Traversing Paths to Research Success in Higher Education
Eight prolific researchers from various Schools within the College of Humanities, participated in a roundtable discussion on Traversing Paths to Research Success in Higher Education. The event was part of the 2nd Annual College of Humanities Postgraduate Research Conference for staff and students.
The discussion was facilitated by the Dean of Research for the College, Professor Sarojini Nadar. The eight academics on the panel were Professor Urmilla Bob, Professor Gerald West, Dr Janet Muthuki, Dr Maheshvari Naidu, Professor Deevia Bhana, Professor Relebohile Moletsane, Dr Pholoho Morojele and Professor Vishanthie Sewpaul.
The aim of the discussion was to trace the research journeys of the academics from their initial career choices to their milestones and award-winning developments in academia. The roundtable semi-formal discussion prompted a discussion that elicited the challenges, opportunities and successes experienced by the academics during their research career paths.
The academics are all accomplished researchers either at the beginning of their careers, in mid-career or reaching the pinnacle of their careers in Higher Education. The other important aim of the panel was to inspire young postgraduate students as well as emerging academics interested in a research career path. The discussion was centred on criticality, creativity, collaboration, community and context.
To kick-start the conversation, Bob stated that a scholar needed to be able to take criticism. ‘You must understand how to take criticism, to challenge it and to talk about it. To take criticism is to establish a strong trans-disciplinary foundation to enable collaborations and partnerships bringing in different perspectives and growing the body of knowledge in various fields.’
Naidu indicated it would be difficult for a young Masters or PhD student to be able to understand the concept of trans-disciplinarity as it took years of theories and research practice and transforming methods until it was mutually constituted, and therefore a first step before trans-disciplinarity was a solid grounding in a discipline.
Speaking on the sub-topic of context, Bhana said: ‘We might be utilising Westernised theories but we are adapting and interpreting it all within an African context, however we should also be looking to sharpen our understanding of theories and creating our own indigenous theories.’
West said: ‘Coherence in research is an important factor and emerging scholars should ensure it is evident in their works. While transdisciplinarity is to be encouraged, and our African context demands it, nevertheless coherence remained an imperative.’ He described coherence as a spider’s web, which though fragmented at times, was always interconnected.
Moletsane spoke about the challenges of collaboration and provided advice to other scholars present at the event to write in a conceptual framework, to integrate context within academic work and to choose partner researchers who would ultimately better aid the research.
The roundtable discussion proved to be a huge success with many pertinent questions being raised and outside-panel conversations being struck based on the responses and experiences of all eight academics.
- Melissa Mungroo