Poor sci­en­tific re­search cul­ture hurt­ing Ja­maica

Jamaica Gleaner - - OPINION & COMMENTARY -

THE EDITOR, Sir:

IWRITE this let­ter with im­mense con­cern, as one of many Ja­maicans with a sci­en­tific back­ground who have left Ja­maica to pur­sue sci­en­tific op­por­tu­ni­ties over­seas.

Ja­maica is the place to be for tourism, busi­ness prospects, mag­nif­i­cent food and cul­ture. How­ever, it is far from be­ing the place to be for sci­en­tific re­search op­por­tu­ni­ties. The state­ment made the Min­is­ter Dr Andrew Wheat­ley that “Ja­maica is not lag­ging be­hind in sci­ence re­search” in The Gleaner Novem­ber 7, 2016 is­sue is de­bat­able. The large-scale in­vest­ment in sci­en­tific re­search lo­cally is lack­ing. Ja­maica has a poor sci­en­tific re­search cul­ture.

The ev­i­dence that sci­en­tific re­search and re­search cul­ture is a dis­mal re­al­ity in Ja­maica is the mass mi­gra­tion of Ja­maicans of sci­en­tific back­grounds to First-World coun­tries. We en­cour­age our stu­dents in high school to do sci­ence, but where are the re­search op­por­tu­ni­ties in Ja­maica when they grow up? Let us not lie any­more to our stu­dents! Do we even re­mem­ber how many stu­dents grad­u­ate from high school or univer­sity with a sci­en­tific back­ground alone? All these bril­liant minds with im­mense po­ten­tial even­tu­ally wake up from this il­lu­sion. They switch fo­cus and pur­sue non-sci­en­tific fields. Can you blame them?

SOME­THING FOR SOME­THING

We should know that sci­en­tists from dif­fer­ent uni­ver­si­ties and agen­cies need fund­ing to keep their re­search fa­cil­i­ties run­ning. Our Ja­maican sci­en­tists are pas­sion­ate about sci­ence but be­come very dis­cour­aged. With­out fund­ing, they can’t do re­search or pub­lish. Ja­maicans are known for in­ge­nu­ity and cre­ativ­ity. So, in­no­va­tive minds are in abun­dance in Ja­maica. There is not enough fund­ing or spe­cialised equip­ment for these in­no­va­tive minds to do im­pact­ing re­search.

Some busi­nesses from the pri­vate sec­tor will not in­vest in sci­en­tific re­search un­less they are cer­tain of a good re­turn. When it comes to tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vances, in the area of in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy, Ja­maicans are quite tech­no­log­i­cally savvy, and this has been in­vested in. Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal re­search is one of many re­search ar­eas that is cur­rently be­ing looked on. The field of agri­cul­ture has yet to meet its po­ten­tial. Do we re­mem­ber about other ap­plied ar­eas of re­search? We have a lot more to do in med­i­cal re­search, en­vi­ron­men­tal stud­ies, biotech­nol­ogy as well as the chem­i­cal sciences. And not to be for­got­ten, foren­sic sci­ence; a field that Ja­maica wants to cap­i­talise on. We can even do won­ders in the field of nan­otech­nol­ogy, as that is a hot area of re­search world­wide. Ja­maica can cap­i­talise on these po­ten­tial ar­eas.

I am glad that Dr Wheat­ley is aware that we can­not have national de­vel­op­ment with­out sci­en­tific re­search. But he is only one man. Let us hope that the pri­vate sec­tor and other sec­tors will as­sist him in his pur­suits. It is time for Ja­maicans of var­i­ous sci­en­tific back­grounds, both lo­cally and abroad, to break the silence af­ter be­ing ig­nored for so long. There is a lot more that can be done in sci­en­tific re­search in Ja­maica, and the sci­en­tific re­search cul­ture needs to change. AINSELY LEWIS Grad­u­ate stu­dent Trent School of the En­vi­ron­ment Trent Univer­sity Canadaalew795@out­look.com

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