However, the ease at which these medals can be purchased and paraded as academic achievements to the clueless government and the general public who knows no better, is obviously just too irresistable for university officials.
The latest in the list of universities parading their self-gratifying achievements are Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) in the Star here, and Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) in the New Straits Times, here.
A team of nine researchers from Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) carved a name for Malaysia when they brought home five gold and five silver medals from the World Exhibition of Innovation, Research and New Technologies Brussels Innova & Eureka in Belgium last month. The team submitted 10 inventions for the competition held between Nov 23 and 27.The proud and ecstatic vice-chancellor was proudly showing off the team from UiTM for having achieved "perfect" returns, 10 submission returning with 10 medals.
More than 300 inventions were displayed, with participants coming from the United States, Taiwan, Romania, Belgium and Croatia.
...Datuk Seri Prof Ibrahim Abu Shah told a press conference yesterday that the success proved the capabilities of researchers from the university to compete at the international-level.Now, let me bring the Professor there back down to earth before Tok Pa or Pak Lah himself starts lavishing praise on these so-called achievements.
Firstly, and as asserted in my previous commentaries on dog and pony show events, these trade fairs and exhibitions which our Malaysian universities love participating are not, as described "competitions", much less "academic competitions".
They are, and I emphasise, for-profit events for the organisers which our universities have paid a lot of money to participate, and in turn receive "tokens" of appreciation from the grateful organisations in the form of well, what better than medals?
Have a look for yourself the Brussels Eureka web page which listed the number of medals awarded. Count for yourself the number of medals awarded.
Yes, that's a total 303 gold, silver and bronze medal winners, out of a total of 314 participants i.e., a 96.5% success rate. The non-medal winners (11 of them), received a "Diploma" which comes automatically with the purchase of an exhibition booth. There are no losers. Out of the number of participants, a whopping 167 or 53.2% of participants went home with "Gold-coloured" medals.
You'd also be interested to know that these colourful medal awards are not judged by distinguished academic peers but by the organisers themselves, who in all likelihood, have little knowledge or interest with regards to the inventions' reliability, application, efficiency, safety, commercial viability or for that matter, honesty!
Now, if UiTM and other local universities attempt to boast of its impressive achievements at "international levels" based on medal collections from such trade shows, I think it's just absolutely disgraceful and its really scraping the bottom of the barrel.
You'd be interested to know, the Malaysian "academic" contingent comprising of 26 submissions would have forked out anywhere between RM300,000 to RM500,000, depending on various factors such as the size of the floor space and utilisation of supplementary services such as furniture, electricity, telephone etc., just as basic participation fees of the event. Basic accomodation and economy flights alone will easily add an additional RM200,000 or more to the cost of sending our exhibitors. This has yet to take into consideration the "cost" of preparing the relevant prototypes for the "inventions".
Essentially, each year, by taking part in some 4 to 5 such trade shows, the Malaysian public universities are spending millions in public funds, yes, our tax payers' money, on trade fair junketts to London, Brussels, Geneva, Nuremberg and other exotic destinations to collect academically worthless medals.
When instead, the precious funds which our universities are already short of, should have been spent on attaining achievements which really matter, like getting worthwhile research published in internationally renown journals.
I'm tearing my hair out on this issue, but I'm not finished yet, more on our obsession with fancy medals tomorrow's Part II.