Try Not to Write With Fear — An Interview with Dr Abdul Rohman

Try Not to Write With Fear — An Interview with Dr Abdul Rohman

Deeptanshu D
Monali Ghosh
Deeptanshu D, Monali Ghosh

Typeset Interview Series on Connecting Global Authors, Researchers and Publishers

We got the opportunity to connect with much revered and respected lecturer and researcher Dr Abdul Rohman — RMIT University Vietnam.

Just to provide you with a brief introduction, his recent research work discussing “de-polarization in a post-conflict society in Indonesia” has been selected as one of the papers in the Intercultural Communication Division at the 2021 ICA Conference. Besides, his research works have been globally recognized by many prestigious institutions like the International Communication Association.

We had the honour of interviewing him where he gave deep insights into his early life, career and indeed, his research works.

1. Could you share with us and our readers about your journey from a scholar to a well-respected researcher?

I am currently a lecturer in the School of Communication and Design, RMIT University Vietnam. I received my PhD from the School of Communication and Information, Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore.

My research interests revolve around the impact of digital and social media platforms on socio-cultural changes in the Global South. My dissertation explains the continuity and change of a social movement in Indonesia and has received the Best Dissertation Award from Activism, Communication, and Social Justice Interest Group of International Communication Association (ICA) in 2020. My paper discussing social de-polarization in a post-conflict society in Indonesia was selected as one of the top papers in the Intercultural Communication Division at the 2021 ICA Conference. My work has appeared in top-tier communication journals such as Information, Communication & Society, New Media & Society, and the International Journal of Communication.

Within the last two years, I have been investigating the intersection of social change, technology, and marginalized groups in Indonesia and Vietnam during the COVID-19 pandemic. One of my research projects pertaining to the (dis)connection effects of social and digital media platforms to people with disabilities was funded by Social Science Research Council (SSRC), USA. Following that, Southeast Asia Junction, Thailand has supported a documentary project for disseminating the research findings. I am now in the process of analyzing data related to grassroots resistance in response to the Indonesian government’s inconsistent approaches to tackling the pandemic.

2. All of what you just shared with us reflects that you’ve been in different roles throughout your journey; how exactly have all those shaped you?

I have moved from one country to the others. It makes me know what I don’t want to. Like in other lines of jobs, there are many things you may want to do as you want to explore new opportunities but, as I progress, I realized that I need to identify what I can’t do.

It is easier to say yes to many things in academia, from co-authoring, research collaboration, to organizing numerous engagement activities. I like all of these, but I can’t do them all at the same time. So, I need to know what sort of situations I don’t want to be in and try to be a part of things that are meaningful to me professionally, intellectually, and mentally.

3. So, do you refer to “self-realization” as a factor behind your success?

It is hard to measure success and I feel there’s a lot more to learn, unlearn, and achieve in this line of business. But, I would say I am content with what I am doing at the moment. I don’t compare myself to others.

4. Please, share the experience of your first journal article.

What were the challenges you faced due to the lack of technology, and how did you manage to break through?

I was probably one of the luckiest graduate students in the world. Nanyang Tech supported my research and had numerous resources I could access. More importantly, I have been mentored by two prominent communication scholars and had the opportunity to interact with emerging scholars working in the school of communication and information at that time. This allowed me to learn how to structure arguments and identify the journal that can potentially accept my paper.

The main challenge at that time was to describe the context of my study to an international audience. As you may have known, my field has been predominated by scholars from the Global North. Additionally, coming from a multilingual background, the challenge arises due to translating some words from my native language into English. Again, I am lucky that I have a supporting system that helps mitigate this challenge. I usually ask my fellow researchers for their feedback, collaborate with them and discuss the flow of the paper.

5. What have been you working on lately? Also, what was the trigger to choose that particular subject?

I have been looking at the intersection of technology, social change, and marginalized groups in the Global South. The pandemic has magnified inequality in low middle-income countries. While information communication technologies have become more dominant in everyday life, there is a pocket of the society that is still unable to access them. The situation is even worse among members of marginalized groups such as people with disabilities.

6. Pandemic has disrupted lives globally.

How do you think your recent work is relevant to the current scenario of disruption?

My recent project on technology and disability during the pandemic can help strengthen the inclusion of disability rights in the pandemic preparedness, response, recovery plans.

Besides, my studies on peace movements in Indonesia may inspire activists to sustain their work despite limited resources and opportunities. In general, researching the things that matter in our lives as human beings and as society tends to be more attractive to me.

7. What do you think of the publishing domain?

Although I have only published a dozen articles, I can say that the publishing domain has been very industrious, competitive, and has become a crucial part of our jobs.

One of my mentors said that if researchers like them were in the job market these days, they might not get the job they liked.

9. What are your views on Open Access Journals? How well do you see the future of Open Access Journals?

I do not have much knowledge of the open-access business model, but I think it will democratize the production and dissemination of knowledge. Also, if we are talking about scholars in the Global South, the cost of getting our publication open access is hard as there is not much financial support to do that.

9. While creating your research papers how do you rectify or manage your mistakes?

I still doubt the quality of my work and have acute imposter syndrome. It is not getting easier even though I have dealt with so many rejection letters from journal editors.

10. What advice would you give to early-career researchers to avoid common mistakes while writing research papers?

I don’t know who needs to hear this, but I tend to write freely at the beginning stage of paper writing. Academic writing is often informed by fear as we tend to think what the reviewers would say and so on. I try not to write with fear. I give my students the same piece of advice in addition to using Mendeley for managing literature.