By Dr James Campbell
Maintaining an interest in research and researching interesting and challenging things seems to me to be inextricably linked. I have found that following ones passion will often take you to diverse and interesting places. Research to me is reliant on intrinsic motivation; curiosity and commitment for me at least, have always come from within. Currently I am co-director of the newly established Australia Indonesia Research Institute for Humanity and Development (AIRIHD). Involvement in this Institute has enabled me to expand on and develop my current research interests in interesting and provocative ways.
The AIRIHD is a research institute which is committed to capacity building and seeks to tie research to actively benefiting society and not simply to advance the careers of individuals. In this sense the AIRIHD is seeking to truly engage and realize the principles of capacity building and not repeat the practices and habits of intellectual captivity and imperialism so eloquently critiqued and described by Syed Hussein Alatas who himself was born in Bogor Indonesia and later became one of Malaysia and the regions 'towering intellectuals'.
So far 14 research projects involving researchers from Universitas Negeri Padang, Universitas Andalas and Deakin University have been initiated under the umbrella of the AIRIHD. We are currently in the process of planning for a second research conference in Padang Indonesia and awaiting the publication of papers presented in the first International Conference on Research and Development held in Padang in December 2010.
My involvement with the AIRIHD complements the research work and involvement I have in Malaysia. Currently I am writing for the APEX Intellectual Discourse Series from University Sains Malaysia. The APEX Intellectual Discourse Series aims to bring together new thinking on Higher Educational reform and provide an engagement with the philosophical and theoretical issues at stake in advancing USM's reform in higher education. So far two contributions to this series have been published: 'Understanding Reform and the Universiti Sains Malaysia Agenda: Discussion and Critique' as well as 'University Sains Malaysia, Sustainability and the Struggle for a Vital Centre in Education'. A third contribution titled: Reformulating Competitive Advantage and Advancing Sustainability: The Alternative Approach of Universiti Sains Malaysia is currently in print and due out soon.
Involvement with USM in helping to develop its APEX agenda provided me the privilege of writing; 'The Conceptual Overview of an APEX University' which was my contribution to USM's third 'Black Book' 'Transforming Higher Education for a Sustainable Tomorrow 2010 Laying the Foundation'. USM's 'Black Book' has been delivered to members of the Malaysian Cabinet and all Malaysian missions abroad.
Besides writing and presenting at conferences I have found that an important part of maintaining stimulation in ideas has been through my contribution to the New Straits Times in Malaysia through my column in Learning Curve section of that paper. Writing a weekly column has stimulated ideas and interactions with a broad range of people and kept me relevant to the ongoing ebbs and flows of Malaysian life. The impact factor of media writing should not be underestimated. For example two of my columns, 'Social Foundations of an Effective Market' and 'Capabilities And Outcomes' have appeared as analyses on the National Economic Advisory Council (NEAC) web site in Malaysia, and other columns have been re posted on numerous blog, news and web sites.
I have found that research is motivated by commitment and passion and that maintaining those intrinsic motivations is the key to maintaining an interest in research and doing interesting research.