Though Nepal is not expected to be in the White Paper wish list, we should attempt to review and understand our role and its impact over the Nepali population.
After a decade of insurgency and almost six years of on-going political drama, Nepal is still struggling to come to terms with the ground realities of economic development. Thousands of people are leaving the country every month looking for jobs and better life as Nepal is struggling to resolve the political deadlock. Our top political leaders have promised to make Nepal a developing country by 2015. Such rhetorical statements are questionable when they are made in a politically unstable country with poor rule of law, poor governance and lack of basic Science and Technology (S&T) infrastructures.
Australia’s Prime-Minister Ms. Jullia Gillard recently launched an Asian Century White Paper to secure the future of the Australian economy. Nepal is not expected to be in the White Paper wish list but we should attempt to review and understand our role and its impact over the Nepali population.
Asia’s development in the 21st century has been driven by innovation and a knowledge-based economy. India, China, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia are great examples of this and they have been able to achieve through S&T driven innovation through their highly skilled human resources. Though Australia is one of the richest countries in the world based on mineral resources alone, it has always been a strong advocate of an innovation-driven economy. Economic prosperity and sustainability in the 21st century is achievable only through leading S&T and educational institutions, multicultural and highly skilled human resources and by sharing experience and knowledge within the region. Australia is doing everything to develop the above capabilities and infrastructure and is also heavily investing in skills and education training to develop job specific skills, scientific and technical excellence, adaptability and resilience to be able to fit in what many think would be the ‘Asian century.’
Australia’s geographic proximity, stable institutions and forward-looking policy is in place to take advantage of the growing influence of the Asian region. The White Paper sets out a strategic framework to set out a series of actions that will be taken over the next five years as well as further policy initiatives over the next 10 to 15 years. Recently, Chris Evans, Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research announced that more than 10,000 Australian students will receive grants to study in Asia and thousands more will have access to more generous student loans.
Australian scientists produce around 3 per cent of the world’s research output. Asia accounts for a growing share of global science and innovation activity. Chinese scientists now publish more research papers than their counterparts in any other country except United States. Japan is a leading producer of new ideas and products and was ranked first in the world in 2010 in terms of the number of triadic patent families granted-- an important measure of innovation. The research sectors of other Asian countries, including India, South Korea and Singapore, are also growing steadily. This growth in science and innovation in the region opens up new opportunities for Australian researchers to collaborate with their counterparts in Asia, which is important for Australian science and economy. The proportion of research papers published by Australian scientists with international collaboration rose to more than 45% by 2012 and Australia is placed among the top 10 most important research partners for China, Japan, India, South Korea, Taiwan, Sri Lanka and all 10 members of the ASEAN (Association for South East Asian Nations).
Funding for Joint Research
The Australia Strategic Research Fund (AISRF), with our neighbour India, is jointly funded by the governments of Australia and India. It committed $64 million to support research in joint projects. Since its launch in 2006, the AISRF has supported more than 80 leading-edge projects in renewable energy, nanotechnology, agricultural science and biomedical research. A new fellowship program, launched in 2012, supports Australian and Indian early career researchers to spend few months in each other country, helping to build the links that will sustain the partnership over years to come. Science collaboration is also at the heart of Australia’s development assistance strategies in the region, in areas including health, agriculture and education.
At home, Australia is investing around $8.9 billion in 2012–13 to support science, research and innovation in Australian universities, companies and research institutions because a strong domestic research sector is critical to Australia’s ability to produce and absorb new knowledge in the Asian Century and for international collaboration. Australia is aiming to be ranked as one of the top five countries in the world for the performance science and mathematics literacy by 2025. By 2015, 90 per cent will have a Year 12 or equivalent qualification and by 2025, 10 of Australia’s universities to be in the world’s top 100.
Where will Nepal be in 2025? Does Nepal have any place and role in a White century paper? Can we also be a real partner in the region instead of looking for assistance only? Does Nepal has the capability, capacity and policy to drive and absorb innovation and knowledge based economy?
It is time that the Government of Nepal (GoN) should seriously take policy initiatives to give priority to S&T education and research. There is an urgent need to take a holistic view of our research sector, research infrastructure, workforce and articulate concrete guidelines and priorities for investment in research. Nepal needs to engage the Australian Government and sign MoU for future collaborative research works. Our altitude native medicinal products of high cash values such as Yarsha Gumba and Yak Cheese could be one such flagship project and will benefit the interest of both countries. The Open University Initiative and Science Foundation are some of the flagship project initiatives by NRNA under the Knowledge Investment Forum are right thinking in the right directions and will help NRN to work closely with S&T institutions in Nepal.
The NRNs wish to play a very proactive role on policy matters. Due to the massive brain drain of our skilled manpower in the last decade, and government’s inability to address the existing vacuum, Nepal could become intellectually bankrupt and the country’s future would be very bleak. Our skilled human resources are the greatest asset which will help Nepal to become a global player in the knowledge and innovation, commercialize our ideas, and to absorb and sustain economic prosperity if we set our policies and priorities right.