College of Human Sciences

Stellar NRF review feedback for Unisa researcher

Prof Norma Ruth Arlene Romm

Prof Norma Ruth Arlene Romm is celebrating a B2 re-rating following a great review by the National Research Foundation (NRF). Pleased with her body of work over the years, reviewers recognised Romm as an internationally known and respected sociology researcher, whose transdisciplinary/interdisciplinary research encompasses researcher responsibilities, transformative research and indigenous approaches to knowing, and has made a substantive contribution to all these areas.

The reviewers also stated that her research highlighted that research is not a matter of looking, but a matter of intervening in constructive directions. Expressing her sentiments on the feedback, she says: "It is good to know that the reviewers felt that I have contributed substantially to theorising and practising transdisciplinary research practice with a focus on constructive intervention in the unfolding of social and ecological life."

Romm’s work examines how researchers can justify their research work as being a meaningful contribution to society. In this regard, the NRF feedback noted that her scholarship concerns the purpose of sociological research itself and offers routes for researchers in conjunction with participants and key stakeholders, to reconsider what was worth striving for and to devise options for transformative action.

Explaining her research focus, Romm says: "My focus is on investigating how research can be used in terms of a purpose of catalysing transformative learning towards ethical, personal and collective action on the part of participants and stakeholders concerned with issues of social and ecological justice. I also focus on using research to benefit especially those most marginalised in the social fabric, including mother nature who all-too-easily becomes marginalised in our discourses on development."     

Romm’s research aims to portray how any paradigmatic position for the doing of social research can be stretched to take into account how professional researchers, with others, can exercise responsibility for ways of intervening in social and ecological life, in order to enhance its quality. Asked about what inspires this outlook, she says: "I was inspired by many theoretical traditions in the social sciences, especially those which spring from critical theory and also those which urge us as researchers to decolonise our research agendas."

Asked what other research highlights and achievements she holds dearly she explains: "I regard my 2018 book, Responsible Research Practice, as my greatest achievement. It has received remarkably favourable reviews in many journals." Romm can say this with no fear of contradiction as the NRF feedback also found her work worth noting and said in its review that the reviewers unanimously praised the book, which was seen to connect well with the transformational research agenda and which had attracted favourable peer review.

The book is endorsed by Prof Donna Mertens, who is renowned for her work on the Transformative Paradigm. For readers of this article who are interested, reviews in journals are as follows: An extensive review by Avivit Cherrington in the journal Educational Research for Social Change can be found here

Another extensive review by Susan Goff in the journal Systemic Practice and Action Research (2020) can be found here.

Another detailed review was written by Vassilissa Carangio for the journal Ethnic and Racial Studies and published online in 2020 (DOI: 10.1080/01419870.2020.1831569). And yet another comprehensive review (by Dan Wulff in 2021) for the journal The Qualitative Report can be found here.

All these reviews spell out what Romm has achieved in the book by way of inspiring what Wulff calls "research for a change".

* By Tshimangadzo Mphaphuli, Senior Journalist, Department of Institutional Advancement

Publish date: 2021/04/20