research

Does research always have to be targeted towards economic benefit?

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If you are a developing Asian state, the answer apparently seems to be ‘yes’. This has been suggested as a strategy for Asian countries in achieving their research and development goals. Resources for scientific research, whether undertaken in universities or in the private sector, should be carefully allocated and targeted towards specific areas for priority development.

Here is well-known international higher education academic Philip Altbach writing about China and India back in 2001:

One strategy available to China and India is targeting specific areas for intensive research and development investment. These areas are generally in fields that can directly benefit the economy and that build on existing strengths in the country.

And here’s another academic, William Cummings, on the growth of a new academic centre in the Asia-Pacific region in 2010:

An interesting line of speculation is that the different academic systems of the Asia-Pacific region might develop distinctive directions of excellence in the decades ahead… China is notable for its achievements in space and in computer-related areas. The Philippines is known for its training of doctors and other health personnel. An infusion of increased resources might allow the country to gain prominence in the health-related sciences.

In recognition of the recent Day of Science in Kyrgyzstan, President Almazbek Atambayev is also weighing in:

Science is of paramount importance in the formation of human capital that is an important factor in accelerating social and economic development of any country. In Kyrgyzstan, it is necessary to concentrate the whole scientific potential on priority directions for the country.

Three narratives from the last 15 years, all suggesting concentration and specialization in some form or another. I think this raises interesting questions around:

  • defining national research/science priorities in an interconnected and interdependent world
  • the benefits and drawbacks of focussing investment in a small number of fields vs sharing resources more widely, if also more thinly
  • the relative weight placed on economic development vs social development
  • whether this push towards concentration is visible in other regions of the world
  • the role that universities can play either in supporting government policy or developing their own priorities drawing on their local, national and global networks

References

Altbach, Philip, “Gigantic Peripheries: India and China in the International Knowledge System,” in Hayhoe, Ruth and Pan, Julia (eds), Knowledge Across Cultures, 2001, pp. 199-214.

Cummings, William.  “Is the Academic Centre Shifting to Asia?” In David Chapman, William Cummings and Gerard Postiglione (eds.) Border Crossing in East Asian Higher Education   (Hong Kong: Comparative Education Centre, University of Hong Kong and Springer Press, 2010), 47-76.

Manasova, Kanykei, “Almazbek Atambayev: We have to concentrate all scientific potential on priority directions for country”, 24.kg, 10.11.2015, accessed from http://www.eng.24.kg/community/177917-news24.html

Alexander is a researcher, not a spy!

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Tajik researcher Alexander Sodiqov, a PhD student at the University of Toronto (Canada) was arrested on Monday and his whereabouts are currently unknown. He was in Khorog, regional capital of the Autonomous Region of Gorno Badakshan in eastern Tajikistan, undertaking academic research as part of an Economic & Social Research Council (UK Research Council) funded project on recent political turmoil in the region.

News of Alexander’s disappearance has spread fast amongst the small community of Central Asian researchers around the world and support for him is strong. Today the UK’s Guardian newspaper has a good story which provides a helpful update on the situation: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jun/19/fears-grow-for-canadian-researcher-arrested-in-tajikistan.

The two petitions mentioned in the Guardian article can be found at:

http://www.avaaz.org/ru/petition/Gnu_Yatimovu_Predsedatelyu_Goskomiteta_Nacionalnoy_Bezopasnosti_RT_Prizyvaem_osvobodit_Aleksandra_Sadykova/?nIuqKhb – an open letter from Central Asian scholars expressing concerns about the situation

http://scholarsforsodiqov.blogspot.co.uk/ – for scholars of Central Asian affairs who share a concern for Sodiqov in particular and for scholarship about Central Asia in general, please email ed[dot)schatz@utoronto[dot)ca with your NAME, UNIVERSITY AFFILIATION, and COUNTRY to be added.

Please do what you can to raise awareness about this unacceptable situation, and help call for Alexander’s release, and for improved relations between national and local governments in Tajikistan and researchers wishing to analyse developments in the country. If you’re on Twitter, use .

The Avaaz petition has the following English language translation:

OPEN LETTER

We, a group of Tajik students and graduates of foreign higher educational institutions, are concerned about our friend and colleague, Alexander Sadiqov, who was arrested June 16, 2014 by law enforcement agencies in Khorog, Tajikistan. We are alarmed by the fact that the research activities of Alexander Sadykov, aimed at exploring the positive experience of the countries of Central Asia in relation to conflict resolution measures, has been labeled by law enforcement agencies of Tajikistan as an act of espionage supported by foreign countries.

Evidence to the contrary includes his professional and scholarly writing on the internet as well as his prolific writing as a journalist which he has been very public about sharing. Moreover, according to Professor John Heathershaw of the University of Exeter, (UK), Mr. Sodiqov possesses all of the required documents confirming that the study was approved by the Academic Council of the University.

We welcome the efforts of the Government of Tajikistan in building an open democratic society and note that the process also involves open exchanges of ideas, knowledge and information. Open exchange is impossible without the participation of the academic and educataional institutions and associated scholars and students of which Mr. Sodiqov belongs to as a current PhD student at Toronto University.

The ongoing detention of Alexander Sodiqov makes us – students, young scientists and researchers, feel at risk and vulnerable as we conduct our research and other related activities both abroad and in Tajikistan. Having the privilige of getting an advanced degree, we, as a group, always try to use our knowledge and skills for the prosperity of our country. The vast majority of the citizens of Tajikistan who are educated abroad, come back home and continue to make contributions to the development of the country and civil society within education, the economy, health care and many other areas.

Concerning the arrest of Mr. Sodiqov, we – students and graduates of foreign universities – respectfully urge Tajik law enforcement agencies to inform the public about the fate of Alexander Sodiqov and take all possible measures for his release. We also hope that the detention of our colleague – a PhD student and known researcher on Central Asia – is an isolated case that will be resolved quickly by Tajik law enforcement agencies.

With this letter, we, as representatives of science and education, also call on the leadership of the country to support research conducted by students in Tajikistan by both national and foreign universities