I was recently in conversation with my NHS colleagues and one of them questioned as to why do research. 

To a large extent this is related to curiosity about how things work and how we can make things better for patients in the longer-term. However, one of the benefits of a research career is the opportunity to interact with individuals from around the world and to have a global perspective on many things including research.

Whilst we often talk about our competitor Universities, as a researcher, our competitors are often individuals working worldwide. This challenging issue can be addressed by having international collaborators. I was fortunate to do a post-doctoral fellowship in the USA. This not only enhanced my own research career, but also broadened my horizons on the conduct of research as well as giving a novel cultural perspective on the USA.

Many of my colleagues from that time were from Europe and so have left the USA to populate science globally. Some are still friends and I often turn to them for advice on scientific matters. One of them emailed me last week beginning “I was just thinking of you when I replied to this lady from Southampton….” and this set up a valuable and on-going dialogue with someone who I hadn’t spoken to in a couple of years. 

Whilst it is heart-warming to be part of the wider global scientific community, and this brings about substantial academic and cultural benefits, it is also important to recognise that most interactions are the everyday ones that we have with friends and colleagues within our own institution. These interactions are valuable, not only in building personal relationships and collaborations, but also forming the cornerstone of the culture that we work within.

I am fortunate to have an international culture on my office doorstep, working with people from countries as diverse as Brazil, Columbia, Ethiopia, France, Hong-Kong, Italy, Poland, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Thailand, Venezuela, and Wales, with a few indigenous English people thrown in for good measure. We have a surprisingly large cultural richness on our own doorstep, bringing different perspectives on both work and leisure activities. This diversity is an important component of our University culture and is something to be treasured.

Why we do research by Professor Salim Khakoo

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