Dr. Pankaj Prabhat-Learning to Change the World
About Prof. Pankaj Prabhat: A post-graduate in Economics and a Ph.D. in Applied Economics, he obtained the first position in the University in graduation and a University Gold Medal in post-graduation. He has been teaching Economics at the postgraduate and undergraduate level for about 26 years, in the Universities and B-Schools in India and abroad, including 6 years at Sherubtse College in Bhutan. He received fellowships of the India Government and undertook assignments and training in Europe, Thailand, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Sri Lanka. He obtained executive education from Harvard University, Boston, USA in ‘Management and Leadership in Higher Education’. Area of interest: Economics of Happiness;; SPSS; Data Analysis; Student Learning
Inkpothub: What is your research journey all about?
Prof. Pankaj Prabhat:
It is indeed a journey. I started my career in a very modest way from the University system way back in 1991 from Arunachal University. That time my research pre-occupation was just to publish some papers and all. I did not have any agenda in mind but with friends and colleagues. I started interacting with my colleagues from History, Political Science, English, and we had a very nice time over there. We used to play cricket and then in the evening we would sit down and talk about a lot of issues. It opened up a lot of curiosity and avenues for me. They used to give a lot of ideas and perspectives. I was inquisitive right from my student life, so the next day, I would go to the library and start reading more on those concepts/ perspectives. It broadened my perspective and gradually culminated in the idea of writing a few things here and there. Then I joined in Bhutan and stayed there for about 6 years. It was a turning point as far as my research is concerned. I got some kind of direction over there to do the research so I developed my research interest in the area of economics of happiness. I also represented Bhutan Government at International Forum, I wrote a country paper for the government. I got trained in environmental economics under World Bank in Dhaka and I got myself associated with an organization called South Asian Network for Environmental Economics (SANDE). After that, I started more on sustainability issues, environment, poverty, happiness, and these kinds of issues.
Inkpothub: How the research in the space of Happiness evolved?
Prof. Pankaj Prabhat: It evolved in a very big way. The research is going on at two different levels.
Focus on Happiness at the Individual level.
It is basically coming from a Psychology branch of knowledge and a lot of technology is being used over there. Here, we are trying to identify the enablers and killers of happiness in an individual’s life. So there are interventions, practices, and activities which enable individuals to act upon. So this is typically action research.
Focus on Happiness at the policy level.
Here Happiness means Happy School concept, Happy City concept, Happy Nation concept, or Happy Workplace concept. These are all aggregate concepts where some parameters of happiness have been identified. This has got a lot of applications and abstract research. People had done a lot of work in the space of happiness.
Read more: http://crossasia-repository.ub.uni-heidelberg.de/1213/1/Individual_Happiness.pdf
Inkpothub: What is the recipe to become a good researcher?
Prof. Pankaj Prabhat: The recipe has been the same for ages. It has not changed for students or a scholar. When I was a student, I focused on 3-4 things that helped me as a student. Even now I focus on these 3-4 things. When I look around, I found that these 3-4 things are taking people ahead in life. If I look at all those people who have become good researchers, these 3-4 things are present in them as well. These are as follows:
You need to have a good ear. Listen to everything around you. Listen to people very carefully (line by line). It should not be selective listening.
Read as much as you can.
Start penning down things that come to your mind. Often we miss out on big research because we are not noting down small things. As big researches come from small ideas. And if you don’t write it down, don’t make a note of it then it doesn’t become your treasure and you lose it soon. So writing is very important.
Share with your colleagues, talk to them. So make use of your senses.
Those who develop these four senses are the ones who are leading.
Inkpothub: How do you inculcate the concoction of this recipe (research skills) among your faculty colleagues at Jaipuria Institute of Management?
Prof. Pankaj Prabhat: That’s a tough job but they understand. As a director, my job is to create a research environment at the college through
Focus on collaboration
Collaboration is the key to good research. Individually one can do a great job. There is no doubt about that but the thing which you can create through collaboration you can’t create individually. That ‘synergy’ needs to be understood. People have forgotten about this ‘synergy’ word, but I think it is very important in life.
Focus on peer learning
Peer learning reinforces collaboration. We have a peer learning forum for students and faculties. These peer learning platforms work outside the classroom where they can sit together and discuss.
The Affinity Group: Students decide a particular topic and then the people who have an affinity towards the topic would join together and work.
Hot Coffee, Hot Issues: We serve coffee to the students and discuss some hot and trending topics.
Peer learning sessions: One faculty teaching the other faculty. The rest of the faculty group would sit and the speaker faculty (internal resource) would talk about some concepts or textbook stuff from their areas. This helps in creating an internal support system.
Faculty Development walks on two legs. First is developing ‘individual faculty’ through workshops/ seminars/ conferences. Second in about learning from each other. Here we try to maximize the internal resources to learn.
Focus on incentivizing research output
Monetary incentives are given. Research must get you some monetary incentives as it sometimes increases the motivation level. But on the other hand, look at the people who are doing great research (not just for the money). What is the basic motivation they have? When we dig deep and understand then we see the motivation come from ‘with-in’. They want to do something.
There is a difference between output and outcome.
If a researcher focuses on ‘output’ then the incentive is only monetary or money-driven.
If a researcher focuses on ‘outcome’ then the researcher is creating an ‘impact’. So the researchers who are motivated to create an impact, they are not driven by money alone. They enjoy the joy of creating knowledge, joy of making the difference.
I have been to Harvard University very recently. I was doing the ‘Leadership in Higher Education’ program. It has a slogan that inspired me a lot. The slogan is ‘Learning to Change the World’. What is the purpose of learning? It is, of course, to change yourself, your life. But how much it is to change the world, the others’ life. This means how much is the impact of your learning is making on others. SO what is the purpose of research? The purpose of the research is to enhance and contribute to the well-being of the people ultimately. We need to think about it. It makes a difference the way we look at it.
Inkpothub: What is your take on the ‘career in research’ for a management student?
Prof. Pankaj Prabhat: We are creating managers. Even if they are going to become manager somewhere, they should have this research bent of mind because if they have that inquisitiveness or research mindset, they would know how to organize or analyze, it would help them to become a good manager. Research is very important for teaching as well as for the student’s career. We have made it mandatory for faculty to bring their own research into the classroom and discuss it with the students. We have a minor research grant for faculties for their research work. Under this grant, they can hire a student under ‘Jaipuria Student Researchship’ and pay them for that. These are PGDM students and they have hands-on experience in research.
Jaipuria Institute has gotten some output as well. Students joining hands with professors for writing conference papers. If the paper is selected then the student also gets the full funding to go and present the paper. Our students have been to national and international conferences at IIMs or IITs to make presentations.
In 2018-2019, we have 20 research papers published in the journals by the students.
Inkpothub: What is in your book ‘Demonetization Phenomenon’?
Prof. Pankaj Prabhat: This is a very in time written book, i.e. at the time when
demonetization happened. Immediately after the UP election. We saw that the climate of opinion on demonetization was sharply divided into two watertight compartments. One was in the favor of demonetization and one was opposing it. So we found that it was the right time to step in and write something interesting on demonetization.
Inkpothub: What is one message from you to the entire researchers’ or scholars’ fraternity?
Prof. Pankaj Prabhat: One must maintain some ethics and principles in research. Research is not for money but it can bring a lot of money to them. Think about a research space which has some impact that solves some industry problem or address some pressing issue that society is facing or suggest a way to improve the general well-being of people.