The Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Research Council (ARC), Professor Margaret Sheil, visited the University of New England last week to join young researchers and their mentors in a celebration of “the research journey”.
She presented a keynote address at the annual conference for postgraduate students in UNE’s Faculty of The Professions, and launched a newly-published book titled Qualitative Journeys: Student and Mentor Experiences with Research.
Professor Sheil (pictured here), who has headed the ARC since August 2007, said she tried to plan her visits to universities to coincide with an event or a celebration, and that her visit to UNE last Wednesday (15 July) was particularly rewarding because of the opportunity it gave her to talk to young researchers.
In introducing her at the book launch, UNE’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Graham Webb, outlined her distinguished career in the practice and administration of research, and said: “We’re very honoured to have you with us.”
Professor Sheil said that launching Qualitative Journeys, edited by Victor Minichiello and Jeffrey A. Kottler, gave her great pleasure because the book “recognises the importance of the student/mentor relationship”. She added that, as a molecular biologist, reading a book about qualitative – as distinct from quantitative – research had been “very educational”. (Professor Sheil is a Fellow of the Royal Australian Chemical Institute.)
She noted that the book was a product of international collaboration, with Professor Minichiello based at UNE as Pro Vice-Chancellor and Dean of the Faculty of The Professions, and Professor Kottler based in the Department of Counselling at California State University, Fullerton, in the United States.
Qualitative Journeys, published by Sage in California, is a book for students and professionals in fields including the social sciences, education, human services and health. “The first two chapters describe the general nature of a qualitative research journey,” the editors say in their Introduction. “Each subsequent chapter tells the story of a research study with vivid, compelling descriptions of the struggles, joys, discoveries, surprises and interpersonal negotiations that take place.”
Professor Kottler, who was visiting UNE at the time of the launch, said that the book was unique in its focus on “the complex journey and partnership of research”. He also said that it was – among other things – a celebration of UNE and the impact of this University’s staff and students around the world. Many of the book’s chapters were written by staff members and students at UNE, and Professor Kottler made the point that in each case the student was the “senior author” of the chapter. Many of the authors were present at the launch.
Professor Minichiello discussed his and Professor Kottler’s experiment with an “interesting angle” in a book designed to teach people about qualitative research, and said that they had received “positive feedback from readers who say they were often unaware that they were learning about research methods”.