Plunging on Multidisciplinary Research

Plunging on Multidisciplinary Research:
Notes from the 1st International Research Conference in Higher Education

Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in the Philippines are expected to be the major source of research-generated knowledge. With this assumption, the government, through some of its agencies like the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) and the commission that manages all HEIs, the Commission on Higher Education, mandated the promotion of research to push the frontiers of knowledge forward and cultivate a culture of research among HEIs.

Among the numerous efforts to promote an excellent research culture in the country are the creation of research center among HEIs and the formation and establishment of CHED Zonal Research Centers that directed chosen HEIs in strategic parts of the country to assist other HEIs in their zone in the conduct of research. This decentralization of research management led to the increase in the number of researches done by HEIs and toward collaborations among these institutions.

“With several concerns and issues brought about by change and development, both national and global in scope, the Polytechnic University of the Philippines views itself as a dynamic mechanism in taking various steps in addressing challenges to help the country and the whole humanity.”

With this commitment, the PUP conducted its first International Research Conference in Higher Education last October 3 and 4, 2013 at the Manila Hotel.

The conference was themed “Responding to Global Challenges through Multi-Disciplinary Research.” Its aims was to “promote, strengthen and mainstream research outputs in HEIs in various disciplines and to provide a venue for sharing and discussing research issues, concerns and outputs in a scholarly but friendly environment.”

IRCHE was attended not only by most HEIs in the country but also by universities from the USA, China, India, Thailand, Indonesia, South Korea, Japan, Libya, Ghana, Malaysia, Iraq, and Mexico. This enabled participants to not only be exposed to concerns of the country as introduced by local researches but also to be introduced to research concerns of other countries and in the ways that these institutions address these concerns.

Notes and Insights

In the keynote address delivered by CHED Chairperson Dr. Patricia Licuanan, she emphasized the need for massive investments on researches by higher education institutions in addition to the long standing need to enhance research productivity.

Licuanan encourages HEIs to adopt international landmarks especially for theses and dissertations that such studies must be readily publishable. She pointed that graduate programs should not offer more courses but should facilitate the conduct of more researches, thus, graduate school programs should be revised. Licuanan reiterated that researches should be published in refereed journals and scientific inventions and projects be patented.

On the same note, Philippine Association of State Universities and Colleges President Dr. Ricardo Rotoras, as read by Dr. Herbert Glenn Reyes, stressed the need to tackle the serious issue between quality and quantity. There are quality outputs but very few are published in indexed journals because current research focuses are not updated in addition to using “jurassic” methods.

Most of researches done by faculties are “repetitive and stereotyped” leading to similar researches by students. In addition, most private institutions’ presidents focus too much on the return investment for researches. He urges the government to create national research policies because most policies are only localized among HEIs. He, then, proposes that there should be massive and intensive faculty development programs among HEIs with research-based undergraduate curricula and emphasis on collaboration and publication.

Like Dr. Licuanan, he also proposes the improvement of current graduate education trends in the country and require faculty members to publish in refereed journals for eligibility as theses advisers. He finished by saying that faculties must “do research, then teach.”

The trend among graduate schools nowadays is that they offer more advanced versions of courses previously learned in the undergraduate programs. Research is only done as final requirement in some if not most of these graduate programs and as a requirement for graduation.

However, the orientation embodied by not only the institution but also its student is not towards the creation of knowledge but towards refreshing previously learned concepts with added developments in these only. This might be one of the reasons why there is a “unit-ing” culture among graduate schools. This is the trend wherein most individuals specifically faculty members only choose to pursue further studies because of the units. They believe that their earned units will help them with promotion. Graduate school students, most of the time, are tired of studying. They have been studying to get an undergraduate degree and are continually studying to enhance teaching. They find further studies again in the form of a graduate degree are already too much.

If only that they are no longer required to sit on lectures and reports but are given enough time to sit on and conduct researches at their own time, I believe that graduate school programs will be fun and fulfilling as it should be. Students could be asked to just do research and be published. Additional courses are not needed, research is.

In performing the research function of HEIs, Dr. Ester Ogena, president of Philippine Normal University and former director of the Department of Science and Technology Science Education Institute, proposed that from the individualistic, shelf-driven, and worthy of thesis and dissertation referencing kind in the academe, researches should evolve to become collaborative and multidisciplinary, to contribute new models and methodologies, are worthy of publication, to contribute to the discipline, and are geared towards utilization such as in policy and product development.

Collaboration and publication in the Ilocos context is still not widely recognized as the way to be but is an emerging trend. In Northwestern University alone, faculty members of food sciences are collaborating with those of the social sciences. The social sciences are collaborating with the humanities department. Administrative researchers see themselves collaborating with the academic. These might be small researches now, but small researches will become big researches as the culture grows.

Publication has been partially addressed by the local journals of HEIs. However, these have limited reach and access for a limited audience. To be globally excellent, research centers such as the NWU Center for Research and Development now promote and encourage their researchers to aim for publication in refereed and indexed journals. Instead of publishing researches on the graduate and research journal of NWU, UCRD continues to help researchers look for appropriate journals to be published in. It is a fairly young endeavor in NWU but is anticipated to be taken part on by the whole university.

