Investment In Research, R&D Must For Pakistan To Shine


In the modern day quest for scientific research and knowledge acquirement, Pakistan’s ship, teetering at the brink of a predictable wreck, lags far behind the major players in the international scientific community.

A secondary and higher education system centralized around passive learning and clogged by rote memorization, coupled with a complete absence of the promotion of research culture, inadequate number of research institutes and diminutive investments in research and development (R&D) sector are some of the reasons Pakistan still has to prove its mettle in the international scientific sphere.

In terms of research, Pakistan stands at number 46 in the world with an H-index of 217 and a total of 127,817 published documents from 1996 to 2017. India is an impressive number 9th in the world with almost 10 times more published scientific documents than Pakistan.

Considering facts, Pakistan has only a total of 90 research institutes of which only a mere 40 are globally recognized. According to the Higher Education Commission, PhD output of Pakistan between 2010 and 2014 was only 5,155 in public sector institutes and 381 in private sector institutes. Scimago’s international science ranking of countries ranks Pakistan at number 46 in the world with an H-index of 217 and a total of 127,817 published documents from 1996 to 2017 ranging from subjects like agricultural and biological sciences to computer science and medicine. Our neighbor India, on the other hand, ranked at an impressive number 9 in the world with almost 10 times more published scientific documents than Pakistan.

Downhill Slide

Besides the moderate number of scientific publications, the number of patents granted to new inventions has also been dwindling each year. According to Intellectual Property Organization’s 2009 annual report, around 450-500 patents were granted in the year 2004-2005, which steadily decreased in the subsequent years to an alarming 150 by 2008-2009.

A lack of financial support and investment has been one of the major reasons for the quagmire we currently find ourselves in. As stated by data provided by UNESCO INSTITUTE OF STATISTICS (UIS), Pakistan spends only 0.3% of its GDP on R&D (India spends 0.8%) and has a meager 166 researchers per million inhabitants. In addition to this, expenditure on R&D has decreased from 0.4 (GEDD AS A % OF GDP) in 2004 to 0.2 (GEDD AS A % OF GDP) in 2015. A rather disturbing aspect of this expenditure is the fact that almost none of it comes from business enterprises and from investors abroad.

In order to timely resolve the presented issues, special considerations should be given to dissolve institutional inertia, bureaucratic hurdles and a lack of political commitment. Encouraging R&D activities through accumulation of knowledge and human capital could help put the manufacturing sector of Pakistan on the high growth path by alleviating the competitive strength of export oriented industries in global markets. This can ultimately help mitigate the presently gloomy economic situation of Pakistan.

On a micro level, teachers and professors can try inculcating research and a questioning mindset in their students. The education ministry can also play its belated role of revolutionizing the curriculum taught across Pakistan at the matriculation and intermediate level and improve the quality of education offered in government schools. The large “sit-at-home” female population should also be encouraged through government-funded training projects to help them break into the male-dominated scientific mainstream. Incentives and facilities of the highest order should be provided to scientists and researchers, as it can help attract young students to a career in research. All of these measures will hopefully help steer our misdirected youth and disappointed scientists onto the path of scientific glory.

Lastly, research in futuristic fields such as biotechnology, artificial intelligence and robotics could help put us on the forefront of global leaders of scientific community and promote a transfer of experts and technology between Pakistan and the scientific superpowers.

Muhammad Bin Nasir author bio

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