Saturday, December 2, 2017

NIRDPR Diaries Part IV : Day Three of Workshop on Research Methodology

Finally, in this post I share my lessons from the third and the final day of the wonderful workshop on "Approaches to Social Sciences Research" which I attended at National Institute of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj (NIRDPR), Hyderabad. The final day had limited sessions and I was excited for that meant more free time to explore and relax in the vastness of NIRDPR :P

Immediately after my daily workout and breakfast I headed towards the conference hall I where the workshop was being held. The first session of the day was on "Ethical Issues in Social Sciences Research" by Prof. T.V.Sekher. Prof. Sekher arrived in the hall before time and was interacting with students, going to them personally and trying to understand where they came from and what they were studying. This gesture from sir taught me something, his personal attempt to talk to us individually spoke volumes about his warm demeanor. Prof. Sekher talked about empathy towards survey/interview respondents and helped us understand the need for treating the respondents with respect and dignity even in face of overt ignorance or negligence. He informed us that respondents have the right to behave in ways they deem fit and just because a researcher wants to have information does not give him the right to haggle the respondent to meet the ends. While acknowledging the tough conversations which often seem to be going nowhere, he stressed onto the fact that protecting the interest of respondent is more important and that we must be mindful of the favor that respondents do to us by helping us garner information. He discussed about the importance of being open to criticism, he talked about maintaining transparency with the respondent about the research objective and its importance. In fact, throughout his address he reiterated the fact that respondent is a resource person who should be respected and treated well and even if he/she does not want to respond, the researcher must not indulge into coercion of any form or manner. He gave a litany of caveats. For instance, it is unethical to use collected blood sample to test for HIV/AIDS when it has been collected to test Diabetes, that no one should be able to make out the identify of the respondent by reading his/her answers or comments and an informed consent is mandatory. Prof. Sekher's session was very enlightening and it did add to my knowledge reservoir on ethics in research and as always, there is a huge scope to learn more. 

The second session of the day was taken by Prof. D.P.Singh on "Quantitative Data Analysis". His session was fun, interspersed with jokes here and there. It was a highly mathematical session and I could sense that some students found it hard to connect. I was distracted by a problem during his session. He had mentioned about normal distribution, z-curves and exactly then, a conceptual confusion arose in my mind about z-curve and I became engrossed in solving it. After that, I paid my full attention to sir. Interestingly, two days after his session during my morning workout on the football field (a change from the gym), I saw him jogging and then doing yoga for one  whole hour starting from 6 am in the morning. I was really very inspired by that moment. It is always  encouraging to see elder people working out, sweating, grinding and exercising; I believe that when people elder to us exercise we can be sure about the immense importance of physical activity. Even now, as I write about the session taken by him, I think about his morning workout that day and it totally adds to the respect I have for him. In fact, more than the session his morning ritual impacted me more, to say in a little humorous tone. 

The third session was taken by Dr. Anil Chandran on "Sampling Techniques". This was an addition to the existing sessions. Initially, this unexpected session caused me an unwarranted itch but gradually as the learning unfolded did I realize   that it was a well-thought of addition. I must admit that I understood very clearly what was so random about random sampling and how to ensure that random sampling is quintessentially random, after his address. Using interesting examples he explained to all of us the concept of random sampling. He talked about multiple ways to create a sample out of the population. An important call from office led me to miss out on some parts of this session, but notwithstanding that, I did take back the importance of spending sometime deliberating on the size of the sample for study. 

The fourth and the last session of the day and of the workshop was taken by Prof. N. Audinarayana on "Writing Thesis and Publication of Research Papers". I believe as a research scholar everyone reads this time and again and especially while preparing a manuscript. Most of the facts were known but important to be reminded. He stressed on the distinction between description and interpretation of the results. He also stated that when it comes to writing, reading plays an important part and that he who aspires to become a better writer of scientific genre must read journals and research papers voraciously. He also talked about handling research correspondences when communicating with the conference or even organizing committee. He mentioned that while inquiring about the paper, we must use the reference number and on receiving rejection letter we must reply back with grace and honor. Little things, he emphasized, go a long way in cementing the etiquette of communication in research circles. 

With this the workshop came to an end and it was followed by certificate distribution to all the participants of the workshop. After the valedictory ceremony, me and four of my friends set out to explore Rural Technology Park (RTP). I must admit that the top peak at RTP has totally bewitched me and even today when I think about it, I am overcome by unfathomable peace and warmth. That particular place has done something to me and that alone warrants a separate blogpost. My readers might think that I begin with knowledge-dispersion and end up invariably talking about nature and its glory. I cannot help it, nature always seems more fascinating and mysterious to me. I do not have any photograph of that peak point, yet its image on my heart is more enduring than any digital image can ever capture. 

The pre-conference workshop was an intellectually stimulating event, I felt like a college going student, only this time I enjoyed the lectures more than ever :P I strongly encourage attending such kind of events outside of our daily jobs and responsibilities, they broaden our horizons, our network increases and it is always great to come out of our silos to participate in knowledge sharing and dissemination. The best part is that you always come back with a lot, and I do mean A LOT , of ideas.

I thank NIRDPR and IASSH (Indian Association of Social Sciences and Health) wholeheartedly for coming together and organizing such an event. It did all of us an inestimable good.

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