Dr van den Boogaard with two research assistants in Sierra Leone.

Dr Vanessa van den Boogaard authors best political science PhD in Canada 

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Photo: Dr van den Boogaard conducting fieldwork with research assistants in Sierra Leone.

ICTD Research Fellow Dr Vanessa van den Boogaard has won the 2021 Vincent Lemieux Prize in recognition for authoring the best PhD thesis in political science in Canada.

Awarded by the Canadian Political Science Association, the prize honours “the best PhD thesis submitted at a Canadian institution, in English or in French, in any sub-field of political science, judged eminently worthy of publication in the form of a book or articles.” 

According to Dr van den Boogaard, “it’s an incredible honour to receive the Vincent Lemieux Prize…I am deeply grateful to the jury and to everyone that supported my PhD journey at the University of Toronto, the ICTD and beyond.”

She thanks her advisor Professor Wilson Prichard, CEO of the ICTD, for “over a decade of mentorship and support” as well as her committee and readers: Kanta Murali, Lucan Way, Antoinette Handley, and Pierre Englebert. 

In her dissertation, Dr van den Boogaard explored informal taxation and state-society relations in Sierra Leone. Her work constitutes a novel approach to understanding revenue generation mechanisms in low-income countries, as it extends the analysis of taxation and the state beyond formal systems and captures the informal dynamics of public finance that affect the majority of citizens in such contexts.

In their feedback, Vincent Lemieux judges refer to Vanessa’s dissertation as “an excellent empirical project that includes an original survey and hundreds of interviews,” stating she had “argued with rigour and clarity, and presented in a way that makes it interesting and accessible to diverse audiences in political science.” 

Informal taxation in Sierra Leone and beyond

Dr van den Boogaard’s thesis builds on research that she began prior to starting her PhD as a Research Officer with the ICTD, published in papers on taxpayer’s experiences and perceptions of informal taxation in Sierra Leone as well as informal payments and brokerage in cross-border trade.

In recent years, her research has been published in the Journal of Borderlands Studies (2021), African Affairs (2019), the Journal of International Development (2018), Politique Africaine (2018), and African Studies Review (2017). She now co-leads the ICTD’s research programme on informality and taxation, and has conducted further work on informal taxation in markets in Ghana and in south-central Somalia

In addition to being a Research Fellow at the ICTD, Vanessa is a Senior Research Associate at the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy (University of Toronto). In 2020, she was named one of the TaxCOOP’s 35 leaders of the future which recognises the most promising young tax policy enthusiasts who contribute to the advancement of taxation and tax justice. 

Dr. van den Boogaard also expressed deep gratitude to everyone in Sierra Leone who gave her time and participated in her research, along with all the research assistants who provided her with support. She also announced that the prize money from this award will be given to Fourah Bay College in Freetown, Sierra Leone in the form of a scholarship for young Sierra Leoneans to pursue studies in the social sciences. 

Dr Wilson Prichard, CEO of the ICTD and Vanessa’s Phd advisor said, “The work that Vanessa has done for her PhD, and for the ICTD more broadly, has been truly remarkable: original, path-breaking, underpinned by a wealth of knowledge, and deeply rooted in the communities in which she has worked. It is wonderful to see her contributions recognised through this richly deserved prize, and we are enormously grateful for her continued contributions and leadership at the ICTD.”

See Vanessa’s research publications here and her blog posts here.

Image credit: © Vanessa van den Boogaard