Written by Professor Emma Bond.
As our university’s newly appointed Director of Research, it is a tremendous privilege to be invited to hew the first stone for our new research blog. Even at this early stage of our university’s life, we’re already beginning to forge a reputation for producing research that has international impact. And the idea that this new platform can help us establish a community of academics who consistently produce world-class research is both satisfying and inspiring.
At the same time, if I may add, I have found this undertaking more than a little daunting. Being tasked to ‘write something’, as opposed to writing a research proposal, writing up fieldwork notes, or developing an article for a peer-reviewed journal, is a completely different discipline that I initially found chaffed against my academic comfort zone.
What’s more, I have a confession to make: I have never blogged before. And for me, as a Professor of Socio-Technical Research, that’s a somewhat disquieting admission to have to process. But given my specific area of research, perhaps this is not so surprising, and explains why I've tended to shy away from social media, too.
Even so, given the not so recent cultural and academic shift in the social and political landscape affecting the way that we consume and present research in the 21st century, maybe it’s time me and my fellow academics begin to feel more at home with the new normal?
And so, both chastened and hugely inspired by my son who (for nearly 10 years now) has written a regular column in a narrow gauge model railway magazine since he was just 14, I have with some trepidation accepted the invitation to write an article for the University of Suffolk’s new Research Blog.
Sitting here on a train as I write this, with a laptop that transforms my mode of transport into an office, I wish I could be more Carrie Bradshaw (who doesn’t?*) and less Emma Bond who feels compelled to reference everything she writes…
Thinking back on 16 years of an academic career, research was not really high on the agenda when I first started teaching. But it was certainly something that had inspired, motivated and fascinated me as a student. As an undergraduate in a pre-internet age, I was very lucky to have been taught by people who were infectiously passionate about research.
Those inspiring academics encouraged us students to root through published papers from high-level academic journal articles, urging us to critically evaluate research methodologically, ethically and philosophically. And so my early days of research involved trying to blow my dusty nose quietly in hallowed libraries, ploughing through archived back copies of journals, and scouring the lists of contents on the back cover as if digging for treasure.
Today, our access to research and knowledge has been transformed in the information age and all knowledge is now seemingly available at the ends of our fingers. But if we were ever tempted to question whether robust research is still vital, given recent events highlighting the power of social media in political outcomes and the emergence of fake news, the importance of critical digital literacy cannot be emphasised highly enough.
If you google ‘research’, Wikipedia currently cites the OCED (2015) definition: "creative and systematic work undertaken to increase the stock of knowledge, including knowledge of humans, culture and society, and the use of this stock of knowledge to devise new applications”.
As a new university building, our research culture is even more crucial if we are to help forge the new knowledge economy and society itself. While we may be relatively small, our research is already punching well above its weight. And as we begin to develop our first submission for the Research Excellence Framework in 2021, I already feel very proud of our growing body of impactful, interdisciplinary research and the recognition that our work is receiving.
Thankfully, research is no longer confined to the dusty shelves of university libraries; it is now blogged about, tweeted, shared, re-shared and celebrated. This has opened up new and exciting opportunities for collaboration and partnership and for furthering the research agenda beyond the previous confines of academia.
So can I encourage you to contribute to this blog in the coming months and to the growing research community at our university? I’m looking forward to this platform providing special insight into the University of Suffolk’s research that will both inform and inspire, and also provoke some dust-free research ideas, new collaborations and exciting initiatives.
*Sex and the City – apologies to those reading this too young to remember the late 1990’s, or too intelligent/appalled to watch it…