Alem is an Associate Professor of Information Systems, and Convener of the Green IT Research Cluster in the School of Business IT and Logistics.
Tell us briefly about your current research and what drew you to this topic?
My field of research is information systems, an inherently multidisciplinary area. The specific focus of my research broadly falls under ’sustainable digital business’ and at the core of this is digital information systems (IS) and technologies (IT). I investigate the design, adoption, use, management, and value of IT and IS in shaping and transforming the business of commerce and communities. This is not only to enhance the economic outcomes but also to meet the environmental and social expectations of current and future generations. I do this from a socio-technological standpoint but maintain an extensive approach both theoretically and multidisciplinary. The approach is extremely rewarding and stimulating as it has helped me to bring insights from the mainstream information systems discipline to research issues of environmental sustainability and vice versa.
I am currently leading three funded projects on the use of information systems to influence energy use behaviour; on demystifying personal cloud computing for Australian consumers; and on RMIT’s experience of using (intending to use) IT for advancing environmental sustainability.
What research problems and areas are you likely to explore in the future?
Sustainability is a major and global challenge and a trans-generational issue so I will continue to grow the IT and sustainability research. It is one of the Centre for Sustainable Organisations and Work’s (CSOW) flagship programs. In particular, I will be exploring the use and impact of social media, big data and sustainability analytics in social, cultural, and economic sustainability and in-built infrastructure and logistics sustainability.
How do you balance your teaching, supervising, and your own research time?
I take teaching, research, and supervision as mutually reinforcing rather than as trade-offs. For example, one of the projects that we are undertaking at the moment develops teaching case studies that will be used in five of our Master of Business IT courses. This project will have dual-track outputs and will be published in high quality journals. The PhD students that I supervise mostly work on topics that are directly related to IT and sustainability which is also the focus of my research. Overall, I believe that teaching and research are inseparable so I strive to create synergies between my research-teaching activities. This doesn’t however mean that I get the balance always right. There are, and will continue to be, occasions where one of these three areas deserves a priority.
What are your views on collaboration against individual research work?
Central to my research and research-related activities is my fundamental belief in team-based collaborative research. I am a strong believer that two heads are better than one and three better than two. Most of my research is based on collaboration with colleagues in the School, College and University. So far I have been fortunate enough to work in three continents which has allowed me to nurture partnerships and networks internationally. Every now and then, I like to do my own individual research but often that spurs further collaborative projects.
Please tell us about things you enjoy when not researching?
I spend most of my spare time with family. I also enjoy running (well I hail from a country of great runners), gardening, politico-military biographies and any type of jazz.