Recently, there has been an outcry from regional academic bodies that Africa rarely publishes its research findings locally, thereby robbing the continent of a chance to shine on the global stage when it comes to innovations aimed at helping the globe to solve socio-economic challenges through science. In this interview, our reporter FATSANI GUNYA talks to Dr Ken Ndala, Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, on why the country should promote local research findings. Exerpts:
Why should the country promote dissemination of research findings from our institutions of higher learning?
If there is no proper dissemination of knowledge, the efforts of researchers and scholars are wasted. As such, institutions of higher learning are supposed to have vibrant knowledge dissemination systems. This is why we need vibrant library services which can ably facilitate the collection, organisation, preservation and dissemination of knowledge. For Malawi to achieve this, it is important that institutions of higher learning should provide efficient and effective knowledge dissemination mechanisms.
Why is it important for research findings to be made available to the public?
Research by faculty members and students constitutes an invaluable intellectual capital, but its value lies in its effective dissemination to present and future audiences. In fact, institutions of higher learning in Africa, just like their counterparts globally, have placed the production of new knowledge through the practices of research as one of their core functions. It is strongly understood that research output serves to enhance productivity, innovation and evidence based decision making.
The world is going digital. Going forward, how do you suggest libraries manage their information to keep up with the ever dynamic world of information?
Malawi is not lagging behind in information technology development. The Malawi Library and Information Consortium [Malico] and libraries and information centres nationwide have created a Malawi National Digital Repository for Malawian materials. Through this e-repository platform, Malawian research and other relevant work will reach many with a direct impact on policy and practice.
Do you think making research work available to all will help reduce the problem of plagiarism rocking most African universities?
Of course, in academic circles, there is some allowance—about 10 to 20 percent—where one can use somebody’s work in their thesis but the new software some of our universities are currently purchasing, will enable us trace any wrong-doing in the course of one’s research. This way, the universities will keep providing the country with relevant research findings all the time.
Why is it crucial for institutions of higher learning in the country to join regional blocks like the Association of African Universities (AAU)?
In this instance, AAU is the apex organisation and forum for consultation, exchange of information and co-operation among institutions of higher education in Africa. It represents the voice of higher education in Africa on regional and international bodies and supports networking by institutions of higher education in teaching, research, information exchange and dissemination. Joining such a body will provide a rare opportunity for the Malawian participants to share their experiences and learn about new trends in electronic content management from their counterparts.
How can data produced by institutions of higher learning help mitigate challenges African nations face?
With the world increasingly moving toward a knowledge economy, higher education helps economies keep up and catch up with more technologically advanced societies. Higher education enables graduates to effectively use new technologies—and develop new tools and skills as well as promote job creation and entrepreneurship.
By producing well-trained teachers, it can enhance the quality of primary and secondary education systems by training physicians and other health workers. It can improve a society’s health thereby, raising productivity at work, by nurturing governance and leadership skills, it can provide countries with the talented individuals needed to establish a policy environment favourable to socio-economic growth. n