The role of academics in promoting research (in Cambodia)

This article was published by Khmer Times on 24 August 2020.

research - KT
Image: picpedia/ Nick Youngson/ KT

By Kimkong Heng


To promote research in Cambodia, all stakeholders, including individual university academics or lecturers, have vital roles to play. To be precise, all relevant stakeholders can be divided into three categories or levels: a governmental or national level, an institutional level and an individual level.

The national level includes the government entity, the Education Ministry and other ministries and various government-level institutions such as the Royal Academy of Cambodia and the Department of Scientific Research. At the institutional level, there are universities, research institutes, think tanks, schools, centres and so one. For the individual level, there are scholars or researchers, academics, teachers, administrators, students, professionals, leaders and staff in public and private institutions, plus any individuals interested in the promotion of research and publication in Cambodia.

This article focuses on the individual level, specifically on the role of Cambodian university academics in contributing to the promotion of research and publication in the country.As academics have tripartite roles, namely teaching, research and service, this article looks at how individual academics through each of these roles can help foster a research culture in Cambodia.

First, in their teaching role, Cambodian university academics or lecturers can try to promote research in various ways. They can explain to their students the significance and value of research, encourage them to read and explore what research is, show them how to read research articles and teach them how to conduct research. Academics can also directly and indirectly motivate or inspire their students and colleagues to have a greater interest in research by making efforts to consistently talk about research in classes and in the university premises, read and share research articles, be available for research support and mentorship and share research findings they have read with students, peers, university administrators and university leaders.

Second, in their research role, which is most significant among the three, academics must try to actively engage in research and publication. They should make a commitment to keep themselves updated in their respective fields through the conduct, dissemination and publication of their research. If they face time and resource constraints preventing them to carry out research and publish it, they can consider doing lighter research work by writing op-ed articles or short essays, maintaining a personal blog or website, posting or sharing research-related posts on social media, particularly Facebook, and running a YouTube channel that focuses on research and publication. Whatever they do, they should try to emphasise research, academic writing and publication and endeavour to be active in research through reading, publication, research collaboration and participation in research conferences, seminars, and workshops.

Third, in their last role, individual Cambodian academics can make a difference to the state and development of research in Cambodia by actively and proactively participating in or initiating a community of research practice. In the research community, they can be a research mentor, a participant, a collaborator, a motivator, an observer and/or an organiser. Moreover, they can provide academic or research services freely to their students and others, or they can charge them based on the time spent or the amount of work performed. They can also offer training courses, workshops, seminars and talks, all of which are aimed at promoting research, motivating others to do research and sharing knowledge and skills about research and publication. They may engage in other service roles as requested by their universities, students, peers and/or the community.

Overall, individual academics have a crucial role to play to contribute to the development of research and the cultivation of a research culture in Cambodia. Individual academics are essential elements needed to drive the development of research when stakeholders at the macro (national) and meso (institutional) levels lack the necessary resources or real commitment to invest in researchand development.

No doubt, promoting research and publication in the context of developing countries with limited resources such as Cambodia is a challenging task. However, it is not a task too difficult or impossible to achieve.

With active and genuine involvement from all stakeholders, including the government, universities, research institutes and individuals, there is hope that a research culture in Cambodia will continue to grow and will eventually flourish.

In short, to foster a research culture as well as to further promote the conduct of research, the dissemination of research findings and the greater consideration of research in policy formulation and implementation, a change of mindset is necessary.

This means that all stakeholders involved, including individual academics, need to have a strong sense of optimism that something can be achieved.

Kimkong Heng is a PhD candidate in the School of Education at the University of Queensland and a visiting senior fellow at the Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace. He is a co-founder of the Cambodian Education Forum and a recipient of the Australia Awards Scholarship. All views expressed are his own.

Published by Kimkong Heng

A student, teacher, educator, and researcher

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