Research at the confluence of business and academia


This Saturday (October 15) I had the opportunity to participate to my first conference in Bahrain: 1st Tripartite Business Research Conference. Organized by the AMA International University-Bahrain, prescription the conference focused on government, industry and academia working together for better quality of live through research.

The invited speakers at the conference reflected the theme in the sense that they were coming from either of the three areas and presented mostly their point of view on the need for research and integrated research.

My talk too, addressed the theme but put it into the context of my activity at Bahrain Polytechnic where I teach a Business Research Methods course and where I support and mentor my colleagues in their research endeavours. I have organized and supported my talk with personal examples and I have communicated this to the conference participants. I started from the idea that research is a way of life, something that once you get used to it you’ll always apply it.  I argued that universities need to ensure that research is taught in a manner that supports scientific rigour but addresses real-life and current problems. The examples I gave showed how cloud-based technologies can support the research process – a hint to the numerous articles I have writen here about using technology in the classroom and using technology for research like this Prezi below. It was exilirating to see people taking notes when I spoke about Mendeley or database searches and being amazed when I mentioned the use of Wordle and ManyEyes for qualitative research.

Research is a mental exercise, a play with logics, a writing exploration and an abstract thinking process. It takes time, it can be challenging but it can also be extremely rewarding. In speaking about the process, I  have emphasized its straightforwardness as, from what I have learned from my students, this is something that it is not obvious to them. They perceive research as something difficult, nonsensical and time consuming but fail to see that each element of the research process supports the next step. I have also emphasized the need of covering all the implications, advantages and disadvantages of each research method. I pleaded for teaching more, for asking for more effort and more depth from our students so that they can do less and know where they can do less when they start working and face the pressures of time and budget. Teaching them more now will always allow our students to do less. However, teaching them less will not guarantee that they can do even that.

As a final point, I spoke about how academia can help businesses by teaching students research. I shared with the participants the exercises that we used last semester in the Applied Communication class that combines social media audit with sentiment analysis. Social media, a still new and growing field, with no set rules yet with plenty of interest presents as many potentials for research as unknowns.  Instead of shying away from it and wait until social media becomes as established practice in the region, my argument was to start exploring it through research and provide businesses with graduates that already know the field. The Prezi I used at the conference is at the end of this post.  

The informal discussions that surrounded my talk exposed me to the challenges of research in the region where the desire for it exists but not the culture. The other guests present emphasized on the need for collaboration between institutions, the need to generate research as a means of putting Bahrain on the research map but they also stressed on the heavy empahsis on teaching and perhaps the little understanding of the benefits of academia-industry collaborations based in research where academics can function as industry cosultants. An interesting discussion which I hope to continue sometime in the future.


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