Fostering innovative scientific research through national universities

Table of contents: The Kazakh-American Free University Academic Journal №1 - 2010

Author: Mambetkaziyev Yerezhep, Kazakh-American Free University, Kazakhstan

The significance of science for the development of society and civilization is indisputable. National independence relies on the establishment and development of national science. No other national potential can face the challenges of the new technology age like science, not even abundant natural resources of our country.

However, previously introduced organizational reforms have not provided required efficiency of the state regulated system of science. Thus, we have to reconsider our strategic goals in the given field. During the time of constant development it is crucially important to keep up with the rapid changes in order to survive in the modern world. In times like this, it is important to share my opinions and propositions on the issues.

The first thing to consider is integration of education and science. We have to acknowledge an obvious gap between academic and higher education institution research. Fundamental science is concentrated in research institutions, while other types of science are pursued by teaching institutions. Some researchers are engaged in pure science, others have to balance heavy teaching workload and research. The level of research in teaching institutions is not as global and priority-driven as in research institutions; however, it is not the reason for the existing gap between the two types of institutions. Training of researchers and engineering staff is almost disconnected from fundamental science though they should be integrated into a comprehensive whole. Research institutions are equipped with modern facilities, while students of teaching institutions (future scientists) have to work on technically outdated and obsolescent equipment. Since connection between researchers and students is non-existent, no training and mentoring of new generation of scientists is taking place. In many educational institutions quality of scientific research is drastically dropping, so is the interest towards research studies.

Hence there is a suggestion: it is desirable to integrate research institutions with leading national universities. Several research institutions of Kazakhstan are acknowledged scientific centers enjoying earned respect. Many decades were devoted to the establishment and development of these institutions, and now they train unique scientific staff. Students’ research should be tightly connected and developed together with renowned researchers. This symbiosis will provide the development of both research institutions and educational institutions, ensure joint fundamental and applied types of research, and create favorable environment for cooperation between scientists and students. Combining educational and research institutions will also give an opportunity for the talented students to enter the scientific world. Young researchers are pragmatic people; they want to see clear results of their scientific research, their professional development, be directly involved in different kinds of global research and exchange. Close connection between educational and research institutions will give educational institutions access to modern equipment for the students’ research.

These combined institutions will become profound scientific educational centers hosted by the largest national universities of Kazakhstan that will accumulate research institutions, industries and business companies together. This is where research schools consolidating large groups of highly qualified scientists will be formed. A new university in Astana should become a brand name and a pioneer of the proposed idea. The University in Astana has as its goal to avant-garde scientific research and innovative ideas as the Kazakhstan President hopes it will.

In general, universities in Kazakhstan should return to fulfilling their initial role, which is connecting training of future competent professionals with cutting-edge scientific research. The state can enjoy the results of such cooperation – highly qualified scientific staff – in 5-10 years. There is quite an extensive international experience in this area: all leading American universities, for example, have research institutions that do their work in the field of innovative ideas.

The second important thing to mention is that international experience proves that efficient solutions to problems on a state level can be found only when scientific, financial and technical resources are concentrated in the priority directions. For stable science development detailed and planned state policy focused on increasing the share of science in economics of the state is essential. To achieve the stated goal one does not have to begin from “scratch,” one only needs to reconstruct the system that is already in existence. Step-by-step change from economy based on exporting raw-material to economy based on technological resources, to the preparation of highly qualified scientific staff and professionals for the national innovative system is essential. National strategic interests should serve as guidelines to set priorities in scientific research (agriculture, oil and gas industry, power industry, crop production, biotechnology and pharmaceutical branch of economy, etc.). We cannot dissipate our energies and embrace all the areas. The state should choose no more than ten priority goals of development and lay those development directions as a foundation for a state strategic planning for the fifteen years. Chosen development goals and directions should be included in the scientific research in educational institutions to achieve succession of research in educational and academic institutions.

Scientists have the first say in determining priority goals of scientific development and among them, the scientists from research institutions because it is those institutions that will convert new scientific potential into applicable and advanced inventions of the modern day. Economically inefficient Academy of Science of modern days should be transformed into a National Science and Innovative Technology Center with new research-stimulating funding mechanism. The issue off doing scientific research is a crucial one for a modern science.

I agree with the opinions of my colleagues that there are three most efficient ways of financing research: 1) basic funding that has as its goal provision of material and technical facilities for science; 2) special purpose funding that supports development of innovative programs of state importance; 3) grants that serve as a stimulus for the advanced research.

A special emphasis should be placed on the application of the principle of competitive distribution of funds. When applied, this principle will result in competition based grants guaranteeing leading scientists access to cutting-edge equipment that will in its turn create favorable conditions for advanced scientific development, creating effective innovative management, establishing of international connections. Besides that, international integration makes partnership between Kazakhstani and international partners possible and effective for innovative science.

It is necessary to create stimuli to attract business community for funding scientific research. As has been mentioned above, educational institutions focus on applicable scientific research; therefore, research in those institutions is already business oriented. Thus, funding system should include funds from both state and independent budgets. However, the state has not yet offered any stimulating mechanisms for such investments because of an inherited from Soviet era attitude toward funding: state is the only provider of funds. Science is an expensive and costly enterprise and those willing to develop it should face the fact. Concentration of all funds in the Scientific Center of the Republic of Kazakhstan will guarantee transparent and targeted use of them.

The third important point is the following: establishment of Innovative Education System is the main link in the national innovative policy because it addresses the question of preparing new generation of scientists ready to create and apply new scientific projects; future scientific elite is at stake. Students interested in scientific research should be involved in it during their academic career. The system of grants distributed through the Scientific Fund can serve as one of the ways to stimulate students in their endeavor. Establishing the system of State Award for Achievements in Science for young scientists might play a significant role in the stated goal. Unfortunately, the realization of young people’s potential has not yet dawned on older generation of scientist and the gap between the two generations becomes a real danger.

This leads to the following suggestion: we need to establish Higher Graduate School within the scientific schools with the leading national researchers in order to train highly professional scientists, well-versed in their field, the state economy, culture and politics, speaking at least in three languages. There is no doubt about a high demand for such professionals.

And the forth point: there is a real need for a special attention to the issue of attracting international teaching staff from the best schools in the world. Scientific mobility is a phenomenon of the modern world. Kazakh-American Free University (Ust-Kamenogorsk) known for its unique educational and academic priorities has been inviting foreign professors not only to teach but also to organize scientific research, develop the PhD program, and lead the International Servant Leadership Program classes for fifteen years.

Proposed suggestions are not final and exhaustive; however, they address the issues of establishing essential requirements for national science and issues of identifying systematic obstacles that impede development in the field of education and science. The following are the possible outcomes that will result from implementing the suggested proposals:

- close connection and interdependence between Kazakhstan science, the state economy and national education;

- guaranteed transparency of science and education along with acknowledging the responsibility science has before the community;

- competency of national science and its prestige in the international scientific community;

- connection between the education of future professionals and science.

The significance of science and the urgent need for reforms in that field is indisputable for the development of an innovative national economy based on generation and distribution of professional knowledge. The mentioned changes will require a fundamental transformation of the system. Experiments in science are vital; experiments with science are fatal.

Table of contents: The Kazakh-American Free University Academic Journal №1 - 2010

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