Suggestion for young graduates/ researchers from Dr. K Siddique -e Rabbani
|Dr. K Siddique-e Rabbani|
Scientific Bangladesh: What is your suggestion for young graduates who want to be researchers?
Dr. K Siddique-e Rabbani: (I am answering this question addressing the young people directly, irrespective of whether they have a job in a research organization or not.)
I believe each of you has the talent and capability to become a researcher, and you can do that at home. If you are employed in a research institution, obviously you have more openings, but unless you know how to start with whatever you have, you will always end up blaming others. You have to take charge of your life and work yourself.
Another very important thing is to have patience. Don’t get disillusioned by popular sayings like, ‘if you do not achieve something by the age of 40 you are gone’. Also don’t try to get publicity too soon. Listen to the ancient sayings, ‘when a fruit ripens, its aroma spreads automatically’. Wisdom and local culture of ancient civilizations like ours have many things to offer for a sustained world compared to many of the immature arguments and philosophies coming from the recently developed West, which is increasingly putting pressure on the sustainability of the planet itself.
Don’t think that the whole world will come up with open arms if you have a brilliant idea. An idea is not enough. You need to demonstrate its success through your own efforts first, for which you will have to commit your own resources initially. Only when you succeed you will find that appreciation, funds and supports are coming automatically, proving the ancient saying mentioned above. After more than 30 years of continued work I am finding myself in such a situation now, and this interest of ‘Scientific Bangladesh’ for this interview of mine is also an example of the spreading aroma.
You need to be realistic too. You need a financial support to live. Therefore, take up any job that will give you survival and a little to spare. Here are some tips for taking a path towards successful research, from any background.
i)Don’t get bogged down by high sounding research. Think of doing something simple, something useful for yourself, your own family or for people around you. Think of a technology that solves a burning problem in the lifestyle of your family. After you solve such a problem through the innovation or adaptation of a gadget you will find that others have use of it too, and you can possibly sell it to them. Keep a reasonably good margin, don’t sell your products at cost price. You will need this margin to sustain yourself and for doing further research which will be necessary as you go along. When you have sold a few you will face complains, something went wrong under certain circumstances, something was not handle well, or something should have been designed in another way, and so on. You have to promptly respond those issues, and for this what you need is research; to find out why things went wrong, how to quantify some measures of quality, etc. This will help you to rectify the errors, and to improve the product quality. Others will start copying you but your research will give you a lead which would be difficult to beat. Besides, you will have to compete through product design, quality control, after sales service, advertisement, etc. All this will create a healthy competition which will contribute to a development of the whole society. You can use the money to continue research in order to improve the quality of your product, and to develop other useful items of greater complexity. At one time you will find that you can survive on the margin earned and you can leave your job that you took for survival; so much so that you can possibly provide jobs to others. Besides if you remain creative and allow the creativity of your associates to flourish you will find yourself at regional or world leadership in a certain item or items after a decade or two. You will find that what you are doing is quite sophisticated and admired by others.
ii)Think of doing something that is achievable with your own knowledge and expertise, with resources that you have, or that may be available to you without much difficulty, and ‘start doing’. I emphasize this phrase, ‘start doing’ because many new ideas come only when you start doing; you possibly could not have thought of these if you only kept on planning in your mind. Don’t be too ambitious at the beginning; try to be content with a simple item initially.
iii) The above approach will most possibly give you an easy success which will give you satisfaction and a feeling of achievement, and will build up your credibility among people you know. When people find out that you can do something really useful, they will come forward with appreciation, and monetary support may come as well, even without asking.
Let me give an example to the above mentioned suggestions. Suppose you have a refrigerator at home and you want to keep the water that you carry to your office in a plastic bottle cool for a few hours. You can do this by covering the bottle using thick polythene or polystyrene foam (commonly known as cork sheet), and finish the outside with any material, a jute bag or a plastic bag. Now you should do some research with this low cost flask. Many young people make this type of items for science fair, but what they do not do is research. For your research, take some measurements; determine how the water temperature increases with time at a particular air temperature, typical for an office. Then change the thickness of the insulation and change the material; find out the temperature change with time. Then try to apply your knowledge of science to explain the results. This will help you carry out further changes in design and measurements. Based on the above results decide which material and which thickness you would choose by optimizing cost, size, user-friendliness, aesthetics, etc., for your final design.
So you have done a research. Did it demand a lot of money?
When you start using the product yourself, you will find that others are asking for it. Start selling it and follow the procedure I mentioned briefly before. You don’t know where you will end up. Ideas for newer products and innovation will come as you go along.
If you are in a research organization, try to choose a similar item for research. When you achieve success on a simple item, your seniors will also get interested. This will help you in changing their outlook to research. Try to convince them for taking up pilot scale manufacture and sales of your product from the organization. I understand initially this may prove difficult, but try to convince fellow young researchers too and motivate them into taking up similar target oriented research, and the collective pressure may bear fruit. If no one shows interest, make the item at your home and try selling it informally to friends and relatives and use the margin in further research, at home in such a case. Save all the money that you earn for further expenses which you will need soon for expanding your work. I don’t feel this is wrong/unethical since this action of yours will benefit the whole nation which is more important than what your office seniors think right. Otherwise all your research outcomes will rot in the laboratory. If you look at BCSIR, most items developed there were never manufactured. So all money spent by the nation in developing these items eventually went down the drain.
If you find that your product has a potentially good market try to set up a small company where you will use the saved money. My advice would be not to take any friends or any moneyed person as a shareholder. If someone gives a gift, or a simple loan, you may take it but don’t allow anyone else to dictate your business. You know the best about your product, you know how to modify it if need arises, you know the best what your capabilities are. Many such efforts ended even after success in business simply because of partnership problems. Many well wishers will tell, ‘You are a scientist, you don’t do business. Give your product to a businessman’. I have learned the lesson the hard way. I have tried all these avenues; all failed till I turned myself into a part time entrepreneur when I succeeded. My first successful factory was the drawing room of my residence. Now looking at the global history, I find all successful technological businesses were initiated by the innovators themselves. Microsoft. Apple computers, IBM, Sony, Marconi, Ford, Edison, Cartwright, James Watt – all tell the same story. There is no other alternative.
An industry growing on own R&D can understand and realize the value of research and of patience. Scientists of later generations may get support from such industries. However, in our country, in fact, in the whole of the Third World large or medium industries based on homegrown R&D do not exist. All the rich businessmen in our country are either traders or entrepreneurs of industries based on fully foreign technology. They expect return to their investments very quickly, they will not have the patience to see your product mature and succeed. Your product is your ‘baby’, you will leave no stones unturned to see that it succeeds, and this commitment is very essential in the successful marketing of a product.
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