Research and development: The perils and solutions — Arvinder-Singh HS

SEPTEMBER 1 — Lately, there have been many disputes and comparison of Malaysia with other countries especially in terms of research and development — i.e. In the medical field. We have heard about the intention of Malaysia being part of developing the Covid-19 vaccine but we are short of resources and infrastructure to develop one from scratch.

This got me thinking and the deeper I thought, the more reasons became apparent. I thought I will share three of what I think are major issues today that might be hindering the progress of research and development here in Malaysia:

1. There is poor integration between the higher learning and ministries

Though we see so many achievements by the academic personnel here in Malaysia, we see very little integration between the academics and the ministry. For example, we have the ministry of human resource and universities.

Though both are excellent in their own ways, there might be very little communication between these two entities. Unfortunately, poor communication will only hinder us here.

Why? Universities are known to be more knowledgeable/in the know-how about the latest careers and human resources that will be required by countries in the near future, but the ministry (with a high amount of work load) might not be aware of this.

This will eventually lead to talent brain-drain to other countries (due to the availability of job opportunities there) and when the time comes for us to develop this particular field, we find that we are short of personnel. This will cause us to end up mass over-producing these required skills resulting in a future glut (seen with IT specialists and doctors recently).

This can be avoided. Perhaps each ministry should consider having a close allegiance with the ministry of higher education perhaps appointing a deputy director general of academics in their respective fields so that there will be communication between universities and ministries.

This will better talent acquisition talent retention and development of new career pathways so that our best brains in the country remain to develop Malaysia further.

2. We give little importance to research among our youth today

Yes, we groom talents in the university with research, but as they enter the working world staff are required to do their daily jobs with a standard set of guidelines, giving them little room to explore something new.

Yes, it is important that we complete the job we are tasked at but there is little room for growth and development. Unfortunately, thinking about productivity and money has hindered this. I remember reading how Google had a reward system for staff for coming up with new ideas although they aren’t successful (yes you read that right, they were rewarded even though they failed with a new idea).

This cause many to lift the fear of failure and encouraged employees to continuously come up with new ideas/not be afraid to think differently. The results show today — we all know how Google has faired in recent years with innovation.

Youth have the capability to think outside of the box and of new things — things that are relevant to today’s world. Many youth have minds that can better the existing technology that we have today — which many older people might even have trouble grasping the concept. 

The innovation of a cordless handheld ultrasound (as a medical diagnostic device) was developed after the idea of how a phone can project images and with a bluetooth facility, external device can be connected without cords to produce an image which in the past required bulky machines.

3. We seem to skew into thinking about jobs with a market rather than grooming existing talent

Often, youths of today are pressured into undertaking careers which they have little interest in. A person might be interested in machine learning/technology but due to the poor availability of jobs, they are forced into going into medicine/dentistry/accountancy/law or something of a different nature, leaving behind the thought of developing their skills/interest.

This is going to be a problem in the future (or perhaps it is already happening now) where we see a number of youths who do not enjoy/not passionate about their jobs because it perhaps wasn’t one of their own choice.

With that in mind, it will be of no surprise that if we see little or no innovation in the future of fields where the human resource was manufactured in bulk, not moulded from existing interest in people.

Making more job opportunities, especially ones required in the future can solve this, but again, with the lack of awareness of ministries with regards to emerging fields and areas talent should be groomed, it puts us back at square one.

This reiterates point No. 1. As we celebrate our 63rd National Day, it is high time that we be brave enough to break away from cliches and venture/invest in the future especially those areas having R&D with predicted demand.

Let’s integrate our ministries with our academic colleagues before we are disassociated permanently. A disassociation will only see our beloved nation at a great loss — something which I am sure all of us do not want to see.

Salam Hari Merdeka Semua and empowering youth to lead the way!

* Dr Arvinder Singh HS is a medical research officer.

** This is the personal opinion of the writer(s) or organisation(s) and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.

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