What makes a very busy researcher decide to add more to their already full plate and write a book?


From Left: Bruce Pennay, Rosemary Black, Bill Anscombe, Manohar Pawar, Max Finlayson

At the recent ILWS book launch held at the Albury-Wodonga campus on October 29th,  we celebrated the publication of 7 books by our researchers in the last year.  We hosted a panel discussion with five of the authors and posed this question to them: “What makes a very busy researcher decide to add more to their already full plate and write a book?”

Each researcher had different motivations and different challenges but perhaps you will find inspiration in their stories to write the book you have inside you.

Prof Max Finlayson on his book Wetlands and Human Health

wetlandsC Max Finlayson, Pierre Horwitz & Philip Weinstein (Editors)

Wetlands: Ecology, Conservation and Management, Volume 5, Springer Publishers

The experience with writing this book was a long one, and certainly brought home the difficulties that can occur when working with multiple contributors on a complex multi-disciplinary topic as we were. Even with an agreed plan we needed to regroup and restructure the book and engage with new contributors. Then it was done, and we were pleased, both to have completed it and to have the final product. It looks good and its good to hold it as it brings a sense of achievement in addition to the satisfaction with the content. The multi-disciplinary nature of the content was constructed purposefully and with the intention of bringing two very different sectors together and providing a product that both would fund useful. We started from a wetland ecology and management background and wanted to engage with the human health sector, in this case through the World Health Organisation. The book was building on contacts that had been established with the WHO and others who were interested in the health issues associated with wetlands, both the negative and the positive, although the negative seem to get more air play. Keep in mind that wetland diseases and disasters, such as floods, can be deadly. Hence, could we bring together those who favoured healthy wetlands with those who sought to ensure people were healthy? This has been done through the concept of ecosystem services bringing benefits to people, but it has not been universally accepted. We purposefully chose to write in that space and to raises the benefits and the paradoxes that exist with aphorisms such as healthy wetlands healthy people. It is a complex spaces and our authors did very well to address such issues.

The other element that was worth mentioning about the publication process was the benefits of working with co-editors from different disciplinary backgrounds. We were only able to attract the spread of authors we were seeking by having this combination of editors. Multi-disciplinary or integrated research is often discussed, and sought by officialdom, but how often do we actually present our research in this way? We took on this challenge and it is presented in the book, for others to judge. I like writing and I still see a place for books, and in my case, those that integrate across disciplines are of most interest.  A book enables you to do more than you can do in a journal paper. A lot, lot more. Plus its great to actually hold the printed product, even in a time of e-publishing. When holding it I can emphasise my gratitude to all those who were involved in a way that is not possible otherwise – I can wave it and squeeze to and flick through the pages – it works for me, and I hope, on behalf of all contributors, that others find it useful, and given the subject, even challenging.

Thanks to everyone involved in the process, and good luck to those who are setting out on the challenge to publish a book. Being organised and well planned is a plus, but also persevere even when it looks like going pear shaped – its worth it.

A/Prof Rosemary Black on her two books Tour Guiding Research and Adventure Programming and Travel for the 21st Century.

Tour guiding high quality D05_VEN_BlackBricker_180

My interest in writing and editing books stems primarily from my passion, interest and enthusiasm for the book topics. My two most recent books stem from my own experiences as an adventure travel guide during the late 1980s-early 1990s. At that time I worked for World Expeditions, Australia’s largest adventure travel company. I spent seven years working as a guide in Australia – leading cycling and cross country skiing trips and leading treks and tours in Nepal, India, China, Tibet and Fiji.

These experiences and interest in guiding lead me to complete a PhD on tour guide certification in the Australian ecotourism industry with Betty Weiler at Monash University. Since that time Betty and I have completed many research projects and publications on tour guiding. Our mutual interest in tour guiding lead to collaborating on this book on tour guiding research.

The idea for the book on adventure programming and travel came from Kelly and my experiences as adventure travel guides working in Nepal. We have kept in contact over the past 20 years and collaborated on other books and projects. So having great colleagues that you trust, who are reliable and meet deadlines, and who you enjoy working with is for me an essential ingredient to a book project.

Another key driver to publish books is my commitment to disseminating research findings to not only students and other academics but more importantly to industry and professionals. I believe one of our roles as academics is to disseminate our work to the broader community, industry and government so our research findings can be used to improve and modify policy and practices to create a better and fairer society.

Prof Manohar Pawar and Dr Bill Anscombe, on Reflective Social Work Practice: Thinking Doing and Being

Reflective Social Work Practice cover (2)From Manohar Pawar:

Before I address this important question, I would like to thank all staff members of ILWS and the director Prof. Max Finlayson for organising this event, because it is good to recognise and celebrate our own work. Once again, I am grateful to the ILWS for hosting this book launch.

 On a lighter side, to write a book, today, I am going to give a formula so that you all can write book. The formula is I+O+I = B. As I am standing with scientists, let me speak like a scientist. I+O+I = B. You may wonder what this formula is? It is Iodine +Oxygen+ Iron= Benzene. I know it does not make sense; let me explain:

Iodine is needed for the development of healthy cells. Cells are vital, without them we cannot survive and iron is important to have energy and strength and without oxygen, we cannot transport iron to the cells. When we add all this we get Benzene! Benzene has three features which are useful for authors. First, Benzene is colourless, intangible. We all authors often remain intangible, colourless, no one recognises us. Second, Benzene is highly inflammable, it is firry and it burns. Authors need to be firry, feel something burning inside. This happens particularly, when your articles rejected, your book proposals are rejected. You burn inside, but cannot do much. The third feature is benzene smells sweet.  Thus, despite all this rejection, inflame and burning inside, as authors you need to behave sweet as if nothing has happened.  So, if you follow this formula, you can certainly write a book. I hope you will not try this formula in your laboratories.

