The Art of Research (AoR)
The Art of Research (AoR)
Volume 6 Issue 12 News & Resources | December 2013
2013 has been an interesting year for our research group. We have been very busy managing a number of research grants with quite dissimilar focus, albeit within the ambit of underwater or marine research topics. Most of the research grants have entered their 2nd or final year of project completion, with some grants already permitted extension into the early parts of 2014. And yes, the research money is dwindling very fast, and the finances are juggled among the grants to ensure all projects will survive (read: complete successfully). As a research group, we are in constant need for new research funding. Putting the finances aside, our research activities are significantly lower key this year compared to what we have gone through before. I guess this is a just a natural cycle for any research endeavor. There is a time for everything. One “day” you’re up there. The next “day” probably you’ll be just lumbering somewhere at the bottom. But no worries, we are not disheartened. Our research efforts have always been objective-oriented and, at the research group level, are not so much affected by temporal constraints and challenges. Alhamdulillah, we are continuously moving forward, with or without the money.
Our graduate student’s population has been dwindling also, but for good reasons. A number of them have completed their post-graduate studies, and are moving forward in their careers. Some have managed to become engineer, research scientist, lecturer and even Met-Ocean engineer, among others. Of course, some have decided to stop along the way and chart their own paths. There are regrets here and there. But, this is quite normal for any research group in its growing phase. At the research group level, the maturity is nearly there. We have moved away from being too university-centric to a more open and inclusive attitude towards others. The research efforts into underwater technology and associated applications must now be more inclusive of not just the other universities, but to all the stakeholders. This is done not much for the survival of the research group per say, but more towards ensuring the agenda for ocean-related technology-based research in the country will be sustained at a higher level. Our graduates have also started their own research circle, quite related to URRG, in their own university. They are sharing the knowledge, training and experiences throughout all those years in USM. For this, I am very grateful. All the pains endured are not in vain. Thank God.
It has been more than a decade since theURRG research group was established.Due to some new developments and to make the research group more encompassing, we have now slightly altered the group name to UCRG which stands for “Underwater, Control and Robotics Group”. The research group main thrust will still be robotics and control research for ocean or underwater applications. This is a niche field that has been developed for quite some time in USM, and it would be a serious lost if suddenly a new focus area is chosen. From all those years, there are abundances of research-related lessons (read: tales and stories) that can be shared with other budding researchers and research groups. To a certain extent, doing research is not so much different to the work of art. There is the so-called “Art of Research (AoR)” that one should and must appreciate before embarking on any research related efforts.The complexity of the current researchendeavor requires a researcher to be more resourceful and open to new ideas and approaches. Nowadays, dogmatic steps and fixed-rules of conducting one’s research efforts will no longer suffice. Current constraints and limitations when one is engaging in research and development will immediately bring everything to a halt, if not for those innovative approaches in problem-solving. Can the skill of AoR be acquired independently? Yes, albeit with many research years and lots of money spent along the way. The shorter path to acquire the AoR is to engage and work closely with other more established researchers, and not put one’s ego in the path of learning and nurturing. At the end of the day, AoR will always be evolving, and ones will never reach the end-point. The most important thing is to get our hands dirty and actually does the research work. Practice makes perfect!
A number of activities are being planned for 2014. These are in conjunction with AOR implementation in the group. Our trademarkUSYS conference will be organized once again, tentatively, in collaboration with one of the public Technical University in the south. An open category Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) competition is already being planned as the 2nd competition-based event after the SAUVC’2014 competition to be organized in Singapore. UCRG will be sending a student’s team to SAUVC’2014.Hopefully, the team will make an impact, and impress the audience over in Singapore. ANational Technical Seminar on Underwater System Technology (NUSYS) is also slated sometime in June or July 2014. A number of short-courses are also scheduled next year. Since most of the research grants would also be completed in mid-2014, the group is expecting a number of high-quality publications and possible industry-based collaboration for products commercialization. Some new patent applications are also anticipated to be submitted. All in all, 2014 should be another interesting and, hopefully, a more productive year for UCRG, albeit with the hope new high-quality PG students joining the team. Recently, we had some new academic staffs (read: researchers)with new capabilities and potential joining UCRG. This is very promising. As they say – the more the merrier.
For 2014and onwards,the group will strive to ensure that the AoR acquired from all previous R&D experiences will not be wasted. The AoR is not just a term. It is a way of doing things the right way – first time around. All of these planned activities do not, in any way, negate the achievements and outcome gathered for the year 2013. In fact, December 2013 will witness the publication of the special issue for USYS’12 in the Indian Journal of Geo-Marine Sciences (IJMS), an ISI-index scientific journal and some more PG students completing their studies. The most important narrative here is to be forward-thinking and optimistic of the group’s direction and overall mission. This mental frame-work is applicable to us and others. We have come so far and there is no way of changing tunes.
AoR is about the approach to explore science and technology in order to challenge and create new frontiers in knowledge. History has shown that scientific discoveries and breakthroughs have always been propelled by imaginative individuals and innovative mode of thinking. UCRG intends to do this in 2014. May we succeed!
“I not use all the brains that I have, but all that I can borrow” – Woodrow Wilson