An educational resource at the heart of public debate, criminological research and professional practice......
CrimeTalk can play an important role in research development, theory formation, the construction of hypotheses, and the design of fieldwork or a survey. If it can be an arena for open and honest but constructive and positive exchange, then it will advance research everywhere. But, much more prosaically, researchers need to talk to colleagues and scholars in the field; a vital part of the underbelly of research which gleans information, sources, resources, addresses, conference details, contacts and references.
The basic infrastructure of research has been undermined in recent times with the increasing distance between people, the increase in commercial competitiveness, the breakdown and decline of university facilities such as the old common room, the increased individualism in the increasingly middle-class environment that is academia, reductions in research funding, the prioritization of teaching in some institutions, and the impossibility of getting any 'real work' done when one 'comes in'. My own experiences in North American universities, an insight into our future here in Europe, tell me that you are fortunate to ever see certain 'colleagues'!
Researchers, and indeed good teachers, need to talk to other people about their work - for various reasons. Indeed, they still actively seek out these early or preliminary discussions and many maintain informal networks throughout their research. CrimeTalk offers an opportunity to replace declining old methods of informal talk and research networking with contemporary ones based on new technology. Of course there is e-mail and it still serves people well for private conversations, but there is an immense value in a public forum, such as a BB, for informal communications about research. It enables information to be shared - to the extent that researchers want to share it and for as long as they desire to share it. Even after a BB has died a natural death as the research finishes and the conversation dries up, the internet enables it to remain online, alive for others, as experience, ideas and information for future generations.
Research for us here at CrimeTalk of course does not just mean surveys. Gone are the days when a strong correlation was deemed by unilateral fiat to resolve all questions, especially when of course it always begged the big ones which concerned how to interpret, explain or read the apparent trends and connections out there. In the twenty-first century, we in the social sciences are very familiar with the value of qualitative methods such as oral history and participant observation, and even perhaps, in the secret worlds of the surveillance society, with covert non-participant observation. Research also includes theory and theory formation; history and how to read it; methodology and the limits of any research method.
Preliminary interpretations and/or results cannot but improve with preliminary public airings such as can be provided by exposure in CrimeTalk. We welcome discussions of research at all levels from draft undergraduate dissertations through chapters of doctorates to pre-publication releases of big project findings. In some countries, such as Tanzania, the undergrad dissertation can be the building block of a country's research heritage. Even a big project, funded with government money, can avoid the pitfalls of a naive media release by early exposure of its progress here on CrimeTalk.
Colin Sumner, Editor of CrimeTalk, taught research methodology at Cambridge and other universities for over 20 years, working closely with many top scholars, both students and colleagues. Sometimes his students were professors, visiting from other countries, and sometimes his professorial colleagues were more like students in their enthusiasm and curiosity. For several years, he co-taught with Dr. Cathie Marsh, that brilliant scholar who showed how it was perfectly possible to be both a good theorist and a good research technician, and whose early death was such a great loss to the intellectual life of Cambridge University and is now marked by a research centre being named after her at Manchester University, namely the Cathie Marsh Centre for Census and Survey Research. This section of CrimeTalk is dedicated to her. She would I am sure take pleasure in me repeating here an informal remark the late great Professor Raymond Williams once made to her, namely that: "There's too many people here trying to be the best. It's enough just to try to be good". How true that is of research!
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