Supporting Researchers in Cambodia

Helping Lecturers Develop Research Skills

For almost ten years, we have helped lecturers and professors build their capacity to become stronger researchers. Traditionally, research practice has not been common within academic institutions in Cambodia. Therefore, the research capacity and volume of publications have been relatively low. It has been challenging for lecturers and teachers to get support from their institutions to carry out research. This is why our Research Programme has been proven advantageous and fruitful.

Research is a key element of our capacity-building programme in Cambodia. Often lecturers have not had the chance to be supported by their universities, as these rarely have the capacity to guide researchers with time, resources and method support. Not everyone knows how to carry out research or has had the time and resources to make it possible.

This is where RWI comes in:

–We help lecturers who have been teaching at the universities, become researchers. The past years, researchers’ capacity has increased dramatically in our academic partner institutions. Research is gradually becoming a tradition, says Sokseila Bun, Programme Officer working with the Research Programme at RWI. For universities to be real academic institutions, they need researchers that carry out research.”

The tradition has been to ‘just go to school’. This is something we wish to change with the research capacity-building programme.

Activities That Make a Difference for a Future Researcher

To support lecturers, professors and teachers in becoming better at research, we invite them to be a part of and undertake three key activities:

The first step consists of a call for applications to different universities in Cambodia. We encourage teachers and lecturers of academic institutions to apply and send in a proposal:

–The candidates are always teachers; often lecturers and professors with master’s degrees and some experience from teaching.

Secondly, we organise and invite our participants to a human rights research workshop. To organise and facilitate these workshops, we often collaborate with our colleagues in the Regional Asia Programme (read more here).

Thirdly, our candidates also get to be mentored by research experts. The mentorship provided by experienced researchers to new ones is a crucial part of the programme and is appreciated by all parties.

–The mentorship consists of support in terms of ideas, thoughts and comments on topics, methods and more, says Bun.

Creating Platforms for Dialogue and Exchange

Researchers and mentors get together again in October or November for the peer review round table meeting to discuss one another’s topics, methods, content and papers. The mentor provides guidance and comments.

The final deliverable consists of a research paper that each researcher has produced based on their respective research.

–We usually set the theme for the research–, says Bun, then suggest a range of different topics.

Contemporary human rights issues, human rights of women, gender, indigenous people’s rights, and freedom of expression, fair trial rights and labour rights are topics of interest. Recently, researchers have taken a great interest in gender and Covid-19. But, it is up to each researcher to decide and discuss with their mentor what to research.

Spreading the Research Across the World

Among those who submit their abstract to international conferences and/or locally known conferences to be speakers at the conferences get our support.

–Over the past years, we have joined over thirty international conference to support researchers, says Bun.

Finally, we sometimes arrange small closed forums under Chatham House Rules. Many of the topics are of sensitive character.

As a result of the programme, all lecturers have become stronger researchers.

–In practice, being a dedicated researcher means that you set aside time to carry out research, focus on how to do it well (using different methods such as for example semi-structured interviews with experts), says Bun. There is of course a need for a strong commitment to become a researcher, especially since most already have full-time teaching jobs.

Many of the candidates find research rewarding and continue to research. Several lecturers continue partf-time, a few as much as full-time. Some continue to build their research profiles at international conferences and carry on working on their papers.

–We have established a Centre for the Study of Humanitarian Law (CSHL). Most of the researchers from that Centre, often become researchers. Many become full-time researchers, write more papers and present their work at international conferences. We continue to support them then.

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