Blog - Research

Meet our researchers: interview with Diego Galego

In the summer of 2021, we presented the Smart City Institute's research through a series of videos introducing our researchers, their background and  research areas. Since then, our team has evolved and we have welcomed new researchers. Among them is Diego Galego, who joined our team a few months ago. What if we introduce him to you? 

Blog - ITW Diego - Cecile - Image large
At the Smart City Institute, particular attention is paid to exchanges and relationships between team members. Cohesion is indeed our recipe for building synergies between our different activities and missions, but also, more broadly, between our research. This is why Cécile Caputo, responsible for training and administrative and financial coordinator of the institute, participated in a question-and-answer game with Diego, so that you could get to know him.
Diego Galego - Photo medaillon
  • Your arrival date at the SCI ? October 2022
  • Your position at the SCI ? Postdoctoral researcher 
  • Your home country ? I come frome Brazil
  • A fun fact about you ? Until 2017, I was a choir singer (tenor) at the Choir Voz Nua in Aveiro (Portugal) 
iconeInfo Google Scholar profile
iconeInfo Research Gate profile

Diego, to start with, can you tell us a little bit more about your background?

Certainly. At the beginning of my academic career, I obtained a Bachelor's degree in Philosophy in Brazil before starting a Master's  in Communication/Multimedia between Portugal and Italy. During my master’s study, I discovered the literature on Smart Cities, as during this period I was working on the subject of Smart Campuses . 

Since my experience as a high school teacher in Brazil, I have been convinced  that education is one of the main levers to change society. This conviction made me to decide in pursuing my academic career by completing  a PhD thesis in public policy and social sciences. I spent 4 years (three in Belgium at the KU Leuven Public Governance Institute and one in Portugal at the University of Aveiro) studying how social movements influence public policy-making.

In October 2022, a few months after defending my PhD thesis, I joined the Smart City Institute. In the meantime, I was also a research assistant at the University of Lisbon in the Centre for Public Administration and Public Policy.

* A smart campus is a concept derived from the smart city features that refers to integrating technology in a university campus to enhance students' learning and professors' teaching experience. The idea is to create a better exchange environment between students and professors through technologies such as the Internet of Things, virtual learning platforms (smart classrooms), mobile apps providing information about class schedules, campus maps, event calendars and others.

Can you explain why you decided to focus on the Smart City topic?

Today, our society is facing a whole series of unprecedented socio-political issues and challenges: climate change, health and energy crises, scarcity of resources, food supply, etc.; it is necessary and urgent to provide solutions. In this context the concepts of Smart City and sustainable urban development - the keywords I use in my research - offer interesting perspectives for making our society more sustainable with the involvement of multiple stakeholders.

And in this context, what is your research project at the Smart City Institute ?

As a postdoctoral researcher, I aim to combine the knowledge I have acquired in different fields of expertise throughout my educational background to study from different perspectives, a specific topic. My main interest is in the public policy-making process and, more specifically, the impact of different actors (mainly social movements and  civil society/citizens) on this process

In concrete terms, the policy-making process is commonly divided into 5 phases:
  1. Agenda setting
  2.  Formulation
  3. Decision making
  4.  Implementation
  5.  Evaluation

In concrete terms, how do you go about conducting your research?

At the Smart City Institute, I am conducting a systematic review of the existing scientific literature to identify at which phase(s) of the public policy-making process sustainable urban development policies are allocated. In parallel, I also identify the elements that hinder or facilitate the advance of sustainable urban development through the lenses of the policy-making process.

What is the implication of your research in other fields?

My research is of interest to policymakers in order to understand what is missing in public policies to promote sustainable urban development. Indeed, my research helps to identify and understand what strategies were deployed in different parts of the world to create sustainable urban development. Also, it identifies the importance of taking into account the context and territorial specificities (e.g. differences between the global North and South). In short, my research contributes to clarifying these nuances in how international public policy on sustainable urban development is created.

