Extract from the Editorial of JAMR 7.1
All researchers like us, who are relatively older in our chosen area, often get e-mails from young researchers asking quite basic questions on our published research. Many ask us questions about problem formulation, some ask about steps in the methodology applied in the research, while others request us to review their own work and comment on it. These communications are often private and therefore unreported. Still, these moments can be a turning point for a young researcher. We would like to further illustrate this with two interesting anecdotes.
The Executive Editor (EE) of JAMR would like to share with you a thought-provoking moment of his research journey. Without editing even a bit of grammar, here is an interesting e-mail that he recently received. A young researcher, probably a doctoral student from a non-English speaking region, wrote to him:
“... I found it hard in the first time but after some times I dominated to it and every thing around your case methodology. One of my problems now is around table 3, which made me to have a contact to you. I don’t know -- how did table 3 make from table 2? Of course I understood every thing about table 2 which is made by table 1, but I don’t know the changing process between table 2 & table 3.”
In the same e-mail, there was another query of a similar type. Because of the nature of specific details sought by this researcher, EE could not immediately answer his e-mail. EE knew for sure that he had thrown away all the hard and soft copies of the calculation sheet, as well as the Excel file that he might have used, over seven years ago. He called up his co-author, but he too had the same problem. When EE re-looked at this particular research paper, which was elsewhere referred to in the same e-mail, he thought of answering by providing some hints on how and what he did to get Table 3 from Table 2; but later he dropped the whole idea of making his reply too short and too quick. In fact, it took him a whole weekend to redo the entire problem of his co-authored paper, but it was necessary, in order to answer the specific queries. An added burden was to elaborately type every detail of calculations, with many mathematical symbols and equations, before sending them in an e-mail to the young researcher. Do you feel that EE could have evaded the long path for convincing the budding researcher? Probably, yes. But there was a risk of doing the job without effectively serving the cause of research. So, he preferred making a detailed reply, in very simple English, so that the possibility was not lost of mentoring the next generation researcher and a torch-bearer in our own chosen area of research.
Sometimes, we may be disillusioned and feel that a majority of our fellow researchers lack a proper skill-set to comprehend and understand our research work. It may be true in some cases. But, if this is happening consistently, there is a need to re-examine how and for whom you are doing all this hard work. And the most important question that comes to our mind is: if we do not do enough to make others feel comfortable in our area of research, if we do not take two steps forward to help a newcomer in our area of research and do not do the hand-holding for some time, are we really developing our area of research, or are we simply being protective of our own survival?
Another issue that we bring forward is whether language is a real barrier to good research. Sometimes, the answer is yes. EE recalls another interesting anecdote. Long ago, on a fine sunny Monday, he bumped into a young man in the parking area near his office. The young man, who was from a different country and had come for a PhD. Programme, was looking for a “worthy” supervisor! He bowed his head and asked, “Can I come by you? I want to have some arguments with you.” Clearly, the grammar and even the choice of word arguments (in place of discussion) were not correct and appropriate. It was quite a simple task to avoid further encounters with this man. Instead, both carried on the discussion a little further during a half-mile walk to the office. The patience was rewarded: the young man was exceptional in complex modelling involving “random search algorithms” though ill-prepared in his communication skills, both written as well as spoken. Hard work paid off after he took some lessons in English, probably at the local British Council office. The EE recalls the end of his adventure when, through his Dean, he received the report on this young man’s PhD thesis from an examiner at a top US University. Besides many good things, it concluded as follows: “... the research content and its presentation exceed any international standard for the award a PhD degree.”
We would like to cite a very apt verse from Bhagvat Gita, the most revered book in India, which is in Sanskrit, one of the richest ancient languages of our time. It goes like this, “Tat viddhi pranipatena, pariprashnena sevaya; updekshyanti te gyanam gyaninah tattva darshinah.” The verse exhorts a new learner to approach a learned and experienced teacher to gain new knowledge. But, he should do so with humility and respect and with a keen desire to learn. If he does so, it is quite possible that the learned one will impart the secrets of his knowledge with its all nuances for the benefit of the seeker of the knowledge.
When we write papers, there is always a constraint of word limit, which poses considerable difficulty in detailing our work. A large number of modelling papers lack details, which may be necessary for understanding the paper by a relatively new reader. But, like a tight-rope walker, we have to appreciate that our intended readers are comfortable in understanding whatever we write. We will never advocate less rigour in research at the cost of simplicity; but we will certainly advocate that every paper should have something that can enthuse the interest of a first-timer in his area of research. Additionally, if necessary, we may think of keeping the data files, computer programmes, and other details of our papers on our homepage and we believe that such type of augmentation in the dissemination of research would be of much help to our fellow researchers.
We would like to close this discussion with a simple thought: the life-cycle of our chosen field of research should not be determined by how, when and in which manner only we pursue that research area; but with a view to benefiting future researchers as well. They may become torch-bearers for others to follow.