Sunday July 31, 2005
In defence of local lecturers
I AM a lecturer involved in nanoscience and nanotechnology and am compelled to respond to the letter “Quality research to improve rankings” (StarEducation, July 17).
I was stunned to read the comment that “local lecturers rarely publish their work in high quality journals”. Firstly, I would like to point out that journals such as Nature and Science publish only novel researches. Even Nobel laureates have not published in these journals.
Also, nanotechnology is no longer a new research area. Although some research findings in this discipline are new, it is rare to read about it in these journals. In nanotechnology, research takes time. It is not easy to produce quality data, verify the data and publish it especially within this region, where even raw materials take a few months to be delivered and some of the common ones are not even available.
Research in nanotechnology also requires heavy investment which is not easy to obtain. Although Universiti Malaya’s (UM) engineering faculty dean mentioned that we are well equipped, he was referring to only certain areas. We are not well-equipped in every field of research, especially the newer areas.
Usually, lecturers depend on their postgraduate students to conduct research activities but the population of our postgraduate students is small.
On UM’s score of 0 out of 400 in terms of citations, this is attributable to the fact that we are a general and not a technical university. We have lecturers from a wide
variety of backgrounds. I think that it is unfair to simply comment without having a good understanding of the issue.
Some local lecturers concentrate on industrial research which is difficult to publish due to contractual agreements with third parties. I would like to point out that a few other “prestigious” institutions also scored 0 in this category. I hope that “Researcher” can be more open and also look at other areas of research.
Universities in Malaysia are known for training undergraduate students. This is our main task. Only recently have we started discussing the possibility of establishing research universities. This is a good idea that will make us more competitive.
Finally, I would like to urge people like “Researcher” to come back to Malaysia and serve our country. We need people like him so that we can lead the world in new areas of research like nanotechnology.
ASSOC PROF DR ISKANDAR IDRIS YAACOB Head, Mechanical Engineering Department Engineering Faculty, UM