Well-communicated, quality research rewarded

Academic research can be jargon-riddled and impenetrable to members of the public. The Business Research Translation Competition (BRTC) hosted by the University of Auckland Business School aims to change that.

The winners (holding certificates) Dr ‘Ilaisaane Fifita, Dr Daniel Tisch, Assoc Prof Rachel Morrison, Assoc Prof Bevan Catley and Prof Emeritus Kerr Inkson with the University of Auckland Business School former Dean Prof Jayne Godfrey, the Associate Dean (Research) Prof Snejina Michailova, and the judges Robert MacDonald and Geoff Whitcher.

Papers with topics as diverse as the role of identity in resisting tobacco smoking, to ways of successfully managing complaints of workplace bullying, received prizes at the BRTC, in recognition of their well-communicated, quality research.

The aim of the BRTC is to enhance researchers’ skills and confidence in communicating their findings to a wider, non-specialised audience, while also demonstrating the relevance of business research to society, the environment, and the economy.

“We have entered an era of unprecedented technological development and disruption,” says Professor Susan Watson, Dean of the University of Auckland Business School. “In order to thrive, we must understand these trends. Our business schools produce innovative research, ideas, and insights that can benefit New Zealand. We need to ensure our researchers are able to easily communicate this work.”

“The competition is also an excellent vehicle by which we can illustrate to the general public that universities have a wealth of talent in their researchers, and that this talent can be utilised to help the nation achieve a wide-range of goals, be they for business, government, policy-makers, or for the not for profit sector,” she said.

Papers by 29 researchers from AUT Business School, Massey Business School (Albany), the University of Auckland Business School, and Waikato Management School, were entered in the BRTC in three categories; Early Career, Māori and Pacific, and Established Career researchers. Each award-winner received between $1,500 and $2,500. The competition and prizes were sponsored by the University of Auckland Business School.

The five judges comprised practitioners Danny Chan, Roger France, Rob McDonald, Geoffrey Whitcher, and Chair Kambiz Maani, who reviewed the anonymised papers and rated them based on criteria that included the significance of the topic, how easily a layperson could understand it, and the quality of the writing. Entries were translated from peer-reviewed research published in the last five years.

The Role of Identity in Resisting Tobacco Smoking by Dr ‘Ilaisaane Fifita from the University of Auckland won the Māori and Pacific category. Her research tackled the high rate of smoking amongst Māori and Pacific communities. Twenty five per cent of Pacific people smoke, while the national average is only fifteen percent. Dr Fifita explored ways of increasing peoples’ resistance to taking up smoking. She identified how messages to Māori and Pacific communities should be framed around specific themes such as family, empowerment, and independence. An unexpected finding from her research showed there were implications for preventing risky behaviours in other areas such as drug use and binge drinking.

Can we communicate more effectively to farmers about climate change? by Dr Daniel Tisch from the University of Auckland won the contest’s Early Career category. His findings included the need to talk about the ‘changing climate’ rather than ‘climate change,’ in order to remove the political stigma associated with issues like the cost of emissions. His paper outlined how information should be presented in ways that resonated emotionally with the audience; given by trusted advisers; and delivered in settings that were familiar for farmers. Also getting farmer buy in was not only important for commercial reasons and to meet international obligations regarding carbon reduction, but also because rural suicides are disproportionally high in New Zealand, averaging twenty eight a year over the last decade.

The Established Career category had prizes for first, second, and third place. First prize was awarded to Associate Professor Bevan Catley from Massey University, with his paper entitled Breaking the Badness: How to Successfully Manage a Complaint of Workplace Bullying. The judges described it as topical subject applicable to a wide business audience, while also providing practical insights and blending findings with solutions.

Second prize went to Professor Emeritus Kerr Inkson from the University of Auckland, for his paper Board Directors and the Swamp of Compliance that clearly identified contemporary dilemmas faced by directors. The judges said the research would resonate well with directors, as it reviewed issues like conduct, culture, and compliance, in industries such as banking and finance.

Associate Professor Rachel Morrison from AUT received third prize for her paper Gendered responses to open-plan offices: Objectification theory at work. Her research found that many of the expected positive outcomes of open-plan or shared workspaces such as improved collaboration and cooperation, was not supported by the evidence. Described as topical and thought provoking by the judges, it dealt with a work place phenomenon encountered by many people.

Initiated by Massey Business School, the Business Research Translation Competition is now hosted by the University of Auckland Business School. Next year the contest will expand to include all eight of the country’s business schools.

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