Some reflections on the impact of your research – a necessary investment into your future…
Having past the threshold of the first 65 years of my life, and celebrating my official entry to the club of retiree as of today, February 2, 2021, I am now enjoying my new freedom as VP Operations for the newly established Vietnam Hoc Institute, now present in Geneva. In this position, I will continue my reflections through my series of posts on “Why write a thesis?” from different angles.
The theme discussed today is about how can my research work impact my audience, which brings up to the question of “who is my target audience”.
We tend to think in broad terms on “humanity”, “greater good”, “social justice”, etc. but do we really understand what those terms really mean. The questions have become clearer to me after following the whole debate on “fake or not fake news”, “conspiracy theories”, “threat of foreign powers”, “possible collusion with the enemy” and the likes….
The role of intellectuals, which also include politicians, teachers, researchers and media specialists are being discussed and debated, together with the role of BIG TECH companies, as well as partisan leaders about the impact created on the larger public, and the responsibility they bear towards ill-intended actions that bring negative impact. In the language of Zen buddhism, we also refer to “bad karmic actions.”
As every normal (non-US) citizen, we would be following the discussions on the US news channels, without any particular partisanship on the issues at hand, because it is across the Atlantic Ocean that can’t really impact us directly. But the tipping point, at least for me, was the day that the censorship was exerciced directly to the President of the US, by some multi-national big tech corporations, thereby infringing the principle of personal freedom as the most basic human right, was the alarm that rang a bell to what could happen to us, as global citizens. I am saying this as a living witness on how personal freedom was taken away from us – Southern Vietnamese – the very day that we “celebrated our unity” as a national after a bloody 30-year civil war that ended in April 30, 1975. Until today, 45 years later, we have not seen any consideration of “giving back” the freedom of speech to the 96 millions human beings, as a result of “open economic policy” from the winners of the War.
Human rights activism aside, my opinion is that seen from a practical side, society cannot function without the interaction of all stakeholders in the same social organisation, be it a nation, a company, or a family or a network of institutions. Therefore the question on how we create an impact through our research work needs to be made clear to each of us as researcher before we spend a few years of our life working on a topic of research that may impact impact the life and well-being of millions of men and women, children and other sentent beings that create life on this planet, or beyond.
Although different organizations and funders are interested in different areas of impact, bringing together one or many of these, and possibly others, as a researcher, we need to consider which areas of impact are important to us, to our own values and to the community as a whole. The lessons of the last century’s deadly impact on the Environment and human lives of the whole planet should serve a lesson to scientists or politicians who forget about this important principle.
Areas of impact can be multiple, let’s take the newest incident that affect us all: lock-down policies recommended by most government officials, although done in good faith – in order to prevent the spread of the Covid virus – are being used against them by their politcial opponents, with the sole objective of creating mistrust and fear, leading to hatred and discomfort, with the media and social network and other policital maneuvers in the background. As information flow freely, we can see the negative impact more clearly the power struggle between public personalities – espectially academia, politicians, law enforcement officers, or journalists to use their empowered position to push forward their political agenda at the expense of the public who remain powerless. With less freedom of speech, the struggle will be off the public eyes, but the divide still remains vivid. Indeed, thinkers and philosophers who promote “social justice” through disruption of societies and causing the death of hundred of millions should have been thinking more on the negative impact instead of perfecting a concept that sounds good on paper, but costs lives. Through this example, the methodology of measuring the impact is not that simple, and requires further consideration by researchers with an interdisciplinary approach.
In fact, while the REF (Research Excellence Framework) emphasizes on the cultural or societal aspect, defining impact as “an effect on, change or benefit to the economy, society, culture, public policy or services, health, the environment or quality of life, beyond academia”, business organisations would emphasize on the economic impact of their R&D activities on product development, whereas scientific research would look focus more on the safety and health aspects of the public or on the environment we are living in.
Taylors and Francis defines that impact is about looking at the effects a piece of research has had. There are many different ways that a researcher could have an impact depending on the nature of the work. Some key terms and areas of impact are:
- Academic impact: the impact research makes in academia, for example advancing and developing understanding, methods and theory within the field or across disciplines.
- Cultural or societal: the impact research can have on people, culture and society. For examples and case studies check out this useful page from UKRI.
- Policy: the impact of research on policy formulation, for example using research as evidence to influence policy decisions.
- Economic impact: impacting businesses and economic growth or development.
- Environmental: impacting the environment. For example this piece of research which explores why having awareness and knowledge about climate change is not always enough for people to behave in a pro-environmental way.
- Health: such as in the development of new drugs or influencing change in medical practice.
Looking though my notes taken during the Seminary of the Epistemology of Sciences and Research Methodology by Professor Bouleau of Paris-Est Descartes, I found some interesting and useful concepts which you can also discover if you pay a visit to my research blog at https://sbitrainingsolutions.blogspot.com/
Take a look and tell me if you like my work.