My educational and research philosophy

The current higher educational educational and research model, I think, is woefully inadequate to meet public health (and other disciplines) needs given the current global environment.

Currently, it seems, donors make money available for research and other activities based on their (biased, of course) priorities. Academic professors then consider research questions based on their ability to obtain a grant and/or get published. If money is obtained, students are offered research opportunities under the faculty mentors. They are given specific responsibilities, and fulfill those responsibilities in a structured fashion. I see several weaknesses with this model:

1. Research priorities and public health activities often don’t match the need. While funding is primarily on biomedical science leading to curative interventions, it seems that most of the need lies in social mobilization, prevention, and systems strengthening.

2. Students’ activities often don’t match their passion, and does not adequately harness their creativity and innovative approaches to problem solving. Nor does it adequately develop critical thinking skills. I believe (and history provides strong evidence; see here, here, here, and here) that students have as much potential for making substantial contributions to science as do senior professors. Thomas Kuhn points out that “almost always the men who achieve … fundamental inventions of a new paradigm have been either very young or very new to the field whose paradigm they change.” As such, I provide students with the opportunity to pick their own project, and set their own objectives and time line. I try to work with students on an equal level, abandoning academic hierarchy.

3. The current model does not adequately take advantage of the incredible opportunities that the internet provides. I primarily work online. I work with students and colleagues all over the globe. Internet-savvy students sometimes have more experience with web-based tools and as much access to information as do professors. Their talents could be more effectively used to improve health globally.

4. The current model does not adequately respond to the global nature of global health research needs Collaborators often live and work in different time zones, and have different holidays and vacations.

1 Comment »

  1. David king said,

    I completely agree with your Philosophy as indicated. Conventional Research and Education are structured such a way that, thinking “outside the fixed box” blinds progress as you referenced to Thomas Kuhn’s statement.

    I chair a multidisciplinary Academic conference which ideas-in-progress (RIIP) are encouraged. The lessons learned are consistent with your claim. Your students are encourage to come and share their contemporary research at http://www.intellectbase.org.

    David King


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