Enschede, June 2018

Paul’s mémoire


Paul was not only my PhD supervisor and mentor, but mainly a great inspiration and the person who would offer advice, listen to my ideas and often resolve my doubts. Throughout the three years that I have known him, he never ceased to surprise me. And while I have many, many stories and memories I could share, I would like to focus on just a few. Paul was into theatre – he was a great speaker, an actor and – I would say – often also the director of the world that surrounded him. Since the moment he found out that I myself had been acting since I was in school, this topic popped up at times. Thus, in the last stages of writing my thesis, he developed what he called a ‘novel way of giving feedback’ while trying to get across a very subtle message in the best way possible. What does that mean? I was surprised to find that his comments and recommendations regarding my texts became ‘stage directions’. Imagine finding a ‘BANG’ next to a paragraph that he considered rather dull and with the need for ‘an explosive moment’.

This is just a very small and personal example of the creative mind Paul had. I already miss developing new ideas with him, starting long lists of “what to write when Lisa’s PhD is over” and designing new papers and projects. I cherished the fact that Paul always found the time to meet me, even though both of us were never in the same place at the same time. Our supervision meetings happened in places such as airport lounges, on long train rides, in a HEMA café in Groningen, a McDonald in Lisbon, or in the Indian restaurants of Enschede, Linkoping and Bergen (where he was hoping to find food that reminded him of the Indian restaurants at home).

Paul was so much more than my academic supervisor because he cared so much. When my husband lost his job, he sent me job postings and invited him to his football team. When I became pregnant, he was cautious about not asking too much and always checked in on me. I am deeply sorry and sad that I will not be able to introduce Emilio to him at my defence – a meeting that we talked about the last time we saw each other. His death came out of nowhere. We had just talked on Skype a couple of days before, where he told me that he is spending much quality time with his family and rediscovering the region he is from. We even made post-doc plans for the future – a future that I had never considered before (staying in academia). He had a great impact on me and my life and I probably would not be where I am right now if it wasn’t for him. I already miss him deeply and I will keep checking my phone for a WhatsApp message from him for many more weeks to come.

My thoughts go out to Leanne, Theo and Martha


Paul was one of the best supervisors a PhD student could possibly have, to say the least. His mentoring style was excellent and supervisory activities were enormously detailed. He would always give sufficient feedback to my manuscripts. These feedbacks would usually entail 2-3 alternative scenarios on how the manuscript could further evolve and -of course – some elegant vocabularies that I had never heard before, which had urged me to note them down for future reference. In terms of time, he was quite efficient. I remember sending him almost 30 pages of manuscript and he would reply me the next day with the same file entailing comments in almost every single page. He would always have a time for a Skype meeting. Over the past 3 years, we have collaborated in a number of papers. It was truly a pleasure to work with him. He was incredibly democratic, and open to new ideas: He would always ask permissions before making any changes in the manuscripts and he would show no sign of theoretical or methodological nationalism, something that can commonly be found in academia.

Use of sarcasm in making a point clearer is another aspect of Paul’s mentoring style that I remember vividly. I have plenty of such memories. I can perhaps mention one briefly here. Once, we were working on a paper that focuses on universities’ contribution into rural development. We intended to submit it into a journal of which scope lies in rural development. We were having a skype meeting to discuss the manuscript. Paul were telling me that I should incorporate even more rural elements into the paper. I asked him “More rural elements? Isn’t this going to be a bit too much?” He replied: “Ridvan, I know the rural development academic community. We should not only incorporate more rural elements but we should perhaps also dress like farmers, take a photo of us and add to the manuscript” 🙂

Paul really cared about his PhD students and their future career options. He has recently suggested me that I should go for one of the long-term postdoctoral positions. We were already discussing where, future plans, papers, projects and many more. Apart from academic side, Paul was also a great friend with very diverse interests. It was such a pleasure to go for a drink with him and have a nice conversation. I remember that we would meet occasionally in the evenings for some hours. There was not any silent moment as the conversation was so interesting. From Newcastle United FC to politics in the Netherlands, from Brexit and beers to European societies. I will miss all of these moments terribly.


