25 THE PHD DEFENCE text TIM FICHEROUX photo LEVIEN WILLEMSE
Don’t read this article (or do so, anyway) Domino Determann looked into discrete choice experiments, a research methodology designed to determine how people make comparative assessments between alternatives. On Wednesday, 28 September, she will be awarded her doctorate at Erasmus MC for a dissertation entitled Discrete Choice Experiments for Health Policy: Past, Present, and Future.
magine you’re seated next to your uncle at a birthday party. How do you explain to him in a few sentences what your research was all about? “For instance, everyone has to choose a health insurance company once a year, which involves weighing the pros and cons of various health insurance plans. My research replicated these considerations by giving people a choice of two different health insurance plans. If an insurer understands what people value when picking a plan, he will be better able to create a product which meets the consumer’s requirements.” How will the world benefit from your dissertation? “Oh, I don’t know... When I applied for my PhD position, I had the following idea: what is important to the patient? Which struck me as an extremely useful research proposal. In hindsight, I think that many people – including myself – get PhDs for themselves. I won’t say that my research isn’t useful, but on the other hand, I did not exactly discover a new drug to treat cancer, either. At the end of the day, it is mainly about getting published and getting a decent h-index, which measures the impact of your publications. It will take quite a bit more work for your research actually to be noticed by others.”
What was the absolute low point of your research in these last few years? “Research never pans out the way you’re expecting. Something will happen that will play havoc with your plans. In my case, it was a delay in obtaining some of my data. I was expecting to finish something by September, but couldn’t get started on it until February. That wasn’t a nadir, per se, but it was the most frustrating aspect of the last few years.” How did you reward yourself once you had completed your dissertation? “That’s one of the weird things about getting your doctorate: you have this big party after four years’ work. You don’t get that in any other job. I have not yet had my celebration. I’ll have it once my final article has been accepted for publication and once I’ve defended my dissertation. After that, my boyfriend and I are going on a tour of the major national parks in the western United States for three weeks.”
“The cover was my father’s idea. He is an art school graduate who has read all my articles. Because of our personal relationship, I wanted him to design something. The text, Don’t read this dissertation (alternatively: choose to do so), is a good reflection of how discrete choice experiments work.”