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Redefining research excellence

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Science is such a marvel that explores the veiled and hidden gems of nature surprisingly. Science has given the human race a superfluity of benefits, hard to be defined in few words and the credit goes to the scientists who were blessed by God’s scientific mental blueprint that indeed led to the befitting quality research in science and technology.If we talk about research excellence, it is pervasive, but its meaning depends on the context. In this day and age, being good is not sufficient; excellence must go beyond that.
What does excellence mean, how it is measured, when do we know that we have reached the required standard, if not excellence, then what? So, it’s obligatory to ask these questions if the excellence agenda is serious. To validate excellence on the right track, the performance of the researcher is judged that is qualitatively and decisively superior to satisfaction. However the absolute quality of excellence can’t be measured just by simple objective criteria, but rather it requires the academic peers’ judgment. Research excellence reflects the work of originality which makes an apparent impact on the subject and shows a noteworthy work of international quality.
Various bodies like universities, national institutes, government agencies/industries, deserve to be eulogized because of providing research excellence in different disciplines, but it is crucially imperative that research excellence develops broadly across the entire spectrum of global cultures. It is mandatory for any university to offer international quality education and research to dig up a special stature globally and there is evidence that both quality education and research have a significant impact on global society, through translation, innovation and policy formation.
Research excellence is chiefly discipline-specific, but world-class researchers are flamboyantly involved in shifting paradigms and constructing new models of human understanding. Their vision is based on new-fangled qualitative observations and quantitative scientific facts, or new interpretations that finally support logical conclusions. These observations are stimulated by the application of new technologies and methodological advances.
Globally famous universities are entrenched by a critical crowd of individual researchers/teams, that have a concentration of research excellence, allowing or facilitating highly creative approaches to tackle the world’s most difficult and complicated problems across disciplines. Such ‘concentration’ vis-à-vis research excellence is a fundamental model that every institutional leader must foster and support. Every institutional head must be audacious to focus resources where they might have the utmost impact on research profile and performance. To achieve the world-class status every university has to create an international research impact.
Universities that in real sense are research-intensive must specifically ensure their students getting advantage from an education that is carefully and fully integrated with the research profile of the institution. My viewpoint is that every student irrespective of caste, creed, sex, color and any discipline must be involved in the process of ‘research’. Engaging students in the research process will help them to become critical independent thinkers and problem solvers. Students will figure out how knowledge is created, how it inevitably shifts with time, and become personally experienced in dealing with uncertainties at the edge of knowledge. They will also learn teamwork and actively get engaged in improving their ability to communicate effectively. By this many students can become ‘leaders of the future’ because of their research background that will demonstrate confidence in employing innovative approaches and techniques of problem-solving.
Sky-scraping quality research supervision by experienced mentors is indispensable and twofold guidance by primary and secondary mentors is now routine practice. Doctoral students must be exposed to training in ethics, research integrity and the importance of engaging the public in their research findings as well as being intensely focused on their independent research projects.
Critical masses of Ph.D. students are essential to create a sense of community and collegiality in a research-intensive university. This relates not only to the absolute number of Ph.D. students in the university but also to how they are organized. The concept of high-quality experience as Ph.D. students is a central feature of many graduate schools and doctoral training centers.
The construction of innovative knowledge and an ability to display a coherent and integrated set of arguments and research findings lies at the heart of every triumphant doctoral thesis and the successful completion of the Ph.D. dissertation is, however, only the commencement of a research career in major disciplines. People nowadays prefer to take the position of postdoctoral fellow and it is now commonplace in most world-class universities, before folks taking up their initial academic appointment. This period helps them to grip different research cultures and, most importantly, fresh ideas and techniques like chalk and cheese. In my opinion, this is the most influential epoch of any research career.
In developing countries like India and Pakistan, cross disciplinary research must be in full swing to combat the world’s greatest problems by teams of researchers from different disciplines.
A cross-disciplinary approach is highly ground-breaking as people bring their discipline-specific ideas and experiences to the table and share across the team. There are numerous perceived barriers to the creation of effective cross disciplinary research teams and they must be recognized and dealt with by institutional leaders. It is significant that institutional heads must set a clear tone concerning the importance of cross-disciplinary research that will be a launch-pad for research excellence out of the blue and achieving such milestone, varies from one institution to another.
For the successful foundation of a research-intensive university, it requires excellent institutional leadership that will focus on building well-defined research of international eminence by providing world-class research facilities. It is very crucial for all of us especially institutional leaders, researchers to understand the important characteristics of the great research leaders so that we can follow their footsteps to accomplish our goal. They are eminent figures in their respective fields through their proven research excellence; they will be publishing papers at the highest international level, giving plenary session keynote speeches at international conferences, and perhaps winning major awards such as the Nobel Prize, the Kavli Prize, and the Lasker Award. They typically have a great awareness of history and a good feel for the future of their discipline.
Additionally, they are prominent research leaders that support and nurture younger researchers and act as mentors. The very best are generous with their time and create a research environment where others can flourish and follow in their footsteps. Not only they are exceptionally brilliant, highly imaginative and effective at pulling together momentous levels of research funding, but they also act as a centripetal force in terms of attracting the very best of the next generation (Ph.D. students, postdoctoral staff and new faculty members) to come and work with them. It is not possible to draw up hard and fast rules about measuring the quality of research, but there should be evidence of work of stupendous originality, work that has motivated others and affected the research agenda, authorship of definitive textbooks, competitive grant-winning, especially as principal investigator, extent recognition of research quality, the influence and value of research undertaken.
In conclusion, a joint venture of institutional leaders, students, researchers, faculty members, Govt officials should come together in shaping our system of education and research so that we can be proved as the connoisseurs of success.