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The Missing Link Between Town And Gown



Over the years, research and development (R&D) have remained the catalyst needed by most nations in their effort to expand the frontiers of growth and knowledge. This is buoyed by the understanding that research can find answers to things that are unknown, filling the gaps in know-how, know why and changing the way policy makers think and work.

Everywhere, the main purpose of research is to inform action.  According to scholars, not only does research form the foundation of programme development and policies, it can also be translated into effective global programmes to the benefit of humanity. Research draws its power from the fact that it is empirical. Rather than merely theorizing about what might be effective or what could work, researchers go out into the field and design studies that give policymakers hard data on which they can base their decisions.

Furthermore, good research utilizes methodologies that can be replicated, produces results that are examinable by peers, and creates knowledge that can be applied to real-world situations. Researchers work as a team to enhance the knowledge base, of how best to address the world’s problems. Analysts are of the view that for humanity to solve its own problems, it is appropriate for nations to stop looking outwards and, instead, look inwards for solutions in a sustainable way.

Taking health issues, problems of water and energy as examples, solutions to them can only be research-driven. Scientific approaches that are sustainable and renewable can create energy generation for people across the country in ways that can not only be innovative, but also be capable of being manufactured and distributed in the immediate environment.

Another example is the health sector, foreign research efforts hardly address challenges that immediately affect the special needs the nation as a people seek. Donor funding, for instance, doesn’t go to cardiovascular diseases that kill 33 per cent of the people, it doesn’t go to cancer that kills 22 per cent of the populace and very often, it doesn’t even go to water that carries diseases such as cholera that is a mass killer.

So, developing a home grown water treatment solution can go a long way in solving the problem. Developing set of drugs that are manufactured from the nation’s biodiversity and scaling them through the same process to treat most diseases that are peculiar to the people and their environment is important. So also is developing building materials through local scientific efforts as well as technology that addresses the distinct infrastructural needs of the country. These are very essential as the nation grapples with challenges related to them.

The other aspect of the solution search is that, if it is home grown, it can be commercialized to create jobs for the unemployed. A critical look at the current situation where 70 per cent of the population is under the age of 30, those solutions have to be home grown in a way that creates the businesses that will eventually create the jobs and services needed by that segment of the population.

One problem that often plagues research, especially in Nigeria, is its slow translation into practice. Often, there is a disconnect between those who carry out the research and those who are positioned to develop and implement the findings.

The underlying problem is that “the production of evidence is organized institutionally with highly centralized mechanisms, whereas the application of that science is highly decentralized.

This social distance prevails because scientists are more oriented to the international audiences of other scientists for which they publish than to the needs of practitioners, policy makers, or the local public. Recently, a university in Nigeria unveiled an antidote to Lassa fever, Ebola and Monkey Pox.

The institution said it had the capacity to contain the killer disease Lassa fever and proffer antidotes to the scourge through its research-oriented activities. This is a big plus to the country as a whole that is likely to boost the relationship between a university and its immediate environment. That university requires a collaborative contribution from the business class that has the capacity to not only fund the research but also make the finding serve its purpose. That link is often lacking.

It is the view of this newspaper that the country’s tertiary institutions should strive to build value content with their host communities like that of Silicon Valley and Stanford University in the United States of America, for example where researches are funded by big businesses. Synergy between town and gown, in the country’s context, ought not to be a myth but a reality that can be built upon for the overall benefit of the institutions and the communities they serve.