Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The research proposal that failed...

Consider a project that you have been involved in and especially how time, cost and quality were managed.

I have never been involved in a successful project outside of regular term course syllabi preparation which might be routine and somewhat expected however last winter holiday I was approached to join a global research project consultancy proposal for APEC entitled, "Improving Market Structure, Regulatory, Infrastructure and Distribution Systems: Can the Cost of Food to Consumers in APEC Economies be lowered?"

While operations, traceability and logistics are not the core of my knowledge they are significant areas of awareness and in concert with my native fluency in English I could logically be expected to contribute significant recommendations on this topic.

The timing of the project start would have coincided with my winter holiday and would have consumed most of my non-teaching time on a weekly basis for a period of about four months. The compensation would have exceeded my annual salary and I was particularly surprised to be considered however I maintain an active network for professional consultancy contacts. APEC is known to possess a large budget for such research and the project lead coordinator is a well known and well respected NGO management talent acquisition and leadership specialist.

What happened that was unexpected or difficult?

The immediacy of the consulting offer was abrupt and the negotiation of compensation was surprising with the full weight of the design of the time planning of the proposal I was surprised that the actual compensation was for a daily basis and not a one time payment. I never realized what these consultants can actually earn for what appears to be routine primary and secondary market research as well as desk-bound literature review. Instead of taking winter holiday easy I endeavoured to review and collect relevant literature on the assumption that the actual proposal would be accepted.

What made it easy?

The anticipation of participating in such a well regarded research forum was sufficient impetus to provoke an enthusiastic review of wide and narrow scope literature relating to local food pricing factors and policies. As well the idea that I might be contributing to the economic well-being of average Koreans was rewarding.

What made it difficult?

The scope of the project did not appear to regard the local hazards of foreign involvement in policy recommendations. Generally any foreign involvement in policy decisions is made from a back office or low profile position here. Many Koreans would be more comfortable with a Korean undertaking such research. Many local academics publish more out of fulfilling employment requirements rather than furthering policy and planning developments which are not necessarily welcomed at political levels of Korean society. Also it became increasing obvious the more I read that pricing and policies are here dictated by several special interest groups which are entirely satisfied with the current state of affairs and would see alternatives as somewhat undermining their positions.

What worked?

While the project proposal itself was rejected I found myself motivated to make myself more attractive to future possible research consulting projects of a similar nature in scope. As a result I canvassed the internet for possible continuing education courses which would contribute to future success with research skills and strategies that I believe I have been developing rather progressively for the last five years. These led me to this QUT Graduate Certificate in Research Commercialisation.

What didn't?

There is an often collective perception that teaching is not as rewarding as actually doing something or anything else. I disagree. I enjoy my teaching and learning helps me retain a sense of studentship and desire to learn new things or acquire new skills which is also complementary and satisfying. Without one I am not sure I would enjoy the other? Well, the project proposal was rejected. Big deal. It has led to further learning on my part and propelled me to consider finally designing a PhD proposal which clarifies my interests and matches my skills and experiences. As I further develop them I get a chance to recognize what they are and deepen my commitment to self-improvement in this regard. Now if I find the right professorship or research advisor then I will have really done my homework!

I believe the path of self-realisation makes these things work when one is ready to achieve them.

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