Recognising Sri Lankan researchers

Monday, 1 December 2014 02:07 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

I participated in two research-related events during last week. One was the Annual Research Awards of the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Directors (CVCD), the other was the first-ever Student Research Day at the Postgraduate Institute of Management (PIM). Both events had one key theme in common: the revitalization of research by duly recognising researchers.   CVCD Awards   The Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Directors (CVCD) introduced a scheme of awards in 2006 called ‘CVCD Excellence Awards’ to be awarded once in two years to recognise, appreciate and honour the outstanding contributions and accomplishments in research, innovation and invention by the staff in the university system. So far the CVCD Excellence Awards were made in 2006, 2008, 2010, 2012 and last week in 2014. Three categories of awards have been decided by the CVCD, namely, the most outstanding senior researcher, the most outstanding young researcher (less than 40 years of age on the closing date of applications) and the most outstanding inventor. For the first two categories, the awards were offered in six fields of study. They are as follows: 1. Health Sciences including Medicine, Dental Science, Veterinary Science and other Allied Sciences 2. Technology and related Sciences including Engineering, Architecture, Quantity Surveying and Information Technology 3. Biological Sciences including Agriculture and Allied Sciences 4. Physical Sciences 5. Humanities, Aesthetics and Social Sciences 6. Management and Law It was encouraging to see how researchers young in age and young at heart both were recognised for their contribution. I was on the judging panel in the category of management and law. It was very encouraging to see the outstanding contribution from bright young researchers. In a way it challenged my perception that we do not do enough research. Perhaps, I am still right. The minority who do research do it really well. The majority are not doing research at all.   Student Research Day at PIM It was a day with a difference. As I mentioned in my message to the participants, in line with the strategic direction of PIM, management research plays a pivotal role. In fact, it is a key pillar in our edifice of excellence which will make us a centre of management excellence in South Asia. With the commencement of the research partnership between PIM and the University of New South Wales (UNSW), Australia, we look forward to be more vibrant in our research endeavours. As we are aware, management research falls into the broader category of social research. While positive initiatives are being taken, the current situation with respect to research in Sri Lanka is far from a satisfactory level. We have a gap to bridge with regard to the current and desired levels of engagement in management research with publishable quality and practical relevance. Having continuously published the Sri Lankan Journal of Management (SLJM) for the past two decades, we are now working tirelessly to make it an indexed journal. Following the PIM pragmatic orientation, this event will take the form of sharing ‘close to reality’ knowledge with more emphasis on implications for practice of the research rather than on implications for knowledge advancement, observed Prof. J.A.S.K. Jayakody, Head of the PIM Research Centre. Research, in fact, is essential not only for the growth of an academic institution but also for the socio-economic growth of a nation, Chief Guest at the inauguration and UGC Chairperson Prof. Kshanika Hirimuregama, commented.   "As we are aware, management research falls into the broader category of social research. While positive initiatives are being taken, the current situation with respect to research in Sri Lanka is far from a satisfactory level. We have a gap to bridge with regard to the current and desired levels of engagement in management research with publishable quality and practical relevance" Research papers presented Perusing through the related research abstracts, I could clearly see quality and relevance which are the essential ingredients in doing applied research in a developing country. Management research, which is a subset of social research, has a vital role to play in this regard. PIM, having identified these needs, appears to be heading in the right direction with its research rigour. There were three main sessions around the themes, entrepreneurship, leadership and innovation and advanced management. LAUGFS Holdings Ltd Chairman W. K. H. Wegapitiya and PIM Senior Consultant Dr. Travis Perera were the co-chairs of the first session. ‘Intrinsic factors affecting entrepreneurial intention and intended behaviour among MBA students’ was the first paper presented by M. H. P. Ranmuthugala and S. M. N. A. Sathkumara. The second paper entitled ‘Factors affecting innovation in the SMEs in the tourism industry’ was presented by M. D. S. Perera. ‘Factors affecting growth of woman entrepreneurship in the SME sector in Sri Lanka’ was the third interesting paper presented by I. P. W. Wijeyaratnam. The second session on leadership and innovation was chaired by Dr. R. M. K. Ratnayake, Director, National Centre for Advanced Studies in Humanities and Social Sciences and Prof. Ajith de Alwis, Program Director, Coordinating Secretariat for Science, Technology and Innovation (COSTI). ‘Charismatic leadership and follower outcomes’ was the title of the first paper in this category presented by F. Ahamed and R. Dambawinne.  The second paper titled ‘Transformational leadership and organisational innovation in the garment industry of Sri Lanka’ was presented by M. K. Gunawardena and C. N. Cooray. ‘Grooming and status consumption: How the groomed body is used as an object in projecting social status’, was the final paper in this segment presented by K. A. N. Perera and P. H. Samarasinghe . The final session on advanced management was chaired by Prof. Sunil Chandrasiri, Dean, Faculty of Graduate Studies, University of Colombo and Prof. Kennedy Gunawardena, Professor of Accounting Information Systems, University of Sri Jayewardenepura. ‘Revisiting the new public financial management: Financial accounting and reporting perspectives of provincial councils’ was the first paper presented by N. Nagendrakumar. The second paper titled ‘The role of the Development Process of Change Content in Organizational Transformation’ was presented by H. P. G. V. Gunawardena. ‘The effect of perceived organisational support on employees’ intention to participate in non-mandatory training in Sri Lankan business organisations’ was the final paper presented by S. Jayaranjani.   Broader Context I recall reading an article written by Dr. Jayaratne Pinikahana sometime ago, highlighting the need to focus on the private sector to collaborate in university research. He shared some revealing statistics about local research. “Sri Lanka contributes only 0.17% from GDP whereas Singapore contributes 2.3%, South Korea, 2.9% and China, 1.3% from their GDP for research. A recent report published by the Ministry of Technology and Research in Sri Lanka revealed that Sri Lanka has only 287 researchers per million which is less than the world average of 894. “The average number of researchers per million in the developed world and the developing world is 3272 and 374 respectively. It is clear from these statistics that Sri Lankan situation is worse than the average third world situation. The most alarming situation is that it is getting worse in recent years. For example, in 1996 Sri Lanka had 6000 full-time researchers including university researchers but by 2006 this number declined to 4200.” In such a context, any move to strengthen the research rigour, particularly among the university community, is commendable. As I observe, there is a clear need to create better awareness on the importance of research. This I see acutely in the field of management.   Road Ahead Management research has to gain a renewed enthusiasm in Sri Lanka. The presence of several annual research conferences and the availability of several management journals are a welcome sign for a better future. A lot more needs to be done to ensure that management research contributes to the development of the Sri Lankan economy while enriching the body of knowledge. We need more management researchers who would genuinely add value in broadening our understanding, in turn contributing to individual and institutional development. When such research projects happen we can look forward to a high impact on economic growth with socio-cultural implications. I refer not only to the success of a research project but the subsequent benefits to humanity at large.