The Fridge

The real starting point of this work is – at least in part – a (pretty much) heated exchange between a researcher and a practitioner during the kick-off meeting of the project they are part of. It was a rainy day of December 2018 in Athens, when the (idealistic but naive) researcher suggested (took for granted) the possibility of setting up control groups as a baseline for the project’s impact assessment, the (more experienced and quite frank) practitioner asked what he should do with the people in the control group.

“Not much,” the researcher answered. “You actually shouldn’t do anything at all. They are the control group and they can’t take part in the program.”

“They can’t?”

“Not they can’t. We only need them for comparison so just keep them there.”

“Should we put them in the fridge?”

“In the fridge?”

“Yeah. Should we put them in a fridge till the project ends?”

“Kind of. But then we need to get them out and ask them to fill the questionnaire again.”.

Putting a man in the labor market

This story triggered the idea, that academic-practitioner collaborations could be well worth exploring. Due to the complementary human capital researchers and practitioners hold, these cross-profession collaborations make use of their respective and equally valuable comparative advantage. Essentially, when we apply basic economics principles to the case of academic-practitioner collaborations, the argument is that it may be cheaper for an individual (the more experienced and quite frank practitioner, for example) to obtain new capacity to produce through collaboration with someone (the idealistic but naive researcher we met earlier) who already has the required human capital than acquiring the needed knowledge from scratch, personally. Formal collaboration may indeed be a cost-efficient solution whereby academics gain the data needed to advance science and practitioners the scientific knowledge to legitimize, evaluate and, possibly, improve their practices.

Believe it or not, they say collaboration even put a man on the moon on July 12, 1969. The Apollo program involved engineers, scientists, and technicians from more than 20,000 companies and universities that working together achieved one of mankind‘s greatest successes. Throughout history, there have been abundant examples of scientists teaming up with practitioners (be they farmers, nurses or businessmen) and teamwork in managing an emergency remains a timely and relevant topic today if we think of the crisis initiated by the COVID-19 outbreak. More formal cross-profession collaborations such as participatory and action research or citizen science, however, seem to be a rather modern phenomenon, which is still poorly understood. A systematic examination is missing and could make a real contribution to optimizing these relationships. With this in mind, we have decided to conduct a study to analyze if and how the identities of academics and practitioners might be playing a role in some of the projects financed by the EEA and Norway Grant Fund for Youth Employment.

The projects at the center of this paper involve teams of researchers and career development professionals united in the fight against youth unemployment. Almost 51 years after President Kennedy asked NASA to put a man on the moon, academics and practitioners are struggling with what appears to be an even greater challenge: keeping a man on earth and putting him (or her) in the labor market.

We are interested in hearing about your experiences as part of a team, where academics and practitioners collaborate!

If you want to contribute, please contact


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