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Thursday, November 27, 2008

"The one with being an academician..."

I felt compelled to share a thought my HD passed on during our department meeting commenced yesterday. She was expressing concern over a few issues raised by the DVC as well as a few senior and prominent researchers in the university regarding the trend of the current academic workforce. One of the things disbursed was the notion that our researchers, be it in UPM or other RUs in that matter are not carrying their weights in terms of meeting yearly KPIs and SSMs. In layman terms, we are not publishing enough to substantiate our RU status. 

Truth be told - from the perspective of one researcher to another; this issue has predominantly fast becoming a cancer in modern science, a harbringer of doom which potentially would bring down even the utmost esteemed varsity. The idea behind having KPIs in the university SSM system was to ensure the longetivity of quality on par with quantity so that universities in the country can flourish in an upward manner over time. When treated appropriately by all subordinates, this system when falls in place would ensure that all universities continue to perform to justify their function in society and nation building. This was an important feature that symbolises Vision 2020 and the recent Modal Insan concept passed on by our current PM. It is deemed crucial that in order for the country be recognized as a global player that we imply the strategy at its grassroots; education. Realizing this, emphasis was concentrated in a major disbursement of funds allocated for academic research. Various research grants were made available for grabs such as IRPA, ScienceFund, TechnoFund and RUGS which instigates project filtrations to only provide funds for research in focused areas, as well as promote healthy competition among researchers. This is preferable, as the nation needs to concentrate on a niche which is its strength. Like other well developed countries that practises credible research, this was a concept that was majorly accepted and agreed upon.

However, blunders occur in the forms of delivery. Unlike first world countries like the US, UK and EU publication is significantly harder for Asian countries like Malaysia, if not greatly difficult bordering on to being virtually impossible for some sciences. There occurs the decree of congruency; similar studies and research performed by rival countries which stimulates biased-editorial revisions, explaining why publication in peer-reviewed impact factor journals often takes considerable time. In my case, and I was quite lucky - I had my paper accepted for publication, after a few revisions and comments throughout a span of four months. Although numerically small, four months reigns a long distance in the publish or perish world of academia. A work can easily be overwritten and made obsolete even in a month. This usually is the norm in breakthrough research such as in cancer and medical sciences.

To relate this issue of publication woes into play - because it takes so long to publish therefore the system put into play by governmental powers becomes a liability to measure the prowess of IPTAs. When it takes so long to publish, authors look for co-authors who are prominent in their fields in order to facilitate a more diginfied review. This leads to a single paper tagged with as much as six to seven names. This number greatly affects the quantitative numerics of papers published per year for a university. In theory, if a paper is published by three members of the varsity then the total papers published in the university would plummeth to two thirds less than its full potential. When this happens, the quality assessment system exercised which does not imply these matters, perceives that the universities have not met their KPIs. This presents as a problem - especially when researchers only manage to get by their minimal KPIs needed per year.

There is also the issue of piggyback faculties, which also contributes to the stale performance exhibited by a university as a whole. It is understandable that some studies, such as musics often do not produce any publications or rather having no research at all. What would they study on, new types of guitars? There are also some sciences that has no core business doing research, such as education. Other fields such as linguistics and economy, produces very little publication as compared to scientific-based fields. The occurence of these faculties factors up the element of lobsidedness overseen by the current ranking status. This has resulted in the other faculties struggling to balance out these faculties by publishing more than what they're supposed to yearly. Because everyone is paid equally instead of accordingly, the grapevine fastly becomes engulfed with rantings that some lecturers or researchers do nothing but clock in and out daily. It was even said that almost 60% of the academic workforce has little to do, as opposed to nothing at all.

These are all small details that should be looked into by higher dignitaries of the government, i.e MOHE, MOSTI and PMD. Other issues such as the work burdens not related to research and teaching such as managements and the never ending implementation of ISO hovering over a researchers' shoulders that hinders their performance should also be catered to. Some has expressed the idea of having a semester based system, where a lecturer/researcher concentrates on either teaching or research for a certain semester be implemented. This will greatly help a majority of the academic workforce, but this would require more people in the workforce to be made possible. Then again, this initiates jobs for the masses and generate potential income for the nation so probably this is not a bad idea to banter after all.

I express this just to remind the people about the real deal; a first hand explanation detailing why universities in the country has been perceived to perform poorly as far as these times go. This also serves as a reminder to my tutor-friends who're abroad pursuing their doctoral studies to hurry back home prior completing. If numbers are the business of the day, we shall be needing all the people we can get.



Wa said...

Personally, i think we are still very much a third world country; in the mind that is. Yes, we are developing vastly but does it go hand in hand with the mentality of the people? Education is really really vital. Starting even in primary schools. But of course, this issue is somewhat complicated and at times sensitive. For universities, fundamental researches which i think play an important role in research development are hardly being pursued by Malaysians due to the expection of the government. Product = money = country's income??? Tak ke?? That's more important, right? Nonetheless, no harm in hoping that Malaysia will change for the better. Malaysia Boleh!!! huhu...

Mokrish said...

Poyo la jep oii....makin poyo sahabat ku ini... hahaha...

Pengir@n Kudos said...

erm... no comment.. tapi respect kat ko!