Well, despite my business as researcher, I write books because of I+O+I = B. Here it is different, that is: Ideas+Opportunities+Interest =Book.

To write a book, ideas are very important. To begin with, you must have some ideas. You may begin with one idea and end with another, and that does not matter. If you have ideas, you can write a book. How do you get ideas? You need to think and reflect on your experiences and facts. Our book is on reflective practice and it helps you to develop ideas. Merely ideas are not adequate; you also need to have deep interest, passion in what you are doing. Many people have great ideas, but they do not take interest in them. Your commitment and devotion to those ideas are crucial, because without that you cannot further develop your ideas. With intense interest and full of ideas you can write volumes. No doubt about it. But who will publish it? You have heard of some authors’ stories, many people write and get it published after 20 years or so. This is where the O factor comes in. Along with ideas and interest, you need to create opportunities to publish.  Without opportunity to publish, your writing cannot become a book. You need to convince a publisher that your ideas, your writings are worth publishing. So, I am able to publish books because ideas, opportunities and interests have effectively merged. To conclude, ideas, opportunities and interest make the researcher write a book, not the performance indicators.

Thank you and I hope to see your books in the future!

Manohar Pawar
Professor of Social Work
Charles Sturt University

From Bill Anscombe – co-author of  Reflective Social Work Practice: Thinking Doing and Being

“Manohar Pawar is the answer to this question. It is not for the money. It is not for the prestige. It is not for the readership. It is not for the impact factor. It is not for promotion. It is not for the publication.

I am reminded that the good book in Ecclesiastes 12:12 says “Be warned, my son…… Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body”

So, in the light of that warning from on High, why do it?

Two reasons for me (other than Manohar Pawar):

Firstly, I have long believed that the role of a public academic and a University is the preservation, dissemination and dis(un)covery of knowledge.  TS Elliott writes “Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?”

It worries me that wisdom is being overtaken by information and it seems to me that a great deal of attention is placed on research and dis(un)covery of knowledge and that we are in grave danger of losing the preservation and dissemination aspects and so of becoming a-historical, a-human, a-wise as we forget the store of acquired knowledge and depreciate the people that hold that knowledge and wisdom. It is almost as though something is best or right simply because it is new. We lose wisdom at our collective peril.

Secondly, we set out to write a book that focussed on thinking and doing and being. Many years ago, I coined the phrase in relation to Social Work:

If you think and don’t do – you are useless; If you do and don’t think – you are dangerous; and fundamental to thinking and doing is being.

We wanted to ground the book in the concept of being – the existential and the meta-physical. It is a book that is, in some ways, counter-cultural – for it stresses wisdom, human-ness, insight, exceptionality, inductive thinking, recognises human limitations, the incapacity to control all things and the mystery that is existence.  Einstein is said to have had on his wall – Not everything that counts – can be counted; and not everything that is counted – counts”. So we wanted a book that did not have formulaic answers to the complexity and messiness of human existence as encountered by Social Workers. We wanted a book that recognised that social work is relational. That methods will take us only so far – and then it will be relational.

In therapeutic outcome studies – 40% of an outcome is what the client brings; 30% is the relationship and wisdom that the therapist brings; 15% is the technique that is used and 15% is the hope and optimism that can be engendered. We were reacting to training that considered theory and thinking, and doing as practice – but which left out the prior questions that are in the realm of the existential – the matters of being human. The central chapters of the book are experientially based – with all the mistakes and thinking that is the nature of practice in social work where people are central and where emotion, irrationality, illogical behaviours,  vested interests, crazy systems, short-term goals and systemic exclusion are often in evidence. It is about real life practice in child protection, corrections, communities and across individual, group, community and systemic settings.

We hope that it will help develop whole people for holistic practice in a world and environment that is in constant change.”

Adjunct A/Prof Bruce Pennay  on Benalla Migrant Camp A Difficult Heritage

Benalla Migrant Camp A Difficult Heritage2I was commissioned to prepare a thematic history of the Benalla Migrant Camp as a community engagement project, funded in part as a university-community research project. My  research involved going through the Canberra National Archives and the Melbourne Public Records Office and extensive literary reviews.  It was at times a challenging project, I sought to understand the Australian political context in which the camp existed and understand the question – why has the camp previously not been publicly acknowledged? I found the camp’s existence sits uncomfortably in the historical memory of the Benalla community.

The study has provided a rationale for conserving the place as a state heritage item and will be considered with other submissions in the heritage value assessment process being undertaken by Heritage Victoria.

At the national level, the work explains how Benalla Migrant Camp fitted the network of post-war migrant accommodation centres. While operational, Benalla was the longest lasting holding centre, with the special role of accommodating supporting mothers, who were regarded as ‘persons with integration problems’.

At the local level, the study has alerted the Benalla community to a heritage asset which has hitherto gathered little local attention. It has helped win local government support for the place’s listing on the state register and support for its interpretation.

For heritage scholars, it extends arguments on community engagement. It demonstrated that recognition of heritage value depends not only on advocacy, but also on community readiness. This extends discussions initiated in North America by Cresswell and Hoskins (2010).

As a result of this work I have been  invited to contribute an article to a special issue of the well regarded international journal History of the Family exploring ‘Women, Children and the Idealised Refugee Family, Australia 1947-1975’ (forthcoming 2017).






About ilwscsu
The Institute for Land, Water and Society is one of four Centres of Research Excellence within Charles Sturt University, Australia. Its principal focus is on integrated research which contributes to improved social and environmental sustainability in rural and regional areas.

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