Investments into research and development (R&D) in both the private and academic sectors are essential for economic growth. While many countries have continue to progress in research, Nigeria has been lagging behind in research and development. However, the government led by President Muhammadu Buhari has sworn to change the scenario.
Consequently, the federal government recently approved the sum of N5bn for National Research Fund(NRF) in the Tertiary Education Trust Fund(TETFund) 2019 intervention budget.
The Executive Secretary of TETFund, Prof Suleiman Bogoro disclosed this recently during the inauguration of the third National Research Fund Screening and Monitoring (NRFS & M) Committee in Abuja.
He stated that N5bn which is the highest ever located for NRF was intended to catalyse cutting-edge research in three thematic areas of science,technology and innovation, humanities and social sciences.
“As you may be aware, the President Muhammed Buhari has in various times disclosed his administration’s concern for the low level of research funding and expressed his commitment to reverse the trend.
“ I am happy to announce that this commitment has been actualized with the approval of the highest ever allocation of N5bn for the NRF in TETFund 2019 intervention Budget. These Funds are intended to catalyze cutting edge research in three thematic areas of science, technology and innovation,humanites and social sciences , cross cutting disciplines. This is geared towards contributing to the National development efforts of the federal government in tackling national challenges,” he explained.
Bogoro stated that the National Research Fund was established in 2009 by the Fund to reinvigorate research and address the paucity of funds required to conduct high quality research in Nigerian Tertiary Education Institutions.
He noted that the Fund had first set up the committee when it introduced the National Research Funding Window which is accessed by academics in beneficiary institutions through open, transparent and competitive process.
“It is however, important to note that the Fund only provides secretariat services and approves the recommendations of the Committee after the screening processes of the research proposals submitted,” Bogoro said.
He added that so far, the committee has screened and recommended 113 researches from five batches of research proposals and the Board has approved funding of up to N50m grants per successful proposals but added that only 10 projects have been concluded at closed out.
“A seed fund of N3bn was approved by the Board of Trustees in 2011 for the initial takeoff of NRF activities, to which an additional N1b was added in 2015. it is worthy of note that so far, TETFund through NRF intervention line has allocated N2.6bn to 113 research projects form 2011-2019 in five batches, out of which N1.5bn has been disbursed to researchers.
‘The inability of researchers to wholly or substantially access N4b in seven years (2012-2018) prior to the current N5b additional funding allocated in the 2019 intervention budget to be released soon, is not cheering to the Fund.
“We therefore expert that this committee will change the narratives. To achieve this we thought we should bring academics of repute who can devote their time and energy to deeply and critically review research proposals competing for funding with a view to recommending for grants, only those that seek to solve specific societal and developmental problems,” he said.
The task before the committee, the executive secretary stated, is essentially to improve on the performance of the NRF implementation and ensure that they identify fundable proposals through the various mechanisms of the committee for sponsorship.
“I expect this to be a major priority of this committee, besides other considerations that you shall determine,” he said.
He thanked members of the committee for accepting to work for the good of the country in spite of their tight schedule.
“You are some of our best researchers and scholars . I thank you therefore for taking the time of your busy schedules to be here today. I know that most of you travelled from within and outside the country to answer this call to service and we appreciate your commitment and thank you for honoring this invitation,” he said.
The committee among other things is expected to pre-qualified application for research grants from academics in beneficiary institutions to ensure that they are in compliance with the approved templates for accessing TETFund NRF grant.
The committee is also charged to categorised pre-qualified research proposal into streams and disciplines to ease appointing assessors/reviewers and recommend pre-qualified and categorized proposals.
The committee will also serve as members of the NRF Proposal Defense Panel, monitor and report progress of on-going research work and carry out any other responsibilities as may be assigned by the Fund.
The executive secretary added that the committee will serve for two years, renewable for a term to be determined by the Fund.
“Your job here is a national assignment and I believe you will give your best with a sense of patriotism. We expect commitment from all of you in the course of your assignment, but we shall not hesitate to delist members who are found wanting in any way that will misrepresent the integrity of the committee,” he said.
Responding, the chairman of the committee, Olufemi Bamiro pledged the commitment of members towards the realisation of the goal and vision of the terms and condition given to them.
He however proposed that concepts notes should be considered as preliminary criteria for qualifying prosed research grants.
Bamiro also spoke for need for a dedicated laptops to be provided for members in order to ensure that the job they are given is done efficiently.
He also called on TETFund to organise capacity building training in research proposal writing for researchers in the tertiary institutions in the country.
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