I will always remember Paul as an inspiring, committed and brilliant mentor, who genuinely took interest in others’ careers and wellbeing. I was fortunate to work with him while I was on research exchange at the University of Twente, and his hospitality never seized to amaze me. He openly shared his knowledge in heartfelt supervision meetings, whether it was a list of people to interview or the best places to visit in Enschede with the whole family. When he found out that deep down I am just a crazy horse lady who would, given the chance, spend all her time at the stables, Paul immediately googled local riding schools near UT so that I would not miss an opportunity to see for myself why Enschede is ”the horse region” of the NL. I’ve never seen anyone else always going the extra mile to make others feel appreciated like he did. Not to mention, that without his thorough, sharp but constructive feedback I would have never written my first research article nor finished my thesis on time. I wish to thank him from the bottom of my heart for everything he taught me over the past three years, and all the time he spent making our research – and vocabulary – better. I am utterly heartbroken that he had to leave us all so suddenly and it is an impossible task trying to capture everything he did and meant for us RUNINers. But like he once said, “it is always better to write something, than nothing”, which is also one of the most valuable lessons I have learned in my early academic career.


I could not help being shocked and in disbelief at the news of Paul’s passing. Only the day before we had emailed back and forth about a current project, about future plans, and about some academic advice, that he was always available to give.

Paul was a key driver of the RUNIN project, both the brain and the heart. I was lucky enough to have him as a coordinator of my working package, as that meant I worked closely with him throughout these past three years. His ideas and proposals were abundant, and he provided us young researchers with so much energy and, at least from my experience, a renewed perspective on the research process and a sense of purpose. Nonetheless, within or outside of work, he cared about knowing the person behind the researcher, to understand what got us there and what we needed to go even further. And ultimately, he was a true mentor, whose lessons and way of being I hope to carry with me for the rest of my life.

It is difficult for me to pinpoint an exact memory that I consider worthier of sharing about Paul, because in all the moments we shared he demonstrated this mentorship and attitude I admire. So I will share a few.

There was the moment he asked me, after a long working package meeting, about my plans after RUNIN. He seemed genuinely curious about what I would choose to pursue, excited and proud about the possibilities, all at once. At the same time, Paul wished for us to keep writing together, for the group and research that we had started to continue on after the RUNIN project finished. And that is a great example of how he viewed us as colleagues and a community.

There was the time when I did a two-month secondment in Enschede, and other RUNIN colleagues arrived for their secondments around the same time. Paul invited us all to meet at a pub in the evening, to provoke a nice informal chat, to see how we were doing after our arrival, to get to know us better and, most important, to have a laugh as peers. I think he made us all the more comfortable with being in a new place, a new university, and new colleagues, since we had that established group that we could fall back to.

A quirk that will stick in my mind from having Paul as a mentor is that he would have the most unique way of giving feedback on one’s writing. Lisa can easily prove this with her extensive “Paul dictionary”, which helped her translate some of the most obscure meanings. On a joint paper we once got this comment: “purple”. We had no idea what that simple word could mean in that context and as two non-English natives, we did not have much to go on. After a google search we discovered could mean “purple prose”, or extravagant flowery writing. I wish that ‘dictionary’ could keep growing.

I can not help but writing about the moment I think I saw Paul going through a range of emotions, true happiness being one of them. He organised a seminar where some of the RUNIN PhDs presented results of a study done in Twente to the Twente Board. This was already quite relevant professionally, as we had the opportunity to interact with key regional stakeholders and potentially impact on policymaking. But it was also Paul’s last day as a full-time researcher of the University of Twente. So he took this opportunity to give a passionate presentation on why the social aspect of development matters. What really mattered to him as an inhabitant of the region, as a researcher and as a family man. It was not the big technological applications or economic developments, but the “human touch”, the opportunities to build community and to impact on society. One could tell that he was truly happy to have lived in Twente, and I am just glad that that presentation was recorded for posterity.

Paul made a great impact, not just on the academic community, but on the lives of so many beyond that. His passion, drive and creativity, his gift for stating his arguments, and his will to support those around them in their goals and projects were unmatched. I am very lucky to have known him and to have worked with him. He will be deeply missed.


One the first emails I received from Paul as my PhD supervisor contained photos of the office that was waiting for me at the University of Twente – a view of the room and a plaque with my name on it. After that, many times I had an opportunity to observe his incredible attention to detail and a thoughtful understanding of the human condition. I wish everyone who has known Paul strength in dealing with the definitive expression of the human condition that befell him.


Words cannot describe how I felt on hearing the sudden passing of Paul. I am yet to come to terms with the reality that my indefatigable mentor is no longer with us. Paul was extremely supportive especially during the early stage of my PhD when I was struggling to find my bearing. Indeed, he went to great lengths to ensure I enjoyed a pleasant and fruitful research stay at the University of Twente. It was indeed a pleasure working with Paul for the past 3 years. Death has cruelly taken him from us, but it cannot deprive us of his fond memories. Wishing his family and loved ones moments of peace and comfort. With heartfelt sympathy.


