2024. April 15., Monday
Szegedi Tudományegyetem Szent-Györgyi Albert Orvostudományi Kar

University of Szeged
Albert Szent-Györgyi Medical School
Foreign Students' Secretariat

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Women Scientists - SZTE Professor Bettina Pikó on the list of the world's leading scholars

Research.com has compiled an international list of the most highly cited scientists in 26 disciplines. 18 Hungarian researchers in the field of psychology, including 1 researcher from the University of Szeged, have made it to the list. The latter one is Bettina Pikó, Professor at the Albert Szent-Györgyi Medical School, SZTE.

On the occasion of the International Day of Women and Girls in Science on 11 February, we asked her about her favourite topics and working methods. The professor, who holds a degree in both medicine and sociology, is the youngest female researcher from Szeged to have earned a place on Research.com's international ranking.

How can a scientist make use of her top ranking?

There are many different rankings to measure research excellence and publications are listed in many different places. They can be used as a benchmark, provide feedback on the effectiveness of previous work, motivate further research and help with networking. This is how I have developed a good working relationship with, for example, Kevin M. Fitzpatrick at the University of Arkansas and Dianna T Kenny at the University of Sydney. I believe that women can also find role models on these lists.


What does the number of 175 English-language publications listed on the research.com list mean for a social scientist in Hungary?

The big dilemma for Hungarian researchers is whether to publish only in English or also in Hungarian. Hungarian researchers tend to give up bilingual publication fast since Hungarian journals and papers are not registered properly, so your publications are practically non-existent. But if we don't publish, we won’t develop the language of science in our mother tongue. In addition, we are letting journals go to waste, such as the journal of the Hungarian Association on Addictions, which was founded in 1993 and discontinued in 2003. I believe that in the scientific field it is important to measure yourself against both national and international scientists and to publish in both English and Hungarian. The topics that I research, such as new developments in the field of public health, should be published in Hungarian as well, so that health educators and teachers can be informed of new findings.


According to research.com, your fields of interest are psychosocial, developmental and clinical psychology, as well as mental health and injury prevention. How has this diversity developed?

I graduated in medicine from the University of Szeged. Then I worked at the Department of Public Health. Later I became interested in research methodology and I earned a second degree in Sociology. I still utilise the knowledge I gained there. I turned to health psychology when I worked together with Mária Kopp.


What is your experience in publishing in the humanities and medicine?

I enjoyed the paradigm shift; it was a great experience for me to study sociology as a doctor at the University of Szeged. I was pleased to find that while in natural sciences a new discovery usually wipes out previous research results, this is not the case in the humanities. For example, the validity of Plato's ideas or Durkheim's results are not necessarily erased by a novel idea or new data, and in this field results build on each other. It was after the political changes in Hungary that humanities scholars were able to enter the international arena. I saw this as an opportunity. In natural sciences, researchers tend to work and publish as a team, but as a health psychologist, I was pleased to learn that people working in social sciences can typically do their own research and publish their results independently, without any co-authors. I enjoy working alone, but I also enjoy seeing my students become my peer researchers.


Researchers in natural sciences generally 'look down on' those who study the humanities, questioning the rigorous nature of their methods. On the other hand, those who write monographs on their own, ’look down on’ natural scientists who publish multi-authored articles of a few pages long as ’novelties’. What does a researcher balancing on the borderline between the two disciplines have to say about this?

Natural sciences also use statistical methods, i.e. their results are based on probability as well. Natural sciences do not see the big picture, only details, as if they were peering through a tube at reality. What they can see is accurate, but it is only a part of reality. That is why they have to emphasize with every new result that it is ’to the best of our knowledge’. It should also be noted that the methods of social sciences have evolved a lot. If the sample is well chosen and the limits of the research are defined, the conclusion or generalisation that can be drawn is valid. Natural scientists looks only at the ’facts’, whereas humanities scholars analyse these ’facts’ from different angles. Therefore, it is not natural scientists but philosophers who are closer to critical thinking.


What research topics that are you currently focusing on?

I'm interested in the work of one of my PhD students on young people with attention deficit disorder. My research topics are online social support, social media addiction and peer comparison. We have shown that social media is not clearly good or bad. It is true that social media has opened up many new opportunities for people, as we can acquire knowledge and get help by looking online. But real social relationships are being destroyed by an over-presence on social media. The network of online relationships can ease the symptoms, but it does not solve problems such as loneliness. Only social science, not natural science, can shed light on the pitfalls of the new and much celebrated technology.


You are said to be working very hard. How would you describe your working method, which has resulted in 175 publications and 6,900 citations, making you the 7069th psychology researcher in the world, and the 16th among Hungarians?

I work the same way as my fellow researchers in America. When looking into a topic, I usually choose online surveys. This way I can reach groups hidden from other approaches. For example, we used this method to study young people with attention deficit disorder. If you have a good choice of sample and answers to a properly compiled set of questions, the analysis of your data will provide the basis for a summary, i.e. for publication. At the same time, I am also involved in disseminating knowledge: sometimes via Facebook posts, more often via presentations.


Are you an owl or a lark?

At 8 in the morning I'm already working on my research topics. At midday or in the early afternoon I give my university lectures. In addition to the ’Introduction to Medicine’ course, I also meet students at the lectures in Medical Anthropology, and I also have a course on addiction. At the Department of Behavioural Sciences we also apply modern scientific methods, such as project work. From late afternoon I can concentrate on research again. Based on my schedule, I don't know whether I am an ’owl’ or a ’lark’, but I prefer to relax in the evenings.


How much time do you have for other things, like hobbies?

Research requires a full person, it cannot be taken lightly. You could say that for me, research is also a hobby. I like to go out in nature to recharge my batteries. I really like the area around the rivers in Újszeged. Thanks to my 3 rescue cats, I have a soft spot for stray animals. Also, it is important to have a sound mind as well as a sound body through relaxation or self-hypnosis.

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