Why Pakistan’s research sector needs urgent attention?

The world each year invests billions of dollars in Research and Development (R&D) sectors. Developed countries link their research work with concerned industries, where verbal ideas are shaped into tangible assets for the nation’s prosperity and growth.

On a broad spectrum, authentic research needs plenty of time and funded projects because financial dependency dilutes the ideas of the research scholars. In addition, in 2018 the 46th elected President Joe Biden of the United States announced 2.7 trillion dollars for research and development projects.

Similarly, China, UK, Japan, Russia, and Germany are the leading countries that spend billions of dollars on their R&D sectors. Unfortunately, Pakistani research scholars face multiple challenges to bring theory into practice in the R&D sector as research is very expensive and it is very difficult to manage different types of research equipment with minimum resources.

There are almost 174 public universities under the registration of the Higher Education Commission. In the recent QS ranking, Pakistani Universities such as Quaid-e-Azam University Islamabad (QAU), NUST, LUMS, and Punjab University Lahore secured a position among the top 500 world ranking based on the research and academic score of the university.

Problems facing Pakistan’s research sector

Funded projects shield the research scholars from the financial burdens at home because innovative ideas and financial burdens cannot work parallel to each other. Unfortunately, in Pakistan, the investment in R&D sectors falls every year with different trajectories.

One of the trajectories is that university research work is not directly linked with the concerned industries as there is a chasm between them. Similarly, the world’s top-ranked universities, Harvard of America, Oxford in England, and Peking of China lined their research work with industries, where they give financial support to the research scholars and facilitate them in instrumentation and characterization of samples to get desirable results.

Additionally, Pakistan is facing poor governance and administration over the research grants which create more social and psychological problems for R&D sectors. It is very difficult to publish a high-impact research article, patent, and idea under such kind of fragile research policies.

The HEC funds for research are not properly utilized. The research scholars go through their work in a very stressful environment. Every year Pakistani Ph.D. scholars in the midst of their degree leave their departments and go to foreign countries because the developed countries support them financially. This will have very lethal consequences in the long run for our HEC and R&D sectors.

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Ultimately, one must ask: what constitutes “quality” for higher education? Equivalently, how many differentiate between Higher Education (HE) institutions on the basis of quality? This then translates into measuring “real access” to higher education and separating it from mere enrollment. Of course, judging quality is always controversial.

Measuring the success of research

Research in any professional field, Mathematics or Physics, Molecular Biology or Engineering, Economics or Archaeology, requires a unique, precise definition. An exploratory definition might be that research is the discovery of new and interesting phenomena, creation of concepts that have explanatory or predictive power, introducing new and useful inventions, processes, etc.

For quality research, the industrial link with universities is very important. The success of research is judged by its importance. For research of an applied nature, the impact can be measured by its effect upon industrial or academic production, jobs created, rise in company stock, etc. The number and the type of patents that follow from the research give an important indicator of success.

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Furthermore, for academic research, only specialists in the exact field can be entrusted with the evaluation. Of all imperfect measures, the least imperfect one is to count the number of citations in refereed journals. In a nutshell, corporations of research scholars and industries will give a bright future to Pakistan’s R&D sectors.

M.S and Ph.D. scholars have multiple ideas, and industries have funded projects where they can collaborate with each other for the prosperity and growth of the nation. It is the responsibility of the Ministry of Science and Technology with the collaboration of Higher Education Commission Pakistan, and the Pakistan Academy of Science and Social Sciences to ensure the link between universities and industries in every province of Pakistan for quality research.

This piece originally appeared on Global Village Space.

Written by: Tufail Dawar, an M.Phil Scholar at Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad. He can be reached at mtofil@chem.qau.edu.pk.


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