In a tongue-in-cheek remark the French philosopher Michel Foucault reputedly once said that the role of academics is to ‘make things complicated’. I have always believed, however, that the role of academics is to try to explain complicated things in understandable terms. This is a goal I have pursued as an academic in my teaching and writing partly as I need to explain things to myself, as well as my students. Of course, I write books for other reasons such as personal vanity and because I like trying to set myself difficult things to do. Yet several of my books are really extended attempts to explore the meaning of words and phrases we like to invoke but rarely explain.
I have published 3 books about the ethical aspects of the teaching, service and research roles of the academic under the titles Teaching with Integrity (2004), The Academic Citizen (2007) and Researching with Integrity (2009). These books try to unpick what the word ‘integrity’ means in the context of academic life identifying a series of moral virtues (or excellences of character) that capture its essence. In my new book, Intellectual Leadership in Higher Education (2012), I am trying to unlock the meaning of ‘intellectual leadership’ beyond the confines of formally defined management roles. In so doing, the book draws substantially on research into the role of the (full) university professor.
Aside from my single authored books and publishing journal papers and book chapters, I have co-edited two other Routledge titles: Effective Learning and Teaching in Business and Management (2001, with Roger Ottewill) and Challenging Boundaries: Managing the Integration of Post-secondary Education (2009, with Neil Garrod). I am also involved with several academic journals as a member of their editorial board (eg Higher Education Quarterly) and I work as special issues editor of Higher Education Research and Development.
My current research is focused on understandings of academic integrity in China and Hong Kong. While a lot of researchers focus on academic misconduct and corruption I am principally interested in what principles and values more positively define academic integrity. But getting people to talk about this (rather than the negative things) is much more challenging!
As someone who was told he was ‘not academic’ at school I never thought I would be able to write one book, let alone several. Hence my publishing career is as much a surprise to me as anyone else. But I would encourage more academics to take up the challenge of writing a book rather than focusing only on writing journal articles. Regardless of the performative pressures to publish in journals writing a book is ultimately a more rewarding intellectual challenge. It enables you to develop a sustained argument and gain feedback through book reviews. Even if these are critical at least it means that someone is reading what you have written. Afterall, we all know that the worst thing that can happen to you as an academic is simply to be ignored.
Please visit Bruce here: http://web.edu.hku.hk/academic_staff.php?staffId=bmac