Professor Jennifer Rubin
Professor of Public Policy
Deputy Director and Director of Analysis
The Policy Institute at King’s
Date started at King’s
Challenges and achievements
When and what was responsible for you becoming interested in your academic discipline?
As an undergraduate I took a course taught by Professor Joni Lovenduski on gender and politics and began to see how policies shape and constrain people’s experiences and life chances. That’s when I realised that it’s worth doing research that rigorously assesses the context, shape and implications of policy and practice so that decisions about complex societal challenges can be as informed as possible and hopefully achieve better outcomes.
What are your research interests, and what drew you to this area?
My main research interests are improving outcomes in the criminal justice system, changes in and measures to address intolerance towards others and extremism, and the relationship between public health and other areas. These are interesting because they are all complex areas that are consequential to people’s lives, and in which many of the challenges are tractable, in that they are amenable to being addressed through changes in policy and practice. My other main interest is the role of social investment in funding and achieving improvements in what have traditionally been considered public services.
Tell us about a couple of your achievements that have been particularly rewarding.
It has been especially rewarding to work closely with senior policy makers, building trust and understanding of the challenges they face, and providing analysis that helps them see their choices and decisions in new ways. Doing policy research in this way takes you into fascinating areas while doing research that has clear applications and implications. A concrete example is having the opportunity to work with the Chief Medical Officer, Dame Sally Davies (also a Professor!) who is a great proponent of research-informed policy and decision making and who is a dynamic, incisive person with whom to work.
Do you have professional role models? Who are they and what do you find inspiring about them and their accomplishments?
I have many professional role models, including (to name just a few) Professor Joni Lovenduski, Aileen Murphie of the National Audit Office, Dame Sally Davies our Chief Medical Officer, Dr David Halpern, Professor Jonathan Grant and Susan Marquis, Dean of the RAND Graduate School. They all share certain characteristics: they are driven to improve the world around them, incisive but open-minded, challenging and often very good fun. I find them insipiring because they have all done research and/or brought about changes that make a contribution, leaving the world and the people in it better off and more knowledgeable.
What if any support has most benefited you in your career?
There have been several points in my career when a mentor has had confidence in my ability to do that next thing and encouraged me to do so – whether it was to win a scholarship to get a PhD, to apply for a position, to take a step up to run something, or to grow an institution. Seeing myself through the eyes of others who know me well and trust in my ability has been an important way of keeping perspective and making career challenges seem less challenging.
What do you feel is the most enjoyable/rewarding aspect of your job at King’s?
Having the opportunity to work with exceptionally bright, dedicated people who work hard and enjoy their work is a great privilege. In the Policy Institute this includes research and engagement with brilliant current and former policy and decision makers in our Policy Circle which contributes to a stimulating, fun and rewarding environment.
How do you balance the various demands of a career in academia: research, teaching/learning, administration?
I find that balancing competing demands and time pressures is best done with a team. When a group of people works well together there is usually someone who can jump in to help at a particular crunch point. Hard work and long hours are an important part of the solution, but for me those too are often best done with others – working with others keeps me organised, is good for motivation, and ensures that humour plays a part.
How do you balance an academic career with life outside the workplace?
Balancing work with the rest of life is a perennial challenge on which I’m not sure I’m best placed to comment. Doing something I love and find very interesting means that my family understands why work is important to me. Having said that, it works both ways: I’ve chosen to work with people who understand how important family life is to me, and many of my colleagues also feel this way. So it’s always possible to work around parents’ evenings and other home commitments, and of course to drop everything when necessary.
What have you learnt from your experiences that you would like to share with others?
I’ve learned that doing work you find meaningful and enjoy is conducive to excellent work and exciting achievements. I would encourage others to seek areas and types of work about which they care deeply and in which they are happy when immersed. When you find those areas, if you’re lucky, then you also find like-minded people with whom to share that work, and that is a great privilege.