I found my joy in research during the final months of my undergraduate study before my graduation (Oh how I wish I was involved in research earlier). At first, it was a foreign thing, it looked scary, and I thought it had no direct implications for my life or, in general, society. I’m not really a prodigy student who was accepted by the university because of my excellent research skills, I didn’t even know the importance of research until months approaching my graduation. I mean, what could I, an 18-year-old college student, know about research at that point? Almost nothing. Luckily, I was enrolled in a university that required me to do research in order to graduate. If not, how can I know that R word?
But it didn’t stop there because I thought, does this scientific-article-reading career have a good future? Is this scientific-article-writing career promising? I didn’t say researcher yet because even before that I still didn’t know there was a terminology of researchers as a career choice. Previously, I thought that a career as a researcher could only be done by lecturers. Until finally, I saw my senior became a researcher, that was when I started to know that the job of scientific-article-reading, scientific-article-writing, discussing this and that, stating a problem to become a research project, and interpreting the results is the job of a ✨️researcher✨️
There are so many researchers in Indonesia, in this world. University students are also researchers because they have to complete a final research project to be able to graduate. Each department in the universities has research centers, from public health, medicine, nutrition, and nursing to economics, cultural science, language, physics, engineering, and many moreㅡyou name it. Each company has its own research team. Not to mention, private clinics, hospitals, and NGOs, also have their own researchers.
And, my question is still the same. Is a career as a researcher in Indonesia respected and promising? Well, if you think about it, actually every career, whatever it is, must have an “underappreciated” side because it could be in the wrong place or perspective but by looking at it from the right perspective, the career of a researcher is very promising and very useful for developing issues and solving a problem. Just like the food business, which will never be quiet because everyone needs food, I’m sure this world won’t run out of problems and that’s why researchers are still researching to improve this world. I also believe that all research proposals that will be carried out have their own urgency and benefits. But the problem is whether the results of the research can be communicated properly and encourage change in the world.
So here’s the thing, how can research solve problems? Research finds out something, and provides answers to what happened and what needs to be fixed, and from there, solutions and policy recommendations will emerge to fix the problem. Through what? Advocacy with relevant stakeholders. This is the hardest part. Because not all stakeholders are researchers and not all researchers are stakeholders. Maybe this is why sometimes research is just research results and recommendations but recommendations from research results cannot be communicated and advocated properly.
The last time I participated in an international conference, I saw so many researchers on a topic that raised issues related to neglected tropical diseases. They discussed and exchanged anything (thoughts, ideas, business cards), and made sure they will contact each other to create collaborative research between countries (it was no joke!). The panel speakers delivered a discussion about research funding for neglected tropical diseases. For something neglected, they even continue to provide research funding which ensures that very impactful research proposals can still be carried out and provide good insight for NTDs.
I also discussed this with an assistant professor from The Netherlands. She initiated a research called “What Matters Most” in which she explored what matters most in the leprosy Indonesian community about stigma happening around them. She concluded that achieving ‘what matters most’ reduces the stigma, and not achieving ‘what matters most’ increases the stigma. From the name alone, this research was very interesting, coupled with very concise and applicable conclusions. I was hoping for something big out of this research in the future. Then I asked again whether she was going to carry out advocacy and dissemination regarding this research to local governments. She said no, she said it was too “big”. She will do advocacy but not reach the local government, let alone the national level.
There are many reasons underlying her answer and I can really understand. It could be because it is difficult to contact the local government or maybe because of other things, such as advocating in vain if there is no intervention and cooperation from the government regarding the programs that can be realized from the results of the research. Thus, researchers, stakeholders, and policymakers should always collaborate hand-in-hand to produce insightful research and also utilize the research well as an evidence-based basis for an intervention.
But then again, I thought. It may not be as impactful as it can be if such cool and interesting research results can truly become a fundamental and context-specific basis for problems in Indonesia. These views are my own.