Tuesday, February 27, 2007

USM moving ahead?

Another sign that USM is trying to move ahead of the other research universities? Report below taken from the Star, Feb 25, 2007.

Wooing the best brains

POSTGRADUATE studies and post-doctoral research are untapped areas of opportunities for international students in Malaysia.

And, according to Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) vice-chancellor Prof Datuk Dzulkifli Abdul Razak, the country needs to attract the best researchers and specialists.

“But to do this we need a better remuneration scheme.

“If we don't pay them world-class salaries as world-class scholars, no one will be interested in coming to Malaysia to do their research and those who do will quickly be demotivated,” he said.

This, he added, was essential if Malaysian universities were to nurture emerging areas of knowledge.

“In USM, for example, we are looking at developing brain science and we have the facilities and capabilities to set up a brain centre but we don’t have enough specialists in the area.

“And to attract the right people, the structure of university governance needs to be reviewed,” he said, adding that this is one of the issues being discussed with the Government.

“With more autonomy, we can break away from the public service salary band and lure the best experts.”

Last month, USM was named the top research university in the country by the Higher Education Ministry.

This is based on a five-year evaluation against eight criteria: research quality, research quantity, researcher quality and quantity, postgraduate quality and quantity, level of innovation, support such as facilities and human expertise, level of networking and internationalisation, and number of awards and recognition received.

According to Prof Dzulkifli, the university scored high marks in all eight areas used in the appraisal, which took place from 2000 to 2005.

USM received 100% for innovation, awards and recognition and at least 88% in most categories.

“More importantly, the evaluation highlighted our weaknesses and what is missing.

“We now need to do better in the next evaluation exercise. At the same time, we have to work towards meeting international research standards where the passing mark is higher.

“It gives us a good moving target in our journey to become a research university.”

USM is one of the four universities designated as research universities under the Ninth Malaysia Plan, the others being Universiti Malaya, Universiti Putra Malaysia and Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia.

This status entails funding of RM153mil each for research, development and commercialisation activities.

The funds are scheduled for disbursement this year. USM is, however, already moving ahead under its own steam.

Plans to build a biotechnology park that will house incubation companies were announced recently. Estimated to cost RM30mil, it will boost the development and commercialisation of leading-edge biotechnology products at the university.

“The ministry is taking steps to move ahead with the initiative, but we can’t wait or we will miss the boat.

“So we are making do with what we have and leveraging on what we‘ve got. We hope such efforts will be a signal to the ministry of our seriousness,” said Prof Dzulkifli.


Anonymous said...

This must be good news for USM. My one cent observations:

1. Research Publications... This is a significant part of real performance measure!
I am not sure if publications in international peer-reviewed journals count? Or any publication be it in the newspaper or just simply any media print without any peer review (not simply just edits by the editor or publisher!).

NOTE: Do we dare to state publicly how many papers there are in Malaysian public universities that are published in Science or Nature? Just look at NUS across the Causeway...click on the webpage and look up their staff publications- very easy to find...Ours?

2. Awards
Are we referring to awards from those invention fairs again? I wonder how good those awards are? Just curious...can we buy them? Anybody? Any idea or leads?

Just look at NUS, Cambridge, Harvard, MIT, ANU, etc. Do they need to invest (a nicer word) so much money just to participate and garner those publicity? I hope no one gets hoodwinked!

3. Remuneration- I do agree that $$$ is a big issue that has been talked to death for ages. Just compare ourselves to NUS or HKU if we want to look at another asian university. I agree that talking is easy and certainly not easy for the govt to just increase salary as it likes. Academic staff are also under PSD. Unless the whole structure gets revamp from all civil sectors, but it will be too complex. So, what then? Are we stuck in this abyss permanently? The pay raise must increase but gradually and progressively, not a one off thing.

But, apart from $$$, we have just simply change our attitude! We do have good facilities with state-of-art equipment in some university labs, on par with that of some great universities like Oxford. But the question is no matter how much money gets invested in the universities, it will not be of any good if we continue with our miserable attitude and mentality!
Poor equipment maintainence and record, ill usage, etc. These are all due to our attitude! Change our attitude and we can see clearly how embarrasing we are in the eyes of the world.

I fear that by ranking ourselves continually among ourselves, we simply go round and round the circle, glorifying ourselves on our so-called achievements yet ignorant of the fact that we continue to backslide in quality.

Come on, to all who sit high on the throne in the ivory towers, be honest about how we can actually become world class.

I hope one day, at least one university from Malaysia will at least be on par if not better than NUS. Tall order? I don't think so. Let's be honest.

Anonymous said...

Not a bad idea to try and recruit from abroad but how good an idea? Its all about execution isn't it? If the policy is still to overwhelmingly favour bumis and if there is no sytematic improvement in support for and delivery by researchers, then its all a exercise in marginal utility.

Can't tell...

Anonymous said...

USM really emphasize on peer-reviewed international journals. Awards (http://www.usm.my/sanggarsanjung/) are given for publications in these journals which has impact factor of more than 1.5. If you look carefully at those ISI-listed journals, rarely do engineering journals hit more than 1. I think USM is indeed the best "Research University" in Malaysia

Anonymous said...

Why go all out to recruit the best (Malaysian) graduates overseas, when we keep letting loose the best brains out from the country.

Anonymous said...

"Why go all out to recruit the best (Malaysian) graduates overseas, when we keep letting loose the best brains out from the country."

Becoz we have tried,and you could see the results.....

Anonymous said...

There is not much scope for academics here in Malaysia. First of all they are underpaid, secondly unappreciated. Third, if they fall under the minority group no opportunity whatsoever. So really fat hopes to lure them to come back.

What is worse about being an academic is the bullying by students both online and offline. Really, it sucks being an academic and I don't recommend anyone to take up the profession unless they have a really good source of income from other sources.

Anonymous said...

this is a good step. it's definitely sign of better things - but it will definitely take time before we can see improvement.

you know something is really lacking when the vice-chancellor of a university uses the term 'brain science' instead of 'neuroscience' ...

Anonymous said...

I think 'brain science' is in a more general term while 'neuroscience' is more specific.....
FYI, Neuroscience is a field that is devoted to the scientific study of the nervous system (source: Wikipedia)

coleong said...

I think this is a very good news and opportunity for many academics in Malaysia who wanted to pursue a career in public universities. I think Malaysia has the potential to be as competitive as other country in term of scientific research if the administration of funding and infrastructure is appropriate. In fact, most of the public universities that I’ve visited have the most advance equipments compared to some top tier universities in UK or US. However, the major weakness that hinders us to be top tier research universities is the management of human resource. We are in need of talented researchers to run these facilities instead of letting it sitting in the lab to collect dust. Very often, a brand new machine was let sitting on the bench because no one know how to use it. It’s really a waste of resources. If these facilities are used and maintained effectively, I’m sure it will increase our productivity in scientific research dramatically. To me, it is of utmost important to spend on hiring the right people rather than buying all the big white elephant. A great research starts with a great idea and the people who execute them.

Anonymous said...

I think lot of money got into some person.s pocket when ordering such equipments!
Wonder whose pockets?