Monday, November 21, 2011

The noise about Research in Human Resources in India


The noise about Research in Human Resources

The recent NHRDN Conference featured a session devoted to research in Human Resources. The presentations made indicated a curiosity in areas that needs sincere inquiry. However, I had some observations about 'research’ as a student of such disciplines. I was pained that attendance at these sessions dropped merely because it was placed for the last day of the conference.

After serving as a reviewer on journals, I have now a few jarring noises to make on the way research enterprise is brazenly unchecked. In fact, my gut for the notes here is agitated further by the collusion of academia in the 2008 financial collapse that shook the world. (http://www.theotherschoolofeconomics.org/?p=2499). That is a 2 hour documentary, and not a scientific treatise in itself. Yet, the evidence it makes inspires me to write as below.

1.       A report does not research make. Method in inquiry does. Not any kind of method – but those that observe the canons of science.
2.       Print and electronic media like to splash opinion, given the mediocrity in discernment of science. Such a market of opinion is not the method, but merely the yearning for a voice. An opinion is a fact of opinion, not always the fact of methodical enquiry. Verifiable science too is generalizable under the certainty of specified conditions. Human Resources Development is more akin to a social science, where the laws of generalisation and universality are more circumspect. Moreover, the level of abstraction and inter-subjectivity in social sciences require a community of practice to safeguard research standards as also to promote relevant enquiry.
3.       A presentation does not make a research, and it is in fact impoverished by a lack of curiosity. Similarly, a book of collection of procedures from organisational practices does not make for a construct of scientific reality, howsoever symptomatic of a phenomenon or two they may be. Testing of constructs requires a temperament of methodical experimentation.
4.       The authority of an office is not to be confused for the authority of a subject matter. Social hierarchy often denigrates the merit of fact, especially if the conviction of enquiry and the method of communication do not help the cause of research. Scientific endeavour is no cakewalk. The art of enquiry is only eased with the practice of rigor. If you are a knowledge worker in a service industry, you may even experience the obfuscation of organisational truths when irrational procedures are foisted down the hierarchy in the name of standardisation.
5.       Several consulting brands claim to have a research focus. They also do not always acknowledge the bias of commerce in the choice of research and methods that drive research towards commerce. Practices in such commercial research would often be unconscious of compromise in research designs. Slavish to a numerical algorithm, or a framework, issues of collinearity and discriminant validity hardly matter to the ‘consultant’. Worse still, the research design gets less and less innovative and stuck between the fulcrum extremes of quantitative and qualitative planes. Contextual maps for coherent enquiry are required to make meaning of evidence in ways the subjects experience phenomena. So calls for indigenous research for example do not find takers, if science cannot be framed in service of that idea.
6.       If you intend to do a Doctoral Program in India, be aware that the quality of your investment in inquiry is not just dependent on the standards of the University or academic institution, but also on the larger ecosystem. A data-shy corporation, an oversensitive field guide or a weakly tempered supervisor can jeopardise your motivation for science itself. Research in educational institutions is hardly encouraged.  Be more prepared for the program than you care to for a job interview, for a cross examination from your side helps.

So much for now, I would think. A noise that cancels out another will not make music, I assume. If there’s a way in which educational institutions wish to up their research capabilities, I would like to learn of it.