In Bangladesh, we have some researchers who do not have the characteristics researchers normally have. They look even more corporate than corporate slaves.
They are always suited and booted and speak in a posh dialect -- sometimes a mixture of Bangla and English. Upon first encounter, you might misunderstand them as a chief executive of any corporate house. However, they are not.
They are prominent researchers in this impoverished country. In my words, these well-dressed researchers are the elite researchers.
I have met many prominent researchers from developed countries, and I have never found anyone who looks or speaks like a corporate slave. Most of them are down-to-earth and have the skills to communicate with the masses, irrespective of their economic or social status.
Some researchers from reputable research organisations and universities live in rural settings of underdeveloped countries for some time only to understand people and trends. And they come up with some excellent papers and books thanks to their understandings of the people and trends. Most importantly, they can successfully adopt the lifestyle of the rural settings.
However, some of our researchers are just the opposite. They are unable to communicate with the masses.
The dress code is particularly important, because it is quite impossible to get an accurate insight from the masses when one is dressed in formalwear and speaks in a posh dialect.
When you want to talk to a farmer or a garment worker, you will never get a good response from them when you look like an executive of a corporate organisation.
They may hold themselves back, fearing repercussions.
They will start the conversation by addressing you as sir or madam, and when they do so, you can be sure they will hide many things in their conversations that they think might disturb the ruling class.
The impact of this elite syndrome of some of our researchers is huge in the overall research activities of our country.
When they do research on the economy of the country, farmers’, labourers’, and workers’ opinions are not considered in the way they should be.
When they do research on Bangladesh’s garment industries, workers’ stake is compromised because they are not able to communicate properly with the workers.
The problem Bangladesh is facing is a lack of research. Our universities don’t have enough funding, our students are not interested in research activities, and our research organisations act like NGOs
As such, their research work only serves the purposes of garment manufacturers. Workers’ interests are ignored.
I am very curious about why they’re always in formal wear and are unable to communicate with the masses, when prominent researchers from other countries as well as ours can do so. And my observation is: They are in the wrong profession.
They do not fit the profession of research. Because there was a vacuum and they have a secured platform, they become researchers. Research is not their passion.
This is like a corporate job for them. As such, they want to spend their time discussing with entrepreneurs in air-conditioned rooms; they prefer being on talk-shows, instead of speaking to workers in a factory or with farmers in a paddy field.
I even heard about a research organisation in Bangladesh which asks its employees to maintain a corporate dress-code. They are instructed not to wear jeans or any such clothing that can be considered informal. I was baffled by this.
I don’t understand how clothing, informal or otherwise, could matter in such cases.
Because of this elite syndrome, our overall research activities are suffering. It is said that a research paper of a prominent economist helped our independence movement to gain ground.
The impact was huge.
The paper showed how discrimination took place in the then East Pakistan. We have not seen any other good research that had an impact like this. And I think this is due to the elite syndrome of some of our researchers. They just do not fit the bill.
Down with the elite syndrome
The problem Bangladesh is facing is a lack of research. Our universities don’t have enough funding, our students are not interested in research activities, and our research organisations act like NGOs.
As we do not have enough research, it is only after building a mega project that we realise the design was faulty or the feasibility study was wrong.
Due to inadequate research and a lack of collaboration between industries and the researchers, our industries cannot modernise.
And by investing more on research and making our researchers understand effective ways of communication, we can solve many problems the country is facing now.
We need researchers who are pro-people, rather than suited and booted, suffering from the elite syndrome.
Mushfique Wadud is a freelance journalist.