Kritik membangun

Beberapa bulan ini, mungkin karena kesibukan, saya jarang membaca proposal dan tesis secara detail. Namun hari ini saya menemukan kelemahan yang sangat mendasar dari proposal mahasiswa PhD di Jabatan Kimia UTM setelah mendengar presentasi beliau tadi pagi. Sebelum saya memberikan komentar, saya memohon maaf dulu kepada pembimbing mahasiswa tersebut, bahwa tujuan saya memberikan komentar adalah untuk memperbaiki dan meluruskan pekerjaan PhD mahasiswa tersebut, karena tidak semua orang berlapang dada menerima kritik.


What can we learn from the detection of Einstein’s gravitational waves

On February 11, 2016, a group of scientists named as LIGO Scientific Collaboration (LSC) announced that they had detected gravitational wave that has been predicted by Einstein 100 years ago. I foresee this discovery will lead to a Nobel prize in 2016!

Einstein Gravitational Wave Laboratory at UTM

Coincidentally, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) used to have a Gravitational Wave Laboratory as the backbone of Ibnu Sina Institute for Fundamental Science Studies, UTM. On June 14, 1997, UTM has received detector to detect gravitational waves, that is, a 100-m DL laser interferometer (Tenko-100), which was awarded as a grant by the Institute of Space and Astronautical Sciences (ISAS), Japan.

Below are some explanations of the discovery:

“LIGO research is carried out by the LIGO Scientific Collaboration (LSC), a group of some 950 scientists at universities around the United States, including MIT, and in 15 other countries. The LIGO Observatories are operated by MIT and Caltech. The instruments were first explored as a means to detect gravitational waves in the 1970s by Weiss, who along with Kip Thorne and Ronald Drever from Caltech proposed LIGO in the 1980s.

This has been 20 years of work, and for some of us, even more,” Evans says. “It’s been a long time working on these detectors, without seeing anything. So it’s a real sea change and an interesting psychological change for the whole collaboration.”

So, what can we learn from this discovery:

  • Good research requires times
  • Impact of research, not impact factor for publication!
  • Appreciate that fundamental research requires critical mass
  • Research teams provide critique exchange of ideas, promote competition, and foster humility
  • Research teams are incubators of “idea-multipliers”
  • Superior researchers are intellectual “masochists”
  • They must accept the most new ideas to dead-ends
  • They must learn to accept failure, yet persevere to keep trying over-and-over
  • They live for the rare thrill of a “breakthrough”
  • Prolonged periods of personal time are required to “think deeply”
  • High-quality research cannot be done in one`s “spare time”
  • Intense concentration and “well-being” are essential

Menilai sebuah prestasi – Manusiakan universitas

Kadang-kadang kita sangat takjub bagaimana seseorang atau organisasi dapat berprestasi tinggi. Untuk menilai prestasi, digunakanlah instrumen penilaian yang terukur yang disebut sebagai Key Performance Indicator (KPI). KPI menjadi bahan perbincangan hangat di universitas di Malaysia dan juga Indonesia karena digunakan untuk kenaikan pangkat dosen atau pensyarah. Hal ini bagus karena dapat mendorong prestasi. Semua staf dinilai dengan KPI, yang terukur dan diterjemahkan kepada angka-angka. Nah, angka-angka inilah yang dikejar oleh dosen atau pensyarah. Bagaimana cara mengejarnya adalah urusan lain. Boleh dengan cara yang bijak dan manusiawi atau dengan cara sebaliknya. Cara-cara inilah yang kadangkala tidak nampak karena semuanya sudah dibutakan dengan tujuan angka-angka tersebut. Banyak indikator yang diperlukan untuk kenaikan pangkat, seperti publikasi di jurnal ilmiah, jumlah dana riset dan lain sebagainya.

