Monday, 10 November 2014

The humanness of research

Today I attended a research conference (well, half a research conference after I attended a mentor group supervision session in the morning). I always leave conferences having learnt something; either something about myself as a person, as a human being, as a researcher or a student or a practitioner, or something more grounded in knowledge. I might leave a conference with new insight into a particular methodology or theory or area that I previously knew very little about. My point is, is that I have never left having gained nothing but free coffee and lunch... I have always taken something with me. I am not a confident presenter, nor am I a brilliant networker (both these things are skills I hope to develop in time!!). But today what I realised is that it is our humanness that pushes us forward and brings meaning into the things we do.

At a research methodologies conference, what better way to learn about being human? The very nature of scientific research is something one of the presenters discussed; the notion of 'turning art into science', or vice versa, depending on what one is doing. How does one study human beings without being human ourselves? We can often get so very involved in procedures and protocols, in 'getting it right' (I think this applies to not only research ventures, but to much of work and life itself). We can become focused on a mission of new discoveries, ensuring no stone is left unturned, and somehow in the process of developing a human feeling into an interest, and this interest into a wealth of knowledge, then from knowledge is born a scientific paradigm, we lose what it is to be. We become out of touch with our 'subjects'; they are interacting units of human data - useful chunks of information, no longer living and breathing vessels of life that we worked so closely with yet so far removed. In principle, they might be at the heart of our work, but perhaps we sometimes might work so hard to make them central that in practice we end in precisely the place we began; knowing little more than those before us knew. I left today thinking about my own research experiences and my response to others. It is interesting, especially in psychology or the social sciences that if we do not tread the waters carefully, eventually we have uncovered no more than a paradigm of human beings, instead of the meaning of the human being themselves.

I wanted to keep this post brief, but I wanted to post it nonetheless.

As always, the more we learn, the greater the scope for more learning is revealed...

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