“Hi there,”

This was the signpost of Paul’s e-mails.

For me, Paul was the invisible hand and the driving force underneath the RUNIN project. As one of the founding fathers of the project, I am deeply grateful to him since he opened up amazing opportunities for many of us involved. Without his efforts in setting up the idea behind the project and writing up the proposal, it would be impossible to get this life-changing experience. I am also thankful for what he has done for ESRs. He showed utmost consideration to the circumstances of us as PhDs and echoed the voice of young scholars at every platform. Many young scholars in the community will remember his always supportive and sincerely encouraging attitude.

I am also very honoured to be mentored by Paul in my very first academic publication. Without his guidance and generous understanding, it would not have been possible. He taught me – alongside with many other PhDs who stand at the beginning of the very hard path of academic publishing – the basics of how to write scientific articles. I was so amazed by his way of articulating the ideas very clearly and generating arguments from vivid discussions that I still use his advice when writing up my papers.

Paul was the man who had lived the ideas he advocated for. He was a strong supporter of engagement of academics with external stakeholders and our training week in Enschede organized by him was just the proof of how that can be achieved most effectively. He had prepared a full program with which we were able to engage with different sections of the society. Paul was also well engaged within the academic community that he, himself, were unable to remember who he had co-authored with as our last joyful moments in the RUNIN quiz during the last training week in Stavanger reminds me now.

Paul will be sorely missed by many, but I believe that all of us who had the opportunity to meet him will always remember Paul as a great person, academic, colleague, friend, mentor, scholar……

With my full respect to Paul and his memory!


“The first time I was called professor it was a term of abuse and I was seven years old: I was scarred for life”, probably the very last fun fact shared by the witty Paul.

Recalling that good time in the almost closing meeting in Stavanger early this year, I am glad that we had the chance to say how grateful we were when getting to know and having him in the project. Indeed, to many of us, the RUNIN early-stage researchers, Paul would be remembered as a great mentor who was so generous with his time and ideas. Thank you for believing in us, seeking the spotlights where we could be the best of ourselves and pushing us to move forward, beyond what we thought possible.

I was fortunate to work with Paul in the Working Paper Series team right from the beginning of the project. We were a small group of four led by him. The workload was fair, mainly handling typical working paper, and sometimes thanks to his initiatives, we had opportunities to work with technical report and serve as guest editors in journal’s special issue. He was tremendously caring asking if they all seemed fine to us. His efforts on constructing good scholarship through these initiatives were also impressive. There was not any decision made in our session without explanation and constructive comments on how the manuscript might be improved. Looking at the way he treated manuscripts submitted, especially those from PhD students, it was not hard to understand why people often mentioned about him as an advocate for young scholars:

“This is a highly promising paper from a PhD student still clearly learning the craft of publishing; I believe by putting some efforts into it that it may make a substantive contribution to the field and represent a piece of excellent research.” Wrote Paul

It was not until our mid-term review in Brussels Sep 2018 that I personally got to know him more as a researcher and a mentor. He was kind and attentive enough to send me an email right after my presentation to summarise and offer his take, which he named it “Just a thought”, but full of ideas and insightful remarks. And since then until his last months, we exchanged things sharing the research interests on citizen engagement in innovation and regional development. I constantly learnt from his reflections and ways of writing, which I am humble to say that they partially shape the way of my thinking and doing research. His positivity and encouragement would be in my heart.

I am extremely sad to have to say farewell to Paul. I would like to express my great respect and appreciation to know him as an academic role model. He was and will continue to be a great source of inspiration for us, young researchers, to follow his path in stimulating socio-economic development.

May Paul rest in peace. I share my sincere condolence to his family and our community in this difficult time.


The bell tolled….and it tolled for you, Paul Benneworth!

The sad news of your passing came to me as a big shock, no it had to be a joke!

How could one so full of life so quickly exit this world?

I am grateful for the opportunity to have met you. The first time I ever spoke to you was at the RUNIN training in Aalborg in 2017. You were honestly curious about me and how I would approach my research work. You were always very easy to talk to and eager to help me (and other young researchers) navigate the research world. More than once, I received emails from you requesting ways you could contribute to my research. Recently in Stavanger we had another lovely chat over dinner….and again I commented on how (surprisingly!) easy it was to talk to you. But alas, this was to be the last time I ever saw you!

I will most fondly remember you Paul.