Moreover, public policy analysis is fundamental to many other disciplines, such as urban planning, geography, social movements, environment, etc.; fields  generally more directly interested in sustainable urban development.  In terms of actors involved  in this discussion civil society and citizens are often missing. Indeed, most of the time, governments create public policies according to what they think is appropriate for their territory, without consulting citizens about their needs and perspectives. However, it is necessary to look at how to involve and interact with these stakeholders and think about how to connect them to public policies and policymakers. In this line, my research expects to identify the barriers and facilitators  to promote public participation  by creating a framework to foster it.

What about your collaborations with other researchers? 

At the moment, I am working closely with several of my colleagues at the Smart City Institute. Firstly, with Pr. Nathalie Crutzen and Dr. Giovanni Esposito to create a research database consisting of a review of the scientific literature using the keywords "sustainable urban development" and to write a first paper about this topic based on the policy cycle framework.

Next step  will be to develop another paper involving other colleagues, like Dr. Jessica Clement, about the divergences  and convergences that can exist between the Global North and South perspectives about sustainable urban development by analysing specific cases. Finally, of course, I have talked  with other researchers of the Smart City Institute, such as Dr. Lama Alarda, who is also working on the Global South perspective, or with Benoit Ruysschaert, about the link between circular economy and Smart Cities in a city branding context. 

I also collaborate with other universities and research centres such as the Center of public administration and policy (ULB), the Public Governance Institute (KU Leuven), the Leuven Urban Studies Institute (KU Leuven) and with other researchers and professors in other countries (Ukraine, Belarus, Portugal, Mexico, Brazil, and Switzerland).

Pour le moment, je travaille étroitement avec plusieurs de mes collègues du Smart City Institute. Premièrement, avec le  et le   pour créer une base de données pour la recherche consistant en une revue de la littérature scientifique en utilisant les mots-clés « sustainable urban development » et d’en faire un premier papier sur base du cadre du cycle des politiques publiques.

As you know, at the SCI we also work a lot on how to enrich the fieldwork with our research. Can you tell us how you see the synergies between your work and more applied research?

My theoretical research could lead to collaborations and deliverables for applied research by developing more empirical research through, for example, discussions with associations and policymakers at local and regional levels  on specific topics to boost sustainable urban development in our case in Wallonia. 

It could also be envisaged to develop manuals, in a more accessible language, with guidelines for developing a public policy for sustainable urban development on the one hand, and for encouraging the involvement of the different actors in the policy-making process on the other. Other activities could also be organised to promote the results of this research, for example presentations, workshops, training programmes, etc.

To conclude: how do you see the years to come in doing research? 

Overall, I would like to see research in the public policy and administration field evolve towards greater clarity and, above all more significant societal impact.

From a more personal point of view, I have several more or less long-term objectives. Firstly, I would like to become a Professor of Public Policy. Secondly, I would like to stimulate collaborations between universities and  civil society in order to connect academic research to the practical field a bit more. At the same time, I would like to create a virtual university  to train  citizens in public policy in a more accessible way, via an online platform. 

Finally, in the short term, I will continue to develop my research and promote it through publications and international conferences.

A very last question: would you have one or two readings to recommend to our readers to start with Smart Cities?

Yes, of course! 2 articles come to mind quite quickly :

The first one is a paper published by colleagues from the Smart City Institute (Dr. R. Kummitha & Prof. Dr. N Crutzen) in 2017 under the title "How do we understand Smart Cities? An evolutionary perspective". This paper aims to understand how Smart Cities differ in their meanings, intentions and offerings. An excellent introduction to the subject! 

The second paper is entitled "Understanding 'smart cities': Intertwining development drivers with desired outcomes in a multidimensional framework" and deals with the concept of Smart City and its challenges and opportunities in the face of the global challenges facing our territories. This paper proposes a multidimensional framework that broadens the understanding of the Smart City concept beyond a purely techno-centric approach.

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