Karl Löfgren has been impressed by Victoria’s connections with government.

Associate Professor Karl Löfgren
Associate Professor Karl Löfgren, School of Government

Associate Professor Karl Löfgren initially thought the email inviting him to apply for a job in Victoria University of Wellington’s School of Government was spam.

“But when I realised it was real I was immediately interested,” he says. “New Zealand has always been seen as a laboratory for drastic transformative reforms in public administration, so I thought coming here would be a good teaching and research opportunity.”

Associate Professor Löfgren moved to Wellington in 2013 to take up his new role. He had previously held academic positions at the universities of Copenhagen and Roskilde in Denmark and at Malmö University in his native Sweden.

His research interests include the policy aspects of ‘electronic government’, which involves using information and communications technology to deliver government services; surveillance and data protection policy; new media and democracy; governance and policy implementation; and new forms of local democracy.

Coming to New Zealand saw Associate Professor Löfgren move into empirical research. 

For one of his first projects, he looked at whether policy workers in New Zealand made use of academic research. The study was sparked by conversations with Victoria Master’s students in public policy and public management who said they didn’t have access to research because it was held behind paywalls.

Intrigued by the students’ claim, Associate Professor Löfgren and colleague Professor Brad Jackson surveyed policy workers about how they used academic outputs such as library catalogues and online resources. They found most people did have access to academic output and did use the material they came across.

Associate Professor Löfgren hopes to carry out a future study following up the perceived lack of access.

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In a nutshell

My research matters because … We need to look at the changes in public sector and digital government with a critical eye before we accept them.

One of the inspirations for my research has been … All my students who constantly challenge my views and make valuable contributions to my knowledge base.

The best thing about my job is … The whole writing process where the existing body of knowledge is mixed with empirical data and arguments.

My career highlight so far has been … My appointment at Victoria University. I have been invited as keynote speaker to a number of international conferences, but that does not measure up to being recognised for your achievements in competition with other qualified people.

My advice to aspiring researchers is … To capture the mode and rhythm of being a researcher. It’s not a traditional job where you can plan the day and predict the outcome. Equally, it gives so much back in terms of intellectual stimulus and being at the forefront of our body of knowledge.