Academic calls for more vision in research agenda

Funding is not the only requirement for a good national research programme, according to a University of Mauritius academic.

Dr Roukaya Kasenally, senior lecturer in media and political systems at the University of Mauritius, said a 'vision' for research, the recognition of research in fields other than hard sciences, and regional and African collaboration were also important.

Asked in an interview with L’Express of Port Louis if the country’s research sector needed a boost, Kasenally replied: “Certainly. I think there is always a need for more stimulus to encourage research.” But, she said, there was a need to go further than just the effects of the 2017-18 budget announcement – “It’s the practical that counts.”

“We need more than money. We need a vision. It must not remain a vague concept. A few years ago we heard about an economy based on knowledge, and had the concept of an ‘intelligent island’ and an innovative economy. Do we still believe it?”

To instil such a vision, research must be “part of our DNA”.

“Children must have a sense of research. We must develop curiosity and interest from a young age. In Mauritius, people are not curious enough. We must create a true ecosystem for research,” she said.

Minds were still closed, and ‘research’ still meant ‘scientific research’, she told L’Express. “Hard science, you can see it, it’s tangible, there’s a tendency to take it more seriously. Certainly, scientific research is important, but research in social sciences, and linguistic research, are also important, because that leads to the development of policies. We must realise that research can help us to take decisions. That’s very important.”

Lack of funding was “only a small part of the problem”, said Kasenally. “Certainly, 50 million rupees (US$1.4 million) [the budget allocation for research] is not much, perhaps the equivalent of 10 studies. But we can easily do better than that. If academics really want to, they can develop networks for regional and pan-African collaboration. The funding is there, it’s just necessary to find it. And today the world is opening up to us; we need to make the most of it.”

She said the Tertiary Education Commission should consult universities and academics when deciding how to spend the MUR50 million budget. “They must go into the universities to find out what we need.”

Asked if higher education institutions carried out enough research, Kasenally said they did not, but the problem was time. “Research takes time and academics don’t have it. We spend most of our time teaching, preparing courses… [and] we have too many administrative tasks.”

She said the solution would be to create a division between teaching and research personnel. “That’s done in several universities abroad. It would also be necessary to allow academics to take time for their research. Set up a system of sabbatical years, perhaps.”

This article is drawn from local media. University World News cannot vouch for the accuracy of the original reports.