By Dayo Adesulu
Researchers in tertiary institutions have been charged to engage in cutting edge research relevant to the needs of society beginning with their local environment rather than mere redistribution of knowledge.
Apart from failure by developing countries to finance their own research and hence determine their own research agenda, a major problem relates to the limited capacity to conduct research that leads to development of appropriate technology.
Speaking during a training programme for top executives in Nigerian tertiary institutions held in Houston, Texas, US, Professor Sola Akinrinade said: ”It is the responsibility of higher educational institutions to conduct researches relevant to the needs of the society beginning with their local environment.
He averred that there is urgent need to build the capacity of our researchers to engage in cutting edge research rather than mere redistribution of knowledge, and create enabling environment for research to thrive.
He pointed out that universities in developing countries like Nigeria in such situation, have a great role to play in knowledge generation for innovation and development adding that the generation of new ideas, accumulating and transmitting knowledge is the responsibility of the university.
He explained that through universities’ research and teaching, they help to produce expertise, manage development, engineer social transformation, and preserve social values and cultural ethos. He said: “Universities create knowledge in two broad economically relevant domains.
These are firstly, generic scientific types of knowledge that are broadly applicable across fields, such as mathematics; secondly, there are industrial sciences such as electronic engineering or chemical engineering; and social sciences, including business studies.”
According to him, many researchers from universities across the country have at one time or the other conducted cutting edge researches and produced inventions that impacted the technological world and affected the life of the people nationally.
Going down memory lane, he pointed out the era of publish or perish when survival in the academic realm depended on publications which are supposed to derive from original research. Akinrinade maintained that if research is properly done, it will lead to national development because such research could serve as basis for notable inventions in Engineering, Agriculture, Pharmacy, Medicine, etc.
He also noted that good research publications in reputable international journals will enhance economical development of the institution and a country. The professor who lamented the over emphasis on research in science and technology in our society, noted that breakthroughs are much easier to record in the humanities & social sciences. He urged the polytechnics and colleges of education to imbibe these core value and carry out projects that meet local needs.
While acknowleging efforts made by institutions in establishing Offices of Patents and Inventions, Enhancement of Research in Strategic Plans, ETF/TETFUND support and appointment of Deputy Vice-Chancellors for Research and Innovation, he regretted that the quality of research has been a matter for concern in recent years.
He said: “Capacity for original, cutting edge research in our universities has been severely undermined by the pressures on the system since the early 1990s with the reducing quality of personnel entering into the system in all cadres.
Lack of personnel (capable researchers and support staff including laboratory scientists and technologists), absence of basic equipment, facilities and enabling environment. Lack of clearly defined research policy in many universities and lack of capacity to enforce where available Research policy is expected to drive funding priority.
Some of the challenges faced by researchers, he enumerated include fund, stressing that in the absence of funding, researchers are forced to depend on donor agencies for grants and invariably research projects are drawn up to suit the need of the donor agencies. He maintained that the lack of capacity on the part of policy makers to utilise university research findings and inventions is a challenge that needs redress.
Akinrinade who noted that there is a great disconnect between university research and uptake by the State, explained that many times, policy-makers need basic training to even understand research findings.
“Another great challenge is the disconnect between the research output of our universities and industrial uptake of same as not much of the research activities have been translated into innovative products by our industries,” he added.
If these challeges would be addressed, he posited that building competencies for research and innovation should be look into. According to him, developing research competencies for sustainable development of higher institutions involves a series of proactive, capacity-building activities to enhance the capacity of individual academic staff, teams of researchers and the central administration for such purposes as attracting research funding.
He further added that developing research competence will create relationships, develop and implement strategies that increase institutional competitiveness. These activities are common to universities, but are also applicable in polytechnics and colleges of education to varying degrees,” he said.
On the need for Research policy he said, it will impact on research funding allocation priorities in the context of institutional resources available for research. He noted that the presence of a Research policy that is widely disseminated within the system should help in developing the research focus of staff particularly those seeking institutional support.
His words: “The Research Policy should be accompanied by a Publication Policy establishing institutional guidelines for acceptable publication including publishing outlets.
´”Research policy should be developed adopting a bottom-up approach similar to the process of developing institutional strategic plan. Inputs should be taken from all disciplinary representations in the institution. ´
“The policy should be periodically reviewed particularly with a view to developing new research priorities reflecting contemporary dynamics in the research environment. While the policy could retain its essential features, research priorities should reflect new local, national and international priorities.”
“Eliminating research fraud by instituting research integrity process (adopting TURNITIN) and heavy sanction on plagiarism, self-plagiarism, forged data, etc. Reward for excellent performance in research institutional cover enjoyed by the researcher while allowing the researcher to benefit financially from his/her efforts.”