Borneo higher learning institutions come together to strengthen research culture
By Jude Toyat
KOTA SAMARAHAN: Five universities in Sarawak and Sabah worked together in putting the spotlight on education and development of researchers at the fourth Borneo Research Education Conference (BREC) 2016.
Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM), Sarawak Swinburne University of Technology, Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS), Curtin University Malaysia, and Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas) were the five co-convenors of the conference themed ‘Developing as Researcher by Building Research Skills’ held Aug 17-18 at UiTM Sarawak Branch, Samarahan Campus, Kota Samarahan.
The 2016 BREC event is part of a series of conferences being organised by the participating institutions to collaboratively enhance research education in the Borneo region and beyond. Its main objective is to help strengthen the research culture within higher learning institutions.
“This is a unique conference series which focuses attention on the development of researchers. UiTM Sarawak has been associated with this conference series since 2013, when it was first launched by Swinburne Sarawak.
“This conference series provides us with a platform to cultivate collaborative initiatives with other universities, for strengthening our postgraduate research programmes. Such initiatives are important for meeting the national PhD completion targets, which are critically important for Malaysia’s commitment to being a world-class knowledge economy,” said UiTM Sarawak rector Prof Datuk Dr Jamil Hamali, who is also the conference patron.
Research capacity-building initiatives tend to emphasise subject knowledge and technical skills, such as statistical methods and software applications, explain the two Co-Chairs of the conference, Dr Ellen Chung (from UiTM Sarawak) and Dr Ismail Ait Saadi (from Swinburne University of Technology Sarawak).
“Besides such subject knowledge and technical skills, researchers also need other important personal and professional competencies.
“For example, researchers must be able to understand research contexts, recognise research problems, and formulate credible and meaningful research questions. Interpersonal skills such as building relationships and networks, working collaboratively, giving and receiving feedback, and being self-aware, are also important,” said Dr Ismail clarifying the broader focus of the conference.
As for Dr Ellen Chung, conducting research during the postgraduate years is a lonely journey.
“The experience can sometimes be overwhelming.
“Through this conference, we hope we had provided researchers with an avenue to meet with other fellow researchers to share the burden, as well as the joy of this process,” said Dr Ellen.
While the organisers anticipated that most BREC 2016 participants would be research students at various stages of their studies, the students’ academic supervisors and other experienced researchers were also part of the participants in the event this year.
BREC 2016 was officially opened by the BREC convenors, Associate Professor Dr Firdaus Abdullah and Associate Professor Dr Corina Joseph, along with the BREC Co-chairs Dr Ellen Chung and Dr Ismail Ait at the Applied Science Auditorium, UiTM Sarawak in front of the researchers and participants from universities in Borneo.
Other than keynote address, BREC 2016 also took the initiative in organising a research workshop to the participants before they present their own conference paper.