The best frameworks for advancing socially impactful research can be created at the intersection of the grassroots efforts and institutional programs.
At the end of an intensive two-day training on semester-based teaching organized by Tribhuvan University in Nagarkot last May, we asked the seventy or so university faculty members from around the country to pick between two groups. One group was asked to strategize how to institutionalize the teaching excellence training, building on a few years of work done mainly online by a grassroots initiative. The other group would discuss a new topic: how to pursue and promote research and publication in the university. To our pleasant surprise, over two-thirds of the participants went to the research group. We had to come up with a quick way to better regroup the scholars.
We have observed increasing numbers of training and discussions that focus on research, writing, and publication in and beyond our universities in recent years. It is not just that the current lockdown has afforded more time to university professionals. The current trend builds on a strong momentum that we have seen in the last few years, in both the public and private institutions, in the capital and across the country. The incident above was a manifestation of a broader momentum.
Even better, we have observed an increased interest in making research and publication more socially impactful, especially among younger scholars. A recent article about UGC-supported grants showed that while the quality of our research and publications remain concerning, younger researchers are publishing stronger scholarship.
In this essay, we highlight two complementary dimensions for advancing research and publication for greater social impact: a community and culture of research and a policy framework that can foster the culture. The proposed framework would provide incentives to scholars, as well as realigning institutional priorities and accountability mechanisms, for making academic research more driven by social needs.