Posted on

Towards an indigenous research facility

Share

by Phillip C. Jackson Tue, Aug 16. 2011

In a recent article, I raised a number of issues related to education, development and brain drain. It was noted that the various levels of the education enterprise needed to innovate and reorganise in order to maintain an adequate supply of knowledge workers and other human resources for sustaining a modern, competitive economy within the context of a well-defined industrial policy.{{more}} The role of the Diaspora and brain circulation or reverse brain drain was also highlighted as a means of augmenting these systemic approaches.

I am very pleased to have read a recent article on the Community College students’ participation in a cancer-fighting botanical research. I sincerely congratulate Mr. Nigel Scott of the college, retired Chemistry professor Dr. Baldwin King and horticulturalist Fred Prescod for bringing this idea to fruition with the financial assistance of UNESCO. I wish these pioneering students all the best and hope that this endeavour will be the first in a long and successful research career, concerned with both local and global challenges.

This research initiative is an excellent flagship story to introduce what I wish to deal with in this article, that is, the idea of an indigenous research facility. The ideas presented here are anchored within the framework described in the following paragraph

The pressures of globalization and neoliberal economic paradigms necessitate a focused indigenous approach to knowledge building and institutional strengthening with a view for creating wealth through sustainable niche products and services. Even as we contemplate the global forces and dynamics, we must know, understand and quantify the local variables so we can adequately define our possibilities, anticipate the trends, and position ourselves accordingly as we chart the course to our optimal future.

The ideas presented here are a synthesis of various experiences, including my own as a young research student; discussions with other university students and other Vincentians from diverse backgrounds on the issue of research, development and brain drain. From these interactions the most significant conclusion drawn is that a significant number of students and other interested persons would have liked, and would still like to pursue their research projects here in SVG, focusing on local challenges. However, the experiences of many of those who attempted vary from a scarcity of data and/or adequate data series to unwillingness by local custodians to share information. At the design stage, many persons have been unable to get the sort of expertise to help them properly define a relevant local research topic and appropriate methodologies etc. This is reflective of the still underdeveloped culture of research and documentation in our country. These concerns are compounded by the absence of a dedicated agency that can provide focused guidance and support in these pursuits. As a result, the majority of our students opt for research projects suggested by their professors or classmates in their host countries, with objectives mostly foreign to local concerns.

St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) is a grossly understudied place. We generally lack a critical mass of knowledge of the various aspects of our country to allow for meaningful, sustainable long-range strategic planning and intelligent resource management. Even where studies or information exist, they are mostly scattered and unorganized.

By virtue of being campus countries of the University of the West Indies, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados have considerable advantages in using their faculties and students to focus research on matters of their national interest. In many cases, the research is conducted by brilliant students from non-campus countries. If we can have our “best minds” focus on problems of local concern in the elaboration of research projects and theses, then we can significantly bridge the critical knowledge gap that exists between campus and non-campus countries within the CARICOM region. This gap is even wider, compared to the rest of the developed world.

It is my belief that a formal facility that encourages and practically supports local/indigenous research is indispensable to our development as a nation and an enrichment of our sense of place. This approach also maximizes the value of the various study scholarships we receive. This is especially important in light of our already slender human resource capital and the threats presented by the pervasive brain drain phenomenon.

Below is a proposal for addressing the issues raised above. I welcome your comments and advice in an effort to improve these ideas, with the hope of bringing them to the point of realization.

Aim:

To create a facility that will encourage and support the study of local problems by our university students and other nationals.

Support Mechanisms

1. Establish a comprehensive online database of all Vincentian students studying in universities, together with details of their courses. This database will also include a list of technical and academic human resources (local and Diaspora) for the support of the study/research projects.

2. Have the relevant personnel or agencies (Heads of Departments, Business and industry leaders etc.) identify on a regular basis, study/research objectives for the support of the country’s overall developmental plans and initiatives.

3. Expose students in a systematic way (as early as 1st year) to experiences within the various private and public sector entities of our country that are relevant to their course of study.

4. Create a consultative mechanism to help students specify appropriate research topics; identify local resources and international collaborative and funding institutions that may support the research.

5. Encourage the formation of various professional associations that can provide guidance and support to students in their field of expertise.

6. Establish a library (physical and/or digital) with resources specific to the craft of research, which contains reports, theses or any other relevant information important to research in SVG.

7. Create a framework/protocol for official negotiations with the relevant university authorities to support the aim of the IRF.

8. Create a mechanism to prioritize research objectives and evaluate proposals for support.

9. To source and appropriate local and external funding for specific research projects that will facilitate, among other things, the following:

a. Travel for the students to facilitate their research in the local territory.

b. A form of temporary employment for the student for the duration of the research within the local territory.

c. Access to or loan of equipment including computers and internet, printers, scanners, digital cameras or any other specific equipment relevant to the research project.

Perceived Benefits

1. The accumulation of a critical body of local research literature including baseline information, with emphasis on pure and applied concerns.

2. The development of professional fraternities with a local/national agenda.

3. The engendering among our students of a greater concern for and increased practical attention to local scientific and developmental issues.

4. The possibility of a relaxation of the “greener pastures” mentality and an increased sensitivity to national developmental challenges and their solutions.

5. A deepening of our sense of place and our notions of things “Vincy”.

[email protected]

LAST NEWS