And, because you were indeed an important part of everyone you encountered, the bell tolled for you Paul….but indeed, it tolled for all of us! R.I.P Paul!


Paul was a special and outstanding person with a unique combination of characteristics. Deep while pragmatic, strict while caring, committed while independent and ethical while productive, he influenced positively the academic and professional life of many of us. Working under his supervision in the RUNIN Project Working Paper Series was very enriching, and opened me the door to other projects and networks he was always willing to share and spread. He was always looking forward to engaging young scholars in different projects, giving all of us the chance to grow and learn. In his unique way, he was a real academic role model and I learned a lot from him.


I wanted to share this picture, taken during the last weekend organised in the framework of RUNIN, when we skied in Sirdal – a wonderful weekend all of us will remember for long.

Although it was his first ski outing ever, Paul was the first in the line, eager to go faster, to discover more of the beautiful nature surrounding us, and he got used to skiing much faster than other beginners! Paul was enthusiastic, dynamic, determinate, curious to explore new paths – just like in his scientific research.

This is how I admired his personality, and how I will remember him. I am grateful that all these qualities, combined with his hard work and many other of his qualities, enabled me to join the RUNIN project, and with that, the RUNIN family; and to live this wonderful research adventure. I am grateful to have been part of his impressively broad network, to have benefitted from his knowledge, to have met so many wonderful persons thanks to him, to have witnessed his passionate character and engagement, both within and outside academia.

We have lost a member of the RUNIN family, and we are missing him a lot already.

My thoughts and heart go out to his family in this time of grief.


“Thank you for following me on Twitter”. This is the oldest words I remember from my live conversations with Paul. And this is the latest one I recall;

“I didn’t have any evidence to back it up, but you have the evidence now”.

He told me this latter sentences when in our last meeting in the ski resort in Norway, I told him how a scholarly opinion he had told me in one of our conversations back in Enschede regarding a specifically tricky part of my research, proved to be true one year later when I was done with my data analysis. These quotations point to a sheer fact about him; that he was a very down to earth and at the same time a very insightful academic.

A bit arcane that the last three words on his last tweet read “at the end!”, and my three last words to him is an archaic ‘Rest in Peace’.


When I met Paul, one of the first things that struck me was his energetic mind. Whatever the situation, he was always coming up with new ideas on how we ESRs could improve our research, and communicate it in formats such as peer-reviewed articles, policy briefs or video abstracts. He also pushed us to collaborate and combine our capabilities as ESRs, as was evident in the Twente training week. Furthermore, he tried to take us out of our comfort zone. The way I see it, he tried to make of us academics not afraid to confront people outside research groups, such as policymakers or citizens. He was extremely keen on enhancing our ability to communicate with non-academic audiences.

In fact, his generosity with us ESRs was exceptional. He went clearly beyond his duties as senior academic. Despite being busy with his supervision duties and the projects where he was involved, he was able and willing to find time to provide advice to each and every one of the ESRs. Indeed, his comments were essential in improving the quality of one of my papers; and, recently, he helped me publish as RUNIN working paper my last article in the thesis.

It has been an honour to know you, Paul. You will be deeply missed.


Over the past three years, I occasionally happened to meet Paul at the Airport when both waiting on our flight to Amsterdam. While during the training weeks we most times spoke English, during these moments he often liked to switch to Dutch, which happens to be my native language. He often unnecessarily apologized for his limited Dutch vocabulary, although you could argue that every vocabulary is limited compared to Paul’s English vocabulary; I even learned that some students developed their own dictionary to keep track of the extensive vocabulary used in reviews of papers that Paul was always happy to provide. Nevertheless, I really liked the effort he put into switching to my mother tongue; it showed me that Paul was really down to earth and didn’t put himself by his accomplishments above a PhD student. During these moments I got valuable insights, which were especially relevant for my exploration of academia. Also at other moments Paul played a role by playing an initiating role in a special issue that eventually led to my first publication.

During our talks I appreciated Paul’s openness, about the efforts he had put into adapting himself to new circumstances when moving, not hiding the uncertainty involved regarding the personal challenges involved, including the consequences all these moves had for his family. Yet when Paul organised events, which especially became visible to me during the RUNIN training week in Enschede, he made sure to put these uncertainties aside and amazed me about how well he was embedded in the local community with wide-ranging contacts with policymakers and other stakeholders, while also putting a very ambitious schedule for the week together. Although in this ambition Paul tended to be a bit too optimistic about what can be done within a forty hour week, it really showed Paul’s commitment to the project. I can highly recommend every project to have at least one person like Paul. Paul will be missed.