Thoughts @ The Indian Higher Education Summit 2014

Thoughts shared at the Businessworld Indian Higher Education Summit

Classification of Research
1. Pure curiosity driven basic research – experimental and theoretical work often called fundamental or “blue sky” research, “knowledge for knowledge’s sake.” Often ‘discovery’ such as Gravitation or ‘future prediction’. Such as Dirac’s prediction of ‘positron’ or Higgs prediction of ‘Higgs Boson’. The double helix structure of the DNA.
2. Strategic basic research – experimental and theoretical, but often undertaken to acquire new knowledge and lead to useful discoveries or solve practical problems. The Buoyancy Principle by Archimedes. More recently the Manhattan Project. Space research, man on the moon mission.
3. Applied research – original work to perhaps determine new ways of achieving specific objectives or developing new techniques. Often similar to innovation. Solar energy. Improvements in existing technologies. Goal oriented research with unexpected spin-offs;

Metaphors for research:
There are five popular types of metaphors used by researchers in the context of their activities:
1. Metaphors of Space
The largest single metaphor that occurred was ‘field’ followed closely by ‘area’. Metaphors of space suggest that the students using them see their research as opening up or developing into new areas or frontiers of knowledge.
2. Metaphors of Travel
Metaphors such as ‘steps’, ‘journey’, ‘path’ and ‘track’ of travel suggests that the research is perceived as a movement, towards a goal.
3. Metaphors of Action
There is a large variety of metaphors for action such as ‘constructing’ knowledge, from research seen as ‘struggling’, to research seen as ‘scratching’ for results. ‘Working’, ‘delve’, ‘reap’ and ‘combing’, refer to some action involved to make the research develop in the desired direction.
4. Metaphors of the Body
Examples of these are ‘corpus’ and ‘body’. A commonly agreed body of knowledge as a discipline. Stages of development are referred to as ‘infancy’, and ‘struggling’.
5. Metaphors of Ordeal
Several metaphors refer to research as an ordeal. A ‘marathon’ struggle against the odds and the persistence required to complete the ordeal. Another referred to the ‘struggle’ of research.

Ideas: their inter-connections and interplay
* Research is basically about new ideas.
* Ideas diffuse and are adopted and adapted by others
* Ideonomy: the Science of ideas
* Memes: a concept proposed by Richard Dawkins for ideas that rapidly spread amongst people

Purpose/ Drivers of academic research:
* The purpose of academic research is to formulate questions whose answers would help us lead better lives
* The thrust is towards research that helps in sustainable living for the globe
* So local problems to be seen as a specific case of global theory and concepts

Being at the forefront of research today:
* The researcher of today has many more opportunities than earlier and many more challenges as well.
* Low level search and information collation has been automated.
* Only higher order idea generation and finding new insights is valuable today

Some issues in 21st Century research :
* Collection of data: improved rapid massive
* Greater awareness of privacy rights and consent to giving data
* Reduction in the importance of Statistical sampling
* Bridging the gap between qualitative and quantitative research

Qualitative Research:
“Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted“ (Albert Einstein)
Sample sizes are typically small in qualitative work. One way of identifying how many people you need is to keep interviewing until, in analysis, nothing new comes from the data – a point called ‘saturation’.

Quantitative Research:
* Quantitative research is ‘Explaining phenomena by collecting numerical data that are analysed using mathematical methods
* The generation of models, theories and hypotheses
* The development of instruments and methods for measurement
* Experimental control and manipulation of variables
* Collection of empirical data
* Modeling and analysis of data

Ethnographic Research:
* Participant-observation
* Key informant interviewing
* Use of genealogical method
*Gathering of cases (life-histories, conflict cases
* Visual Ethnography

Action Research:
* Action research is any research into practice undertaken by those involved in that practice, with an aim to change and improve it.
* It is about both ‘action’ and ‘research’ and the links between the two. It is quite possible to take action without research or to do research without taking any consequential action, but the unique combination of the two is what distinguishes action research from other forms of enquiry.

Cross interdisciplinary Research:
* Multidisciplinary research is associated with more than one existing academic discipline.
* Interdisciplinary knowledge is the knowledge extensions that exist between or beyond existing academic disciplines.
* Cross-disciplinary knowledge is that which explains aspects of one discipline in terms of another. Common examples of cross-disciplinary approaches are studies of the physics of music or the politics of literature.
* Transdisciplinary can be thought of as the union of all interdisciplinary efforts.

Intellectual Property:
* Copyright protects the expression of ideas
* Copyright doesn’t protect the ideas themselves
* Creative Commons : a new licensing system
* Open Education Resources: a new movement

* Plagiarism is the “wrongful appropriation and publication” of another author’s “language, thoughts, ideas, or expressions,” and the representation of them as one’s own original work.
* The idea remains problematic with unclear definitions and unclear rules.
* Plagiarism is considered academic dishonesty and is subject to sanctions like expulsion.
* Plagiarism is not a crime per se but in academia it is a serious ethical violation.

Research Ethics:
* Research ethics is the application of fundamental ethical principles to research, including scientific research.
* The academic research enterprise is built trust. Researchers trust that the results reported by others are sound. Society trusts that the results of research reflect an honest attempt by all researchers to describe the world accurately and without bias.
* Includes design and implementation of research involving human experimentation, animal experimentation, various aspects of scientific misconduct (such as fraud, fabrication of data and plagiarism), whistleblowing; regulation of research, etc.
* Research ethics is most developed as a concept in medical research. The key agreement here is the 1974 Declaration of Helsinki.
* Research in the social sciences presents a different set of issues than those in medical research.

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