- There is a growing focus on the importance of research for increasing community wellbeing and productivity. Research commercialisation, whereby technology created during research activities is developed into marketable products, allows benefits to reach the public. The process by which technologies are brought to the marketplace is known as technology transfer and typically involves:
With the focus on better translation of research into commercial outcomes, IP awareness, business management and entrepreneurship skills will add to your employability beyond academia.
- Protecting the intellectual property of technologies through patents and copyrights
- Marketing the technology to existing private sector companies or newly created start-up companies for further development and commercialisation.
- Social Impact
- Social Impact can be thought of as the net effect of an activity on a community and the well-being of individuals and families. All researchers should have a strong social conscience and consider the relevance of their research to society and its potential impact on individuals, groups and society. Many research projects will have a clear goal of enacting positive social change.
Globally, governments are requiring that publically funded researchers demonstrate the societal impact of their research. The question of how to measure societal impact is a challenge because it is not always, or indeed often, self-evident. Methodologies are still being proposed and debated but one thing that seems certain is that researchers should plan how they will engage with society beyond academia.
See also: Public engagement
- Problem Elicitation
- In everyday life problems are something we often try to avoid; but in scholarly work is something we actively try to discover. In fact, one of the fundamental elements of the research process is the identification of a research ‘problem’. Formulating a problem provides a focus and purpose (or aim) for the study. It also allows one to articulate the significance or value of the work. In some sense it also justifies the research that is being undertaken, and with the increasing accountability being required from publicly funded universities this has become increasingly important.
In research there are two kinds of ‘problems’: practical and conceptual. Practical problems refer to those real-life conditions in the world that we can do something about. Applied research is usually undertaken in order to solve what we are terming practical problems. Studies of this sort might be conducted to improve rates of screening for diabetes, or reduce emissions from motor vehicles. Conceptual problems, however, are different in that they address how we think. Some research is aimed at understanding (rather than changing) the world and how we think about certain phenomena. To some degree we could imagine this to be a more theoretical, rather practical, approach to research. A great deal of research is focused on modernity and technology, evolution and history, ethics and so forth with the aim of improving our understanding of the world. This may, in turn, lead to research questions which are directed at more empirical or practical problems.
Once the importance of problem elicitation becomes clear one can begin to see it is the font from which many elements of the research process spring from. Finding a research problem to address is vital if we are to devise a study to resolve it. When you are reading the work of others try to identify the problem which the work sets out to address. You can evaluate it by looking for contradictions, inconsistencies and incomplete explanations.
- Strategic Planning
- While you are responsible for setting the direction and priorities of your own research at university, out in the real world you will be contributing to a broader, and possibly worldwide, research agenda. Whether you work in industry, government, academia or for yourself you will be expected to contribute to an over-arching objective. This is often reflected in a strategic planning document, and it is important that you understand how your research aligns and contributes to this plan.
A strategic plan focuses on the future and details what an organisation will achieve and how. An important part of the planning process is identifying values – both of the organization and also of the people within the organization. Types of values may include such things as honesty, innovation, collaboration, openness, commitment, and accessibility. It is these values that inform and constrain the kind of strategies used to achieve goals. They are also an important tool to get everyone working toward the same goals. As a ‘global citizen’ your research and actions contribute to identifying and building an organization’s values and practices, as well as to inform and assist with the strategic planning process.
- World Trends and Impact
- We live in a global world, one that is increasingly interconnected and interdependent, such that what occurs in one part of the world often impacts on another. This can include everything from technology to culture, and from share-prices to war. This interconnectedness brings both benefits and disadvantages; for instance whilst economic integration allows consumers to purchase goods made overseas more cheaply, outsourcing by domestic companies has decimated the manufacturing sector in Australia. Because globalization has led to a more ‘volatile’ and complex world, it has become important to minimise the potentially negative consequences of globalisation. Being able to evaluate world trends is critical in predicting likely outcomes for industry, community and government.
Evaluation in this context relates to the assessment or appraisal of a phenomenon. The evaluation of changes in global dietary patterns, for instance, becomes meaningful in a globalised world because there has been a convergence (in terms of a tendency for societies to move towards standardisation) in tastes and access to foods, especially in so-called ‘developed’ countries. The results of a dietary survey in the US over a period of 20 years might, for example, signal an emerging national trend in Australian diets. This could make it possible to predict the impact of future health and healthcare outcomes.
Advanced data collection and analysis skills in research are critical in the analysis of international trends. The ability to construct and analyse large scale surveys and questionnaires; to use statistical software; to assimilate large data-sets; to develop prediction models are all important in projects aimed at determining national and international trends.
- Policies and Legal Requirements
- As a ‘global citizen’ you will be expected to have a thorough understanding of the context in which your research takes place, at a national and international level. This includes recognising the importance of policy making to research and vice versa, including knowledge of institutional, national and international codes of practice relating to ethics. It also includes knowledge of relevant policies and government frameworks that relate to your research, as well as some understanding of the policy-making process. Your research may enable you to gather feedback from and engage in dialogue with the public, policy makers, government and other key organisations. How this information is documented and stored is also important in terms of privacy and confidentiality.
Complementing this, you will also be expected to have a basic understanding of legal requirements surrounding your research, as well as apply the relevant codes of conduct and guidelines for the ethical conduct of research. You must be aware of issues relating to the rights of other researchers, research subjects, or others who may be affected by your research. Through guidance and experience you will make your own ethical judgements about work, and may need to act on the unethical behaviour of others. Throughout your research journey you will be exposed to the concept of social responsibility and the obligation it entails. Ultimately you will have an expectation to behave and work in a sustainable way and be mindful of your own impact on the environment.
- Advocacy occurs when one gives verbal support or argument for a cause or policy. It may occur at the level of the individual in private capacity or in a professional setting (such as a barrister defending his client in court) or it may be an aim of a group or community. Often advocacy occurs in the context of a political issue such as heritage conservation, indigenous rights or animal welfare. The goal of the advocate is often to influence decision-makers to better the lives or conditions of the vulnerable by ensuring social justice and equitable access or protection.
There are many skills involved in being a successful or effective advocate. Being able to explore, question and articulate social or environmental issues is one. Another is understanding and working within the legislative framework in order to influence policy. ‘Lobbying’ requires good public speaking and writing skills, leadership skills, and increasingly good technical skills to be able to engage with online social media.
Advocating for others is often an indication that you are passionate about a cause and are prepared to give freely to help others. Advocacy also often indicates that you can or are prepared to work collaboratively with others to resolve an issue (or ‘problem’) in much the same way that good research does. Begin thinking about the skills required to lobby effectively for a cause and begin to look for ways to develop them. Identify a group or community that is advocating for a cause you believe in and become involved.
- Academic Integrity
- Academic integrity, which includes teaching, learning & research, is an essential pillar on which the academic community is founded. The International Center for Academic Integrity defines academic integrity as “a commitment, even in the face of adversity, to six fundamental values:honesty, trust, fairness, respect, responsibility, and courage.” [International Center for Academic Integrity, Fundamental Values Project, ICAI. Available from: https://www.academicintegrity.org/icai/resources-2.php. Accessed 27 November 2017].
At UWA all commencing students learn about standards of academic behaviour through the online tutorial, Academic Conduct Essentials. UWA researchers are subject to the UWA Code of Conduct, the UWA Code of Ethics and the UWA Code of Conduct for the Responsible Practice of Research which detail the University’s expectations. Model these values in your academic practice and beyond.