As a PhD student I have been advised so many times that it is necessary and a must to participate in conferences to do networking, get to know what it is out there in the field, to meet your bibliography and to test your ideas. However, isn’t a conference a means to share your work and collaboratively do research that matters?
What is the research that really matters? This question raised as part of my participation at AARE 2013. Since 2010 I have been attending AARE conferences to learn about educational research in Australia and share my work. Doing this has allowed me to get to know what is going on down under and compare it with the Chilean context.
What is the research that really matters? I have been pondering this question many times, but today, it seems an imperative. Let’s start defining what research is. It is usually conceptualised as ‘the creation of new knowledge and/or the use of existing knowledge in a new and creative way so as to generate new concepts, methodologies and understandings.’. In other words, research is a systematic inquiry following well established methods known in a field of inquiry. Research proposals are usually assessed according to a set of criteria that measures how well the research has been conducted. This is also applied in the social sciences and humanities. What about making a difference?
One of my motives to do my PhD was to understand a social phenomenon and possibly contribute to its improvement. I firmly believe that the luxury of studying and thinking about a problem requires committed researchers with a concrete context and a community.Then, the previous definition is not good enough. It lacks an inquiry for understanding, explaining and transforming a social phenomenon. I know that changes take a lot of effort and much more than academic inquiry. However, academic inquiry is absolutely necessary to find new paths of transformation. This is my understanding of what research is, what research that matters is.
I am sure that I will continue attending conferences and some will be illuminating and some others will be just intellectual wankerthons. However, I know if I want to be in the academia, I need to make a difference with my work and ethics. I need to do research that it is not only academically excellent, but also and more importantly, work that can impact and serve a community I am truly engaged with.
Can I do it? I am trying. I review my presentation at AARE 2013, and more than contributing to social transformation, it looks more like intellectual gibberish. I have to keep trying!