Untuk mengejar angka-angka tersebut, dosen dan pensyarah mempunyai banyak strategi. Strategi yang paling manjur adalah dengan memperbudak mahasiswa. Hal ini sama sekali tidak boleh dilakukan oleh seorang dosen atau pensyarah, karena tujuan seseorang menjadi dosen atau pensyarah adalah untuk mendidik mahasiswanya. Saya melihat sendiri kolega yang “mempergunakan” mahasiswanya untuk mengejar KPI dengan cara yang saya nilai tidak patut. Tersenyumpun mahasiswa tersebut tidak bisa karena dilingkungi oleh suasana stress yang berlebihan karena ditekan untuk mengejar KPI dosen atau pensyarahnya. Dosen atau pensyarah tersebut dapat berkilah jika ditanya kenapa mereka melakukan hal tersebut. Jawabannya adalah, ini adalah bahagian dari proses pendidikan katanya. Tentu hasilnya dapat kita bayangkan. Produktivitas dalam menghasilkan data-data penelitian dan akhirnya publikasi meningkat. Nah, apakah ini dapat kita lihat sebagai sebuah prestasi? Kita perlu bijak melihat hal ini, terutama untuk saya dan juga rekan-rekan yang bekerja di universitas. Jangan lupa, tujuan utama sebuah universitas didirikan adalah untuk mendidik generasi penerus. Pikirkan dan renungkanlah.

“Memanusiakan manusia”, kata Profesor Fuad Hassan, mantan menteri pendidikan dan kebudayaan Republik Indonesia. Atau “Humanizing the University”, kata Profesor Graham Spainier, mantan presiden University of Penn State.

Humanizing the University
Graham Spanier
January 01, 2000

Early in my presidency at Penn State one of our deans called me, concerned that one of the college's best young faculty members, a rising star, was about to leave for another institution. "Please call and convince this person to stay," the dean asked. I invited the faculty member to meet with me. I can be persuasive, and I certainly tried to be.

I learned that this recently tenured associate professor had an offer from a top-ten department, whereas our department at Penn State was currently ranked in the second ten. The salary was going to be the same, so that wasn't an issue. We had given a huge amount of support during the faculty member's tenure here, favorable teaching assignments, release time to get a research program going. No complaints. I then proceeded to hear an analysis of the comings and goings of people in the field, an analysis of likely future ranking shifts due to retirements and hires, and other variables that reflected an undebatable, yet cold-blooded logic about academic hierarchies. The analysis gave me the chills. By the end of our conversation, I was almost glad this person was leaving. Why? Because I found, in listening, no attachment to Penn State after eight years, no feeling of gratitude for all that departmental colleagues had done, no expression of emotional attachments to Penn State students, in short no compelling reason to stay.

Nationwide, there is a conversation occurring about how to get faculty to be more actively involved with their universities. Many faculty members are really independent operators who are only marginally tied into the life of the university. Their allegiance is not to the institution for which they work, but to their discipline nationally and internationally, an orientation that tends to be reinforced by the academic reward structure. Hiring, promotion, and tenure decisions are based in the department, or college, and the department's strongest frame of reference is its academic discipline viewed globally. Our nation's research universities have spawned two faculties: those who do and those who don't—those who believe it is their responsibility to engage fully with each cohort of students and those who do not see this as their primary responsibility.

Must this be viewed as an "either/or" struggle? I believe an allegiance to one's university, pride in our shared mission and stature, commitment to our students, and loyalty to our colleagues can be entirely compatible with standards of academic excellence, prominence as a scholar, and national recognition as a department. I wish to challenge our faculty in particular to get more involved in the lives of our students.

I prefer not to fault individuals, since this situation exists at all leading universities. It is a situation of our own collective making. And despite all protestations to the contrary, we continue to orient the reward structure so that interaction outside the classroom with undergraduates counts for very little. To be honest, every experienced department head can point to casualties—cases of junior faculty members ultimately denied tenure because they became so immersed with student advising and programming that they neglected their scholarship. So let's admit up front that we indeed expect an exceptional level of scholarship from our faculty. Balance is the key. Balance.

Graham Spanier, Ph.D., is the president of Penn State. He holds four academic appointments—as professor of human development and family studies, sociology, demography, and family and community medicine. This essay is an excerpt from his 1999 State of the University Address.