For any country to develop research culture, universities are the best place to start with, as they work as a bridge between industry, knowledge and societyAt a programme in Kathmandu on Wednesday, Minister of State for Health and Population Padma Kumari Aryal said that budget allocated for research purpose “is inadequate” even though “research is a priority of the government”. She was speaking at the fourth National Summit of Health and Population Scientists in Nepal, organised by the National Health Research Council. However, at the same programme, Dr Mrigendra Raj Pandey, emeritus chairperson of the council, said research “is still not prioritised in Nepal”. “We should develop research culture in the country,” he said. The context though was research in the health sector, these statements do bring one crucial issue to the fore: In Nepal, research is yet to become a government priority. As a matter of fact, research culture in Nepal is neither well founded nor established. Nor has the state ever considered that research can be a vehicle for social transformation. For any country to develop research culture, universities are the best place to start with, before it can be taken beyond, broadening the scope of research in various sectors. Universities are where the best brains of the country reach, and they can play a crucial role in creating an innovative and highly skilled economy. They also work as a bridge between business, knowledge and society. When it comes to spending for research purposes, no substantial steps have been taken by the governments in Nepal. According to the University Grants Commissions’ report for the academic year 2015-16, it spent 0.065 per cent of budget allocated to it by the government on Quality Improvement Programme, and Research Development and Innovation projects. This is just an example how negligible amount of money the country is spending for research purposes. Lack of research culture is hurting the country. Knowledge sharing is fundamental to development of a prosperous and confident society. While funding for research has never been a government priority, anti-intellectualism is rampant in Nepal where political leadership speaks with contempt for universities, university degrees, academicians and researchers and never fails to heap scorn upon them. The belief that social transformation does not need to be backed by research is deep-rooted. Unless we break this misconception, research is not going to become a priority. There is a need to make research a priority issue, and the government must allocate a substantial amount of money for research purposes in various sectors. The modalities of spending then can be determined accordingly in consultation with the stakeholders. The government should hold extensive discussions with policymakers, academicians, universities and university professors to chart out a plan and decide how they want to orient research and use its results to shape the future of society. There has to be the realisation that research, knowledge-sharing and creation of knowledge are crucial to development of a prosperous and confident society, which ultimately helps in strengthening democracy. There is a need to take research beyond publications of journals for the larger benefit of society.
Tourism plans Currently, tourism sector’s contribution to the national economy stands at 7 per cent of GDP. The government, according to Minister for Culture, Tourism, and Civil Aviation Rabindra Adhikari, is planning to increase its share up to 25 per cent within a few years to come. Inaugurating Fewa New Year-2018 in Pokhara, Adhikari said his ministry would identify 100 more new tourist destinations to promote tourism business in all seven provinces, which have their unique tourism products to offer. He also announced that the Lakeside area of Pokhara would remain opened till 2:00 am and Thamel area till 3:00 am. Identifying new tourism destinations may be said easier than done. Except for Province 3 and 4, other provinces, especially Province 7 and Karnali lack basic requirements such as roads and dependable transport services, trekking routes and hotels and restaurants. Minister Adhikari’s plan of bringing in 1.5 million foreign tourists by 2020 will materialise only after the government builds the regional international airports in Bhairahawa and Pokhara on time. The government should also complete the Kathmandu-Pokhara and Mugling-Narayangadh roads expansion work without any delay.