I Write Therefore I Am

Excerpts from a research awardee’s speech.

August 6, 2013

On 24 July 2013, I was given the UP Visavas Chancellor’s Award for Outstanding Performance in Research. The irony of the award was not lost on me. I am the only administrator on record to have come up with so many publications and research projects while in office, quite contrary to the expectation of  “lying low” in terms of scholarly pursuits.  

I shared the following insights from years of toil in the business during my 7-minute public message:

  • Write research proposals with value-plus by incorporating concrete plans for dissemination (which academic conference to present it at?) and publication (which journal to submit an article to?) in mind. Scholarship requires this kind of seamless thinking from product preparation to packaging.  To save time,  research project outputs must be written using the format and mood required by the target publication outlet, including a robust literature review.
  • Don’t be a wallflower at academic conferences. Rather than a one-time occasion to earn “promotion points” from your home university, consider a paper presentation as an iterated game with possible exponential gains. Here’s my template of how it works: I presented a paper based on a project funded by my university at a conference at University of Manchester, UK, with travel support from a government higher education agency; at this conference, I met a colleague from East Timor who later became my collaborator for a Toyota-Foundation project. I presented the findings of this project to a military conference in Chicago where I was “picked up” by a Rutgers University Professor for his National Science Foundation project on military integration, which then allowed me to go to the U.S. two times for paper presentation; I was paid $1500 for my manuscript and a book chapter soon to be out under Georgetown University Press.
  • There’s no harm in trying. Apply to every open-themed competitive research grant in the market, regardless of the odds of success. Win or lose, one learns and gets better at these exercises.
  • No peer-reviewed publication goes to waste. While your home university may put premium on ISI publication or books from reputable University publishers, a lesser-pedigreed peer-reviewed output is as good if it puts your name out. A case in point: my journal article in an obscure South African military journal was read by the country program director of Asia Foundation. He was impressed; subsequently I have been invited to join a research project on security.
  • It’s not about the money, but the experience. Research projects should be purposely small in scope and budget to allow for a quick, two year turnaround from proposal writing to publication in print. Field work deepens one’s humanity, and is an endless source of priceless stories. Interviewing Falintil rebels at Becora prison in Dili; tsunami survivors in Bandah Aceh and former internally displaced persons in a Mindanao war zone made me a more socially aware traveler.
  • Support begins at home. Your home university likely has an array of programs supporting scholarly work at every stage of faculty need: doctoral studies support funds, dissertation grants, post-doc grants, research grants of numerous kind (for the soloist, mentor/partner, collaborative team players) and travel support for paper presentations. There is also “official travel time” for meetings, conferences and field work, or reduced load credit for research and writing. If you have this support infrastructure, tap into them to get where you want to go.

Being an academic in an institution aspiring to be a research university is punishing work. But for those of us who are happy to write, to read tons of boring scholarly materials, and to live out of their suitcases, it isn’t so bad.  

Iloilo, Philippines

Rosalie Arcala Hall is a Professor at the University of the Philippines Visayas and a founding member of the editorial collective at University of Venus


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