How to be a productive researcher: an exploration of successful Vietnamese researchers’ experiences

Author: Pham Duy Anh Nguyen

Nguyen, Pham Duy Anh, 2016 How to be a productive researcher: an exploration of successful Vietnamese researchers’ experiences , Flinders University, School of Education

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This study focuses on the successes and challenges faced by individual academics and Vietnam universities to engage in and be productive in research, as required by HERA for the period 2006-2020 (Harman, Hayden, & Pham, 2010). This study is grounded on an assumption that answers can be found for improving research in Vietnam through investigating research engaged academics who are known to be successful in Vietnamese universities (Harman et al., 2010). The understandings derived from this investigation are of value to both early career academics (ECAs) and Vietnamese universities to enhance their research engagement and productivity.

The project was conducted in three diverse Vietnamese universities within their Humanities and Social Sciences faculties. An interpretive research design was undertaken to examine the experiences and strategies of successful researchers in their university contexts. The study was conducted in two phases. Phase 1 involved a face-to-face interview survey of 29 individual academics in three participating universities. The purpose of this was to both confirm the literature review based definition of a Vietnamese successful researcher, and to seek nominations of well-known successful researchers for Phase 2 of this study. Phase 2 was the key focus of this study. It used in-depth, semi-structured interviews with nine successful researchers nominated by Phase 1 participants to gain a detailed insight regarding the factors successful researchers identified as contributing to their success in research.

This study found that successful researchers were passionate about their research, and were highly motivated to engage in and to enhance their own research capabilities. They were dependent on informal mentoring and membership of international research networks, and took personal responsibility for their own professional learning. They did this through a personal program of learning through the reading of international, Vietnamese and English language research journals, and seeking opportunities to engage in the research of others. By contrast, it was found that many young, often female, less successful, ECAs merely complied with the ‘publish or perish’ agenda currently influencing research in Vietnam universities. Their focus is on the quantity of publications, often from their master’s studies, resulting in poor quality publications that lacked focused, expert engagement in research that would contribute towards national development. Successful researchers identified that English proficiency, which is difficult to achieve, plays a key role in productive research engagement, and lack of proficiency can be a considerable barrier for individual academics’ research productivity and research quality, particularly in seeking international publication. This research also found that the many challenges for ECRs to engage in research were compounded for female academics, as they are still expected to shoulder a greater burden for family responsibilities.

Vietnamese universities must look to their own practices in order to transform themselves into high performing research universities where a strong research culture is established across all institutional levels. The solution is multifaceted and should not rely solely on changing the behaviour of young academics. Rather, a systematic approach is needed, and must be aimed at mutual benefit for academics, institutions, government and society in general, so that the research focuses on what is most important for the advancement of Vietnam as a nation.

Keywords: Research capacity, research productivity, Vietnam higher education, productive researrcher,

Subject: Education thesis

Thesis type: Professional Doctorate
Completed: 2016
School: School of Education
Supervisor: Janice Orrell