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A Reflection on the State of Research in South Asia and Nepal

Published: 2018-06-25

In January 2018’s blog post, we announced that this year’s posts will be devoted to showcasing scientific achievements in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and Latin America, as IFS is determined to be stronger than ever in its support of early-career researchers in these regions. This month we turn to Dr Bishnu Raj Upreti, an IFS Trustee and Senior Researcher / Executive Director of Nepal Center for Contemporary Research in Kathmandu. As he writes below, he anticipates “greater scope for South Asian scientists to research, lead and achieve scientific breakthroughs, especially in the fields of climate change, human security, migration and mobility, regional economic integration, and transnational water conflicts and tensions.” We hope you enjoy this feature of our website.

Dr Bishnu Raj UpretiResearch is not only a means of finding solutions to society’s problems but also an integral part of societal transformation and a driver of economic growth. Research innovation and success are also becoming a symbol of power and the basis of pride for nations; thus, many countries invest in research. The UNESCO Institute for Statistics highlights that global spending on research has reached almost US$ 1.7 trillion, 80% of which is by ten countries. Now the need to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) requires even more research investment by public and private sectors.

In South Asia, only India and Pakistan are forerunners, with India 6th in global ranking (with 0.85 percent of its national GDP invested in research) and Pakistan at 42nd (with 0.29percent). The other South Asian countries (Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka) together annually spend less than 50 million dollars in research and innovation. However, in recent years research investment has been increasing through regional research centres under the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), on topics of agriculture, coastal zone management, culture, energy, forestry, meteorology, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS, and environment and disaster management, for example. Each SAARC member has increased its efforts to promote research through universities, academic and research institutions, think tanks and more recently, non-government and private research institutions. Collaborative research initiatives are increasing in the region, and in general, increasing investment in science has made some South Asian scientists more visible and influential globally.

In Nepal, state investment in research is not yet a priority. However, research initiatives from independent research institutions, the private sector and academic institutions are expanding and working in collaboration with various international institutions and the private sector. In the past two decades, several independent Nepali research organisations have been established and are now engaged in policy and applied research in collaboration with international organizations and private actors, and also by generating their own resources. In the past few decades, scientists in South Asia in general and Nepal in particular have made significant scientific achievements (for example, in climate change, management of natural resources conflict, regional trade and economic integration, gender mainstreaming, and poverty and employment issues).

Many young scientists supported by IFS in the past are now leading research organisations, contributing to national policy changes, and developing the capacity of more young Nepali scientists. One example is Professor Dr Sundar Man Shrestha, a 1989 IFS grantee, who is now nationally well known in his area of research on different aspects of plant pathology. Not only did he train many plant protection officers in Nepal but he also contributed to agricultural policy change processes. Another example is Dr Kayo Devi Yami, who was an IFS research grant recipient in 1987 and has contributed in agriculture microbiology, especially in the areas of Mycorrhizas in forestry and agriculture. She also became a member of the Nepal Academy of Science and Technology and has contributed to science- and technology-related policy in Nepal.

South Asia and Nepal will face new challenges that require a greater role for research to address them. Hence, there are great opportunities for both young and established regional researchers alike to engage and contribute. I am anticipating more allocation of financial resources by regional national governments that will provide greater scope for South Asian scientists to research, lead and achieve scientific breakthroughs, especially in the fields of climate change, human security, migration and mobility, regional economic integration, and transnational water conflicts and tensions.

Nighisