Fund crunch hits RONAST research

Shashi Dhungel

Lalitpur, May 24:

Due to financial crunch, some good and relevant proposals submitted each year at Royal Nepal Academy of Science and Technology (RONAST), never get a chance for research.

RONAST with its meagre bugdge is compelled to discard proposals which are relevant but require huge funds. “Though some research proposals are very good, we are unable to fund them within our meagre budget of Rs 30 million. The RONAST generates and additional 20 per cent through resource mobilisation but it is still not sufficient to carry out big research programmes,” said Dr Dayanada Bajracharya, the vice-chancellor of RONAST. “Different types of financial assistance are provided to researchers but these grants and fellowships are confined to a very small group,” he added.

On an average, RONAST manages to conduct five researches each year. Few more are done in alliance with organisations like Ev-K2-CNR of Italy, Asian Institute of Technology (AIT), the UNESCO and Darwin Initiative. The science and technology manpower has increased three folds from 8,500 in 1994 to 26,000 in 2005 but the RONAST budget remains almost the same. “The manpower is increasing but the RONAST budget increases at snail’s pace. There are no facilities for scientists which is why they are forced to look for better opportunities abroad,” said Bajracharya. “The research and development activities of RONAST are driven by the government’s budget allocation. The government’s support only helps in meeting the employees’ salary and office expenditure,” said Dinesh R Bhuju, division chief of Science and Technology Promotion and Publicity at RONAST.

“RONAST decides about the research only after the budget is allocated. This compels RONAST

to abort certain researches which are good but needs huge investment,” added Bhuju. A Science Learning Centre (SLC) proposed a decade ago is in limbo, thanks to the lack of funds. “As the investment needed to establish the SLC is very big, RONAST alone is incapable but lately, the government of India, has shown interest,” said Bhuju. A Royal Ordinance in 1982 established RONAST as an independent apex body to promote science and technology in the country. The autonomous status of RONAST was reconfirmed after the promulgation of RONAST Act in 1992. The second amendment of national science and technology policy has been completed and forwarded to the cabinet for its approval.