Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Alternative take on USM expansion

I probably won't have the time to go through the plans / blueprints regarding the USM expansion so I won't be able to add much more to what I've already said earlier. While my take is slightly more positive, here's a very negative opinion on the project written by Anil Netto. Anil is right to be skeptical of such ambitious plans in the Malaysian context given our poor track record but I hope that there are some grounds for my optimism.

11 comments:

Charis Quay said...

Like Anil Netto, I'm sceptical. Kian Ming, is there more info on this somewhere because as it is it sounds just like a building project, which is great except that the problem isn't that we don't have enough buildings.

It is not very clear what USM are trying to do on several levels.

First, there is the money part of the problem. They have put out RM450mil. Where is this from? So far they have supposedly got back on the order of RM40 mil from MTDC and 'companies'. I'm not sure MTDC counts because it's yet another government-linked organisation. I would also like to know more about the 'companies'. I've never heard of Biotropics, but I paste the bio of their Chief Scientific Officer from their webpage for you to make up your own minds.

In any case, based on the people investing in this thing it would seem they are basically providing building space for rental to development arms of companies, which is not in itself a bad idea, but why does a university have to do it? Shouldn't this sort of thing be done by the Penang state government or even by a private company?

But then one reads further and there is talk of a hotel, retail space and other such things. So is this some sort of tourism drive? And again why is USM getting involved?

End of the day, what one can see doesn't sound very convincing. If one digs deeper, it sounds even less convincing. And finally they need to come up with some better apologetic, unless none exists of course.

On a less serious note, the VC sounds a little like Alan Sokal...
www.museumofhoaxes.com/sokal.html
www.physics.nyu.edu/faculty/sokal/transgress_v2/transgress_v2_singlefile.html


From: http://www.biotropics-malaysia.com/management.htm

DR JÖRG GRÜNWALD
Chief Scientific Officer

As an experienced medical scientist, he also holds a doctorate in Botany and was a Scientific Director and Head of Clinical Research of a prominent phyto-pharmaceutical company based in Berlin, Germany. He was responsible for more than 100 clinical and pharmacological studies on phyto-pharmaceuticals and dietary supplements in Europe, the United States, Australia and Asian. He is the author of the international reference work for botanical medicines "Physician Desk Reference for Herbal Medicine," co-editor of the "Complete German Commission E Monographs" and Editor-in-Chief of "Advances in Natural Therapy. He was a member of the United States Pharmacopeia (USP). He is also an Executive Director of IKEC International Kava Executive Council (NGO). He is the co-founder of a world leading consulting company focusing on natural products.

Charis Quay said...

One more thing: Malaysian Biotechnology Corp Sdn Bhd is another government enterprise.

http://www.biotechcorp.com.my/

So far from the money angle it is looking more and more like taypayers' money being recycled several ways.

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Anonymous said...

I guarantee you someone, somewhere is getting a percentage of this project!
As it is there are too many science parks and incubators oredi....
In a few years time we are going to have a lot of derelict, under used and poorly maintained 'white elephants' science parks and incubators

No need to look far la.... In Abdullah Sanusi period as VC of UM there was this very famous DEAN of science who have a very brilliant idea of setting AMCAL or Allied Materials Consolidated Analytical Laboratory with high tech equipments.......

What happened to it?
What is the productivity?
What I heard recently this famous building which I guess even most UM staff and students passed by daily for years remain mystified is used by the adminstration for offices of the Registrar

This country is really amazing with its track records yet still continue with this epidemic of continuous failures

Will BN or UNMO take the responsibility?

Guess Rafeah dont see the building or Experimental theatre which I guess hold the Guinness Book of Records in Malaysia for a comatose renovation project

Dont worry our friend KM will be like Paula Abdul of American Idol always giving a positive outlookmobvq

WY Kam 甘永元 said...

kian ming, and fellow readers,

I can't see why you all would think for a second, that USM needs that technology park. Please read carefully what the rm450million includes (quoting from the star paper):

a) "apartments, why don't just build student residential dorms?
b) a hotel for??? VC's extra-curicular activities?
c) an international school, so that the VC's kid can study proper english? or side income for USM?
d) incubator laboratories incubator lab is not normal lab? why don't use spend on discipline-focused labs?
e) galleries, I would agree on this, but only for art-shows, and that can should be in city centers for maximum exposure
f) a mini theatre for?? movies?
g) and research centres." vague. is this office spaces or actual research facilities (labs?)
h) "as research centre, tourist attraction and public park" public park means trees and greenery...not concrete buildings. tourist attrraction? that's a joke right? research center...USM itself should already be a research center

Do a world class university need any of the above?? I have said it, and i will said it again. top university needs a) human talent (lecturers and students alike) b)physical facilities & equipments that facilitates research (specific equipment, surgery theatre, hydraulic acuators etc) c) physical facilities to support teaching/learning (library, books, lecture halls). anything else are un-necessary.

PS: 430mil can be used to hire up to 1000 top academic (on 120k USD a year). that's what USM needs.

pps:UsM can also use a bigger medical & engineering school and faculty - where talented and qualified students have been rejected year after year.

I cannot really comprehend what our public (malaysians) and universities leaders are thinking when it comes to blatant public wastage as such.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with Wy Kam above.

Why do we continually need to waste our hard earned money on useless projects like this or such as our Malaysian Angkasawan project?

Spend that money for kidney machines or to help the poor and the needy. I hope the ambitious USM VC have the human conscience to to know which has better priority. Buy more books or hospitals

Charis Quay said...

WY Kam said: 'top university needs a) human talent (lecturers and students alike) b) physical facilities & equipments that facilitates research (specific equipment, surgery theatre, hydraulic acuators etc) c) physical facilities to support teaching/learning (library, books, lecture halls). anything else are un-necessary.'

Roughly speaking I think this is correct, though I wouldn't say the list is exaustive and also not everything can be bought, even in categories (b) and (c). Based on WY's criteria, what USM has shown is that it can well afford (b) and (c) but has chosen to spend its (our) money elsewhere. By doing so, USM has shown also that it has very little intention of working towards (a) because among other things, what attracts smart people to institutions are a coherent vision, transparency in decision-making and money spent wisely.

WY Kam 甘永元 said...

charis, i won't dare to claim it to be an exhausive list (of three items!). it would be an insult to the intelligence of all the VCs, PVCs we have around the country and the world. nevertheless, our glorious institutions prefer to glorify themselves with dewan tunku VC rather than PhDs with capability to do postdoc in Berkeley for example.

TTS said...

Probably I can try to clarify certain things. Why Malaysia needs more International school? If you are working in Penang or USM, you can see a lot of expatriates and international students with family. What is the main problem in Penang?? The international school is too pack and too expensive. I guess USM try to overcome this problem. A lot of cases, USM's PhD students, but based in KL. Why?? For children's education. I would do the same thing for my kids...

Yes, I also against the idea of shopping mall, hotel, apartment etc...the only thing I can think of is lots of hotel in Penang decline LO from USM...hahahaha...sorry to say that but such a bad finance..

About the incubator lab, not everybody can have their lab over there (in principal). Only those who have nearly commercial product can stay there. I hope it is not permanent basis. If they can't commercialize in a certain period, please kick them out.

The same thing goes to office space . Only companies that have collaboration with USM, or they are going to commercialize USM's products.

Anonymous said...

GOOD NEWS!
Razali Agus is terminated at unisel. He was not a good DVC in UM before and too UNMO

Anonymous said...

tony n kian ming, please comment on this http://malaysianindiantoday.wordpress.com/2008/05/12/what-happen-to-our-uni-racial-polarization/