Juan Fernández is Associate Professor of Sociology (Profesor Titular) in the Social Science Department at the University Carlos III of Madrid and earned his PhD in Sociology at the University of California, Berkeley in 2009. In this interview, Juan tells us about his role as a principal investigator in the DEEPEN-project, his background in (political) sociology, the inspiration he gets from working in a diverse team, why he thinks the DEEPEN-project is different than other research projects, and what he likes to do in his free time.
You are one of the principal investigators of the DEEPEN-project. Can you describe what your role is in the project?
I would say I have a double role in DEEPEN. As one of the principal investigators and the researcher in charge of work packages 3 (with Karen Anderson) and 4 (alone), I must ensure that we produce the best possible output regarding the core issues in those packages: (a) socio-economic effects of participation in funded schemes and (b) public attitudes towards these schemes and their governance. This sometimes involves coordinating the contributions of different research members and sometimes producing and interpreting evidence myself. My second role is to collaborate in the other work packages producing reports, collecting quantitative evidence and conducting qualitative interviews.
You wrote that your main area of research is political sociology and that your work has mobilized principles of new institutional theory, new cultural sociology, contemporary social stratification and rational action theory. Do you use those principles also within this project?
My background in political sociology and sociology more in general provides me a very broad outlook towards explaining social reality. In all my studies, I strive to utilize a multidimensional outlook and explore a given issue from many angles and the influence of many general forces. Hence, for instance, in my analyses of public attitudes towards pension programs I consider the role of economic conditions, personal values, existing regulations and personal relationships.
In the DEEPEN-project, you work together with people from many different countries? How is it to be part of such a diverse team?
It is a great source of information and of inspiration. By virtue of being exposed to different socio-political contexts, cultural environments and being part of different academic circles, the other members offer their own particular view and approach to the governance of funded pensions which leads to ideas I commonly find quite insightful and helpful for my own research. At the same time, since we are all social scientists, we use a similar epistemology and have similar interests, which facilitates the conversation.
You worked on multiple presentations, papers and other publications about pensions. What makes DEEPEN, in your opinion, different than other research about pensions?
Yes, I have produced several publications regarding pensions, yet all of my past output was about either public pension reforms or attitudes towards public pensions. This is my first project specifically regarding private occupational pensions. I am therefore quite excited to participate in DEEPEN and learn more about recent trends in this growing area of social provision.
And now the last question: you told us that you are married and have one daughter. How do you spend your free time together?
We like going to the movies and walking our dog, Boomer.