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Guest Post: To remain a researcher or not to remain a researcher, that is the question!

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By Barbara Gastel | May 18, 2014  |

[Dr. Haseeb Md. Irfanullah, who wrote this post, is a biologist turned development practitioner with keen interest in research and its communication. He is available at hmirfanullah@yahoo.co.uk.]

In March, 3 exciting things happened to me—all connected by research communication.

In 2005, I first got involved in “floating gardening”, a traditional practice in Bangladesh. In this practice, water hyacinth is piled up into large rafts to grow crops in monsoon. I wrote a book and 3 research papers on this topic. In recent years, this technology has, however, been re-branded as a great way out under climate change.

Since April of last year, I having been writing popular articles and posts on how we were overlooking the limitations of this technology and leaving research out of the discussion. I have widely shared those pieces with relevant online networks.

These brought about my first interesting happening: I was invited to present a critical analysis on floating gardening at an important workshop of the UNFCCC (Bonn)—the lead UN agency on climate change.

My second exciting thing happened on 31 March when the IPCC (co-winner of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore) published its report on climate change. My 5 articles on floating gardening and technologies are cited in Chapter 14. It was possible because, in the last couple of years, I volunteered to review this prestigious report and supplied my papers to the authors.

These 2 examples show that i) having a passion for conducting research, ii) being critical about our subject matter, and iii) having a personal strategy for research communication can help us to be in an exciting position where we are usually not expected to be.

But, can true researchers, or academics for that matter, always remain researchers/academics in their minds, even if their job titles say otherwise? I have raised that question in my latest article on the “academic development practitioner—my third interesting happening.


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