My name is Rafael Ahlskog. I’m a PhD in political science, stationed at the Department of Government, Uppsala university. Apart from political science, I also have a background in economics and public health. Though my doctoral dissertation was about designing vaccination policy, my research interests are quite broad and eclectic: the unifying theme seems to be centered around the nature of human social motivation – where does altruism come from, how do prosocial motivations clash with self-interest and in-group bias, and how do such tendencies drive behavior in social systems ranging from micro level interpersonal relations to politics? I also have a firm commitment to scientific skepticism and methodological rigor in investigating these questions.

Here you’ll find some information about my research as well as a blog, where I sporadically share the results of some creative procrastination from writing my dissertation. The name of the site, Backbone of Night, will surely be familiar to some. It is a chapter from Carl Sagan’s legendary book Cosmos (and additionally, of course, an episode from the show) discussing ancient cosmologies and humanity’s perpetual obsession with making sense of the universe. The backbone of night refers to the Milky Way stretching over the sky – a picture I’ve always found profoundly beautiful and inspiring. As somewhat of a night owl myself, having my most productive hours after sunset, I figured I’d borrow the metaphor. This blog, if you will, can hopefully once in a while serve as my nights’ backbone.

Hope you’ll have a blast!