'I have learned to take one step at a time and to have an open approach to possibilities.'

The KNAW Early Career Awards have been conferred for the second time on twelve talented young researchers. Meet award winner Vigjilenca Abazi. Her research focuses on the subject of whistleblowing. Why is her research important?

My research seeks to empower voices of public interest. In the complex world we live in, holding powerful actors accountable – whether governments, big tech companies, or the finance industry – requires new thinking. Traditional tools of transparency and checks often fail us. The most significant abuses of power, fraud, and corruption of the past decade came to light thanks to individuals who spoke up. However, defending the public interest comes at a high price for these individuals: they face retaliation, lose their jobs, and usually become ‘blacklisted’ with no prospect of working again in the same field, even if they had exceptional careers before blowing the whistle. My research offers ideas about shielding these voices through the advancement of law and legal protections.

How will you spend the prize money?

I am so deeply humbled by this unexpected award that, quite frankly, I have yet to think about how I will spend the prize money. My immediate reaction was to think ‘how can I use the prize money to support not just my own research but the research of other young scholars as well?’. As a woman and an ethnic minority with a background in the Western Balkans, I am also acutely aware of the many barriers that still persist in academia. I have felt supported throughout my education and academic career in the Netherlands with scholarships, great mentors and fair recognition of my work. I am passionate about passing this kind of support on to others and the award is an excellent chance to do so.

Where do you see yourself in ten years?

Continuing to contribute to society to the best of my abilities. I do not mean to be vague, but I have learned to take one step at a time and to have an open approach to possibilities.

KNAW Early Career Award

The Award, a sum of €15,000 and an art object, is aimed at researchers in the Netherlands at the start of their career who are capable of developing innovative and original research ideas. The winners are selected in four areas: humanities; behavioural, social and legal sciences; natural and technical sciences; and medical, medical-biological and health sciences.