The Institute of International Education (IIE), in cooperation with IIE’s Scholar Rescue Fund (SRF), held a conference on "Building Academic Research Capacity" in Erbil, Iraq from February 3 through February 5. More than 150 Iraqi scholars, Iraqi public and private university presidents, vice presidents, and deans, Iraqi government officials, U.S. Consulate officials, and international experts participated. This IIE conference and training workshop focused on creating and publishing research papers and articles, promoting an atmosphere of inquiry in the classroom, and the role research plays in higher education institutional success. This event was the seventh conference—the sixth held in Iraq—in a series of symposia presented under the auspices of the IIE-SRF Iraq Project. The next and concluding event in the series is scheduled for June 2014.
Goals and Themes
Themes and topics addressed during the three-day event included: honing research and proposal writing skills, including developing strong abstracts; navigating funding landscapes; strategies for getting published and promoting one’s research; identifying high impact journals and publishers–both print and online—and avoiding “predatory” publishers and conferences; strategies for advancing scientific inquiry skills in the classroom to nurture a research mentality; and the role research can play as a tool to promote the university and enhance its visibility. As in past conferences, Iraqi experts joined international experts to speak to these themes in relation to the Iraqi higher education sector and address the current state of academic research as well as funding support for research in Iraq. The conference included both plenary and smaller group sessions that afforded attendees an opportunity to delve more deeply and actively with specific topics.
Welcome addresses were provided by Mr. Jim Miller, Director of the IIE Scholar Rescue Fund, Mr. Joseph Pennington, Consul General, U.S. Consulate General-Erbil, and Dr. Ali Saeed Mohammed, Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, Kurdistan Regional Government-Iraq. Ms. Nada Al-Soze, Director of Iraq Scholar Rescue Project at IIE, facilitated a scholar panel on lessons learned from working and researching abroad. Linda Tobash, Director of University Placement Services at IIE and an expert on U.S. higher education, served as conference leader and moderator.
Over a dozen Iraqi presenters and discussants served on panel discussions and roundtables discussing key higher education trends in their country on the challenges and opportunities associated with the educational reform efforts in Iraq.
Conference sessions were conducted by higher education experts from U.S. and Middle East regional institutions of higher learning including: Prof. Jeffrey Beall, Scholarly Communications Librarian and Associate Professor at the University of Colorado Denver; Dr. Saouma BouJaoude, Director, Center For Teaching and Learning at the American University of Beirut; and, Dr. Angelika Hofmann, Deputy Director for Science and International Initiatives, Corporate & Foundation Relations at Yale University.
Key Themes That Emerged From the Conference
- Promoting research begins in the classroom by advancing inquiry-based teaching and learning skills. Participants need more ideas and tools on what can be done in the classroom to advance inquiry-based teaching and learning
- Participants gained a world view on recent trends in research and a better understanding of what is needed to become published in international, high-impact journals
- Team work and collaboration are of great importance to be competitive to publish in international journals
- Participants indicated they had thought emphasis should be on a single researcher’s talent but now understand the importance of collaboration; there is a need to change how one works with students and what is expected from them
- It is important to approach research in a systematic way and understand the role of “reader” as “interpreter” of the data and findings
- Participants had the opportunity to improve research writing skills, especially tips on and practice with writing precise and clear abstracts
- There are a number of challenges in promoting research in Iraq, including limited funding, limited avenues for publishing research locally, limited international exposure for Arab-language journals, and difficulty in getting published in international journals and identifying reliable and authentic print and online sites
- Possible ways to address these challenges include strategies for identifying high impact journals in different fields, strategies for identifying and avoiding predatory publishers, tips on gaining visibility for personal research via free online registries such as ORCID
The participants were provided with Dr. Angelika Hofmann’s book Scientific Writing and Communication – Papers, Proposals, and Presentation which was meant to enhance their knowledge and understanding of the topics presented during the conference. All PowerPoint presentations, hand-outs and other resources and photos taken at the conference were posted online and made available to all participants during and after the conference.
About the Institute of International Education
The Institute of International Education is a world leader in the international exchange of people and ideas. An independent, not-for-profit organization founded in 1919, IIE has a network of 19 offices and affiliates worldwide and over 1,200 member institutions. IIE designs and implements programs of study and training for students, educators, young professionals and trainees from all sectors with funding from government agencies, foundations, and corporations. IIE also conducts policy research and program evaluations, and provides advising and counseling on international education and opportunities abroad. IIE also provides safe haven to persecuted scholars from around the world through IIE’s Scholar Rescue Fund.®
About IIE's Scholar Rescue Fund
The IIE-Scholar Rescue Fund provides fellowships and additional vital support for scholars whose lives and work are threatened in their home countries. These yearlong fellowships permit professors, researchers, and public intellectuals to find temporary refuge at universities, colleges, and research centers anywhere in the world, enabling them to pursue their academic work in safety and to continue to share their knowledge with students, colleagues, and the broader campus community. In its first 11 years, IIE-SRF has provided fellowships to over 525 remarkable scholars from 50 countries, including leading an effort of historic proportion to save the intellectual capital of Iraq. The Iraq Scholar Rescue Project has supported more than 270 of Iraq's most senior and threatened academics in a wide range of academic disciplines through academic positions at universities, colleges and other institutions of higher learning in the Middle East and North African regions.
This event was made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Department of State. The contents are the responsibility of IIE and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of State or the United States Government.