Onus on varsities to create conducive ecosystem for quality research

Kept away: Many academics have been focusing too much on getting their works published, rather than creating research to solve societal problems like urban poverty.

FOR decades, higher education institutions (HEIs) have placed more importance on having their findings published rather than producing studies that impact the country and communities.

The country’s best brains are obsessed with making it into academic journals, and the practice needs to be stopped, said Datuk Dr Hamzah Kassim.

A former consultant to Malaysia’s public varsities, Hamzah, who also sat on the board of several HEIs, called for more engagement between academics and industry.

“There must be a better engagement model between universities and firms that can ensure collaboration and joint research between academia and industry.

“Innovation is all about enterprises deploying emerging technologies in their manufacturing systems and introducing new products and services, ” he said.

Academics, he said, must be allowed to leave, gain industry experience and return to higher learning institutions to serve.

At the same time, those with industry experience should be encouraged to join academia to get involved in teaching and research, he added.This, however, means that the existing “rigid professorship requirements” would have to be amended.

HEIs in other parts of the world, he said, are creating stronger innovation ecosystems within their campuses.“This allows faculty members and graduate students to be part of co-creation efforts with industry partners to solve urgent problems facing the industries and communities, ” he said, adding that while there are impactful research projects done by universities, they lack good marketing and business development capabilities to promote their findings.

To achieve our aspirations of becoming a high-tech and innovative nation, we have to close the gap in our translational research efforts.

“We need to build new capabilities and infrastructure in universities so that they can become enablers of economic transformation.

“Universities must review their research agendas and see how their outputs can contribute towards developing the national economy.”

There is a need to enhance contributions – above and beyond academics – to the community, said Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Dr Noraini Ahmad.This, she said, was in line with the Prime Minister’s call for lecturers and professors to step up and contribute more to society and the nation in their respective areas of expertise.

Such contributions must have a spillover effect on the community and not just kept within the campus walls, Noraini said during her new year address in January.

“The rakyat must benefit from their expertise.

“Who knows, a significant contribution could even lead to international recognition with the researcher being made a nobel laureate.

“For this to happen, the ministry must work together with all HEIs to plan a specific programme that is more comprehensive to develop potential nobel laureate candidates, ” she said, adding that the Research University Programme, implemented since 2006, has been effective in showcasing the excellence of HEIs globally.

These achievements were manifested in the increase of international students coming here and the rise in collaborations with well-known global varsities, especially in research.

In light of this, more public varsities should be recognised as research universities and mentored by the existing ones, she said.

Ensuring a high standard in work culture and quality, as well as attitude, must be a daily practice if high-impact changes are to result, she said.

Highlighting the need for those who can think outside the box, she said the CEO@Faculty is an initiative that successfully embodies a hybrid of academic expertise and practical experience of successful industry personalities and society to produce creative solutions.

“I hope this programme can be continued with newer and fresher content.

“Based on the same concept, a ‘Festival of Ideas’ can be organised to facilitate the presentation of papers via a digital platform.”

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