As cases of multidisciplinary research in action, Mr. Warren Nevad of the University of Tennessee, municipal management consultant, introduced their efforts in Tennessee on promoting renewable energy. He discussed how they worked and are still working with “everyone on the floor” as they bridge academic research and community outreach.

Dr. Matthew Éichler of Texas University stated that researchers deal with “messy problems” as challenge of multidisciplinary research in the age of globalization primarily because of social messes. One problem leads to another. In dealing with such problems, researchers should remember that “the thinking that left us with these problems will not help us in solving these problems.” Systems thinking is only one of the many ways of addressing some, if not most, of these problems.

Deepening Multidisciplinary Research

As a case in point, another way of addressing global challenges is futures thinking. In my research Scenarios on the Futures of the Ilocano Language Usage Using Jim Dator’s Alternative Futures Archetypes done in collaboration with social scientist and futurist Prof. Shermon Cruz, I used the futures research method scenarios.

With the Ilocano language at the point wherein it is extensively studied not only within homes and communities but also within a multitude of institutions, the question on what will it be like in the future and its possible, probable and preferred futures is an emerging issue.

Its futures are occasionally given thought and are addressed informally by some Ilocano scholars and writers in the North of the Philippines.

My paper aimed to explore the futures of the Ilocano language usage in the twenty first century using Jim Dator’s scenario archetype as a research method. It explored the future of the language in the year 2040 in a continued economic growth, collapse, conserver, and transformation scenarios.

It does not aim to predict the future but only to provide the possibilities of what might happen to assist major drivers and decision-makers in making more informed decisions. It’s only an initial offering right now because it is confined with documentary analysis.

However, it is aimed to be furthered to include more stakeholders to deepen the exploration and identify the scenario logics to construct alternative Ilocano language usage futures.

Shoot for the Stars

In pursuing global excellence in an era of research proliferation, Dr. Adam Kis of the Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies advised researchers to aim high or “shoot for the stars.” Researchers should involve themselves in researches that meet global standards, researches that get recognized, researches that are practical, and researches that meet personal standards. If a researcher wants to be involved in the global discourse, he must be able to produce researches that are interdisciplinary in nature, are eligible for accreditation and in which other people in other countries might be interested in. Degree mill researches that only meet local standards are not viewed to have the capacity to participate in global discourses.

Chairman of social entrepreneurship at Manipal University, India Dr. Harisha Joshi, on the other hand, added that research must be done out of passion. With demonstrations of the Manipal University experience, he encouraged researchers to understand social problems first instead of library problems. Researchers must make it a point that they are not doing research for others but should be for themselves.

Research presentations were on different disciplines and parallel sessions are multidisciplinary. Some of these are on gender, youth and migration; humanities and humanity; conflict, communication and peace; arts and culture; language and journalism; communication and social media; and history, community and society. I enjoyed most of the presentations but a little disappointed that I wasn’t able to attend to the session on language and journalism because it was conducted at the same time as my session. In addition, most sessions are supposed to accommodate seven speakers with such limited time that some open forums to supposedly enable a discussion of the researches were forwent. There were researches on instructional materials and strategies and some of these are on text analysis, blended learning, cooperative learning, and tutorial strategies.

However, some of these researches are still confined with old research techniques and methods such as using means and frequencies in discussing blended learning. For most researches on education that I saw, they failed to get my attention because the results of these studies were not communicated well to the audience because of the use of too much numbers. Researchers fail to see that these numbers don’t mean anything unless interpreted and discussed in context. It is okay to use numbers in research but depending on the objectives of the research, these numbers must be interpreted in such a way that they capture the essence of the study itself. Nobody really cares about weighted means and frequencies if they don’t understand what the study actually found.

Conclusion

Multidisciplinary research means having researchers from different disciplines collaboratively study a problem to enable the exploration of the problem from multiple vantage points to diversify the discourse and address of the problem. Most of the researches presented are not multidisciplinary in nature yet; the sessions are. However, it was hoped that after the conference and after cards were exchanged; research collaborations for multidisciplinary researches will become the trend.

If this indeed becomes the trend, language teachers see themselves to not only be involved in local language discourses but will participate in global language research arenas. The trend will be research-based curriculum development and more teachers, if the review and overhaul of graduate programs happen, will see themselves as more fulfilled not only in instruction but in pushing the frontiers of knowledge, which they would do not out of requirement but out of passion.

Teachers will see themselves as not using and reusing teaching methodologies and strategies borrowed from other countries but will be innovative and creative enough to research and formulate their own methods and strategies. The goal will be to be cited, not to cite.

With support from the government and a sense of genuine cooperation among educational institutions and educators, these might happen. If it does, I would be very happy.

Rome Pacis is an editorial assistant at the University Center for Research and Development; lecturer at the College of Arts and Sciences, Northwestern University and researcher at the Center for Engaged Foresight.

References:

CHED-UPLB. 2009. Our history. Zonal Research Center for Regions IV-A & IV-B. Retrieved from http://cheduplbzrc.webs.com/history.htm

Polytechnic University of the Philippines. 2013. IRCHE Book of abstracts. Office of the Vice President for Research, Extension, Planning and Development: Polytechnic University of the Philippines.

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