D. P. Dash

गहना कर्मणो गतिः (gahanā karmaṇo gatiḥ) | କର୍ମର ଗତି ବଡ଼ ଗହନ ଅଟେ | complex are the ways of action (Gītā, chap. 4, ver. 17)

Professor D. P. Dash
research educator, academic editor, slow professor ...

ORCID | Journal of Research Practice | Research World | SDRC

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Education Quality

Delivered a seminar on "Quality Assurance in Higher Education" at the new Odisha State Open University (OSOU), on 12 Jul 2018. It was attended by a small audience of university leaders and academic managers of OSOU from two locations, Bhubaneswar and Sambalpur (via video link). We discussed the inherent difficulty of defining quality for higher education and the current trends of thinking and practice in this domain. We used the notions of "graduate attributes," "best practice / next practice," "quality culture / audit culture," and "learner-centred education" to explore the challenges of quality assurance in the open and distance learning (ODL) context. I highlighted the importance of sustaining a conversation on these topics within the institution.

Finally, I concluded that quality remains a difficult concept and we need to remain open-minded about it, acknowledging the following:
  • Education quality is a moving target
  • Many interpretations of education quality
  • It is a complex idea – contextual and multidimensional
  • Still, a systematic approach is needed
  • Success is not guaranteed
  • Besides, there may be unintended consequences
  • Therefore, quality initiatives need continuous review from a systemic angle

Integrity Development

Delivered a seminar on "Integrity Development in Higher Education" at Xavier Institute of Management, Bhubaneswar (XIMB), on 3 Jul 2018. It was attended by a small audience of academics and research students. We discussed some of the contemporary challenges to academic integrity (e.g., the rise of "essay mills," "text spinning," "predatory publishing," etc.). I emphasised on the practical importance of focusing on "integrity development" (in distinction to integrity per se, borrowing from the work of the International Center for Academic Integrity), specifying the multilevel interventions required to enable and sustain such a focus. More particularly, I called for the following interventions:
  • Developing the regulatory framework
  • Informing and enabling stakeholders
  • Strengthening institutional governance mechanisms
  • Implementing awareness & development strategies
  • Embedding integrity in academic practice
  • Supporting research & scholarship on the subject

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Forms of Listening

I was involved as a co-facilitator in a process that may be described as a multi-expert conversation among social entrepreneurs, organised @sdrcindia on 24 Feb 2018. As a co-facilitator, I thought three types of listening happened here:
  1. Listening to the words of these passionate individuals—so that the proceedings may be transcribed accurately,
  2. Listening to the spirit behind their words—especially the courage of these individuals to go against the grain of society, and
  3. Listening for opportunities—opportunities to compare the narratives of these individuals with the broader narratives of human and social development.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Tips on Academic Writing

1. Often, academic writing is a sincere, self-reflective, open-minded, evidential, and somewhat tempered engagement with an existing narrative or discourse. If your work amounts to such an engagement, you should clarify which narrative or discourse you are relating to and the specific novelty you are bringing into it. Additionally, it is important to clarify the purpose of your writing and the category of readers you intend to address.

2. Present your arguments fully. Providing in-text citations does not absolve you from your responsibility as author to present facts and arguments fully in order to make your case. Do assume that your readers are both intelligent and sceptical (i.e., they would not presuppose that a statement becomes true because some famous person said it!). As much as possible, go back to original sources (it is possible that the specific source you are using may have misrepresented the original idea).

3. Describe all specialist terms where these are first introduced in the text. Do not assume that your readers will understand all your specialist terms.

4. Avoid peacock terms (e.g., misleading expressions, unsupported claims, etc.). Follow a standard style manual, such as the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (APA).

5. Be selective in what you include—do not include such details which your intended readers will consider unnecessary.

6. Do not cite a source (article, book, etc.) which you have not read carefully. (Of course, you can use secondary citations, following the rules specified in the style manual you are following.)

7. Be careful when using a more definitive/conclusive language (e.g., "the greatest English novel," "there are four factors," "leads to," etc.); adopt a more verifiable/tentative language to indicate reasonable doubt (e.g., "listed in the Modern Library's 100 Best Novels," "there are four possible factors," "can [or appears to] lead to," etc.).

8. When citing another author, pay attention to the specific context in which he/she was working/writing. You should be aware of the purpose of their specific work which you are citing (i.e., their problem context), their background circumstances/constraints/priorities, the methods used by them, and the specific audience(s) whom they were addressing. Without exercising this care, you run the risk of misrepresenting their work/ideas and citing them out of context.

9. Avoid methodological pronouncements (e.g., "We will use the hermeneutic method"). Present these as methodological decisions (or choices) you have made after considering the nature of the questions to be answered, the circumstances of the research, alternative methods available and their relative merits and demerits, and what risks and errors you are willing to tolerate.

10. Avoid personification of inanimate things (avoid: "This study intends to . . ."; better alternative: "In this study, the researcher intends to . . ." or "In this study, I intend to . . .")

11. Use a carefully designed text hierarchy (i.e., a logically ordered set of sections, subsections, and paragraphs) to present your text in a structured fashion. Make the section and subsection headings as clear and expressive as possible (e.g., instead of "3. Case #1," use "3. Case #1. The Researcher's Dilemma"). This improves readability and facilitates comprehension. Use linking paragraphs to achieve a smooth flow of ideas from paragraph to paragraph, and section to section.

12. Set off long quotations (40 words or more) from the text by indenting; sometimes shorter quotations may also be indented in this fashion to improve readability and add emphasis. Indicate page numbers for all direct quotes. Caution: Do not burden your text with too many quotations. Use italics for technical terms/concepts, non-English expressions, titles of books and creative works, and where the use of italics is allowed, as per the style manual you are following.


Although here I focus on the technicalities of academic writing, the act of writing is clearly much more than merely following rules and writing readable prose. As Kiriakos and Tienari have suggested recently, there is a need to speak of "academic writing as love" (Kiriakos & Tienari, 2018), even if it disrupts the metrics-driven mentality of academic administrators.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Encounter With My Faded Past

Concrete road through paddy fields, Satyabadi, PuriIn November 2017, I spent a few days in our ancestral village, Dasbidyadharpur (Satyabadi, Puri, Odisha), where we still own some land. It must be a few decades since I spent more than a day at a time there. It is a deeply rural place, both in terms of infrastructure and cultural setting. Most of the villagers recognised me as the grandson of so-and-so and the son of so-and-so. It was an encounter with my faded past. People there uphold a form of life that is rooted in centuries of tradition, which seemed to have been undermined variously by the new developments in post-independence India. In the few days I lived there, everyone was eager to share with me their personal stories of triumph and tragedy. These stories gave me a feel for the complications of being a paddy farmer in India today. But the village air was clean and the nights were starry. Around the village, vast paddy fields laden with paddy kernels rolled out far into the horizon. The experience led me to imagine some kind of a retreat there, where people from different contexts could come to engage in activities and conversations with the villagers, to enhance mutual understanding and envision new futures.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Dear Academic Colleagues

Academics, you stand at interesting spots,
You are but nodes in the internet of thoughts;
Anchored in ideas, ancient and new,
Downloaded free and easy to view.

From credulous, curious, oblivious students,
To kind, critical, and resentful friends;
Classrooms, committees, with relations grown,
Certainly there, you’re not on your own.

Statistical geniuses and language editors,
Blessed are they as confirmed co-authors;
In predatory journals where fees are cheap,
You will be known by the company you keep.

For CIs, PIs, and RAs on contract,
Unwilling participants, willing to retract;
Funders, regulators, and media galore;
Get ready with stories that impress and stir.

University leaders, directors, and deans,
Managers and auditors, counting their beans,
Unit panel members, silent as stone,
Seek their thoughts, by making yours known.

So it is with academics, present and past,
Nodes of thought, whose impact may last,
In proportion to their will, to listen and tell,
Adventures of mind that succeed or fail.


Revised a few times between July and December 2017. This poem is based on my university experience in Sarawak, Malaysia. Of course I have taken the poetic license to highlight aspects of academic life selectively. The main purpose is to make the readers laugh, think, and explore!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

What About Our Researchers?

"Like any other skills, research skills have to be nurtured and developed," says Prof. Dash, who established research education programs here at Swinburne.

What is research education? It introduces students to a range of skills and concepts essential to conducting their own research and evaluating the research of others. Such skills include literature review skills, project management skills, research presentation skills, and responding constructively to feedback.
Swinburne's research education program is designed to develop researchers' discipline specific skills as well as their capacity for collaboration and communication.
Dialogue among research institutions has been growing on research policies and best practices. In 2005, Prof. Dash co-founded the Journal of Research Practice, published by the Athabasca University Press, Canada, which introduces new knowledge about research practices.

"We wanted to start a conversation about research education with other universities in the region and that's how the idea of a conference came about."

The Borneo Research Education Conference (BREC) is now in its fourth year and has become a collaborative initiative of the research universities in Sarawak and Sabah. The fifth edition, BREC 2017, is planned to be held at Curtin University in Miri, Sarawak.

"Apart from giving researchers an extended support network, the conference also brings new research perspectives to light, which is crucial as it keeps the research community better prepared for the future."

Discover [Swinburne Sarawak research bulletin], November 2016, pp. 6-7.