Committed to strengthening innovation
Under the theme ‘Enhancing Collaborative Research for Sustainable Development’ the second National Student Research Symposium (NSRS) was held last week at the Namibia Institute of Public Administration and Management (Nipam) in Windhoek.
The NSRS is a critical event for many young researchers and students who envisage becoming future academics and researchers. This event does not only signify an effort towards national development, it also provides a platform for moulding young researchers into passionate knowledge seekers, who consequently build Namibia’s national research capacity.
Speaking on behalf of higher education minister Dr Itah Kandji-Murangi, Dr Lisho Mundia, the director of research and innovation at the ministry, said there is a need for the clear application of knowledge in productive activities.
This should be supported by parallel adjustments at institutions and extensive increases in investment in research and development (R&D) to over 1% of GDP.
“This justifies our national commitment to increase R&D spending to at least 1% of the GDP by 2022, as spelled in the Fifth National Development Plan (NDP5),” he said.
He added that government, through the higher ministry and the National Commission on Research, Science and Technology (NCRST) launched a consultative process in 2016 to comprehensively review the national research, science and technology policy (NPRST) of 1999.
Mundia said the aim of the review process is to identify strengths and weaknesses and to address gaps in order to develop a modern policy framework that will respond to our science, technology and innovation (STI) agenda.
“This STI Policy framework replaces the national research, science and technology policy of 1999. And one of the STI policy strategic imperatives would be the improvement of research and innovation infrastructure in the country,” he said.
According to International University of Management (IUM) pro-vice-chancellor for academic research, Oladele Arowolo, over the years of supervising student research, he has come realise that there are a few misconceptions about research, especially among students and some junior colleagues.
Arowolo added that research is either qualitative or quantitative; hence, if you are not good with statistics, the only option is qualitative research.
“In fact, hardly will you find more than 1% of the students boldly stating the quantitative option in their research proposals,” said Arowolo.
He suggested that rather than shying away from the reality of numbers, all students, and indeed all researchers, should embrace statistics as a way of thinking.
Angelique Philander, the acting general manager of research, science, technology and innovation coordination support at the NCRST, said there is increasing recognition worldwide that research, science, technology and innovation (RSTI) are keys to economic growth and sustainable development. Indeed, in any successful economy, particularly in today’s knowledge-based economies, RSTI are the basic prerequisites, she said.
“As an organisation, we take RSTI seriously because we believe they are strategic for national development, and for the attainment of our national development aspirations, as articulated in Vision 2030, NDP5 and the Harambee Prosperity Plan,” she said.
Philander added that to face sustainable development challenges, government and citizens must understand the language of science and become scientifically literate. Additionally scientists must understand the challenges policymakers face and endeavour to make the results of their research relevant and comprehensible to society.
According to Philander the NCRST is pleased to note the progress made in the establishment and strengthening of our national system of innovation.
A programme-level intervention has been developed in the form of the draft National Programme on Research, Science, Technology and Innovation (NPRSTI) for 2018/19 to 2021/22, in terms of section 18 of Research, Science and Technology Act, 2004 (Act 23 of 2004), with the aim of providing a comprehensive framework for actualising Namibia’s STI development aspirations.
Philander said Namibia needs to remain committed to the strengthening of the national system of innovation, which should also be in line with the science, technology and innovation strategy for Africa 2024 (STISA 2024) and the Continental Education Strategy for Africa 2016 to 2025 (CESA 16-25), and other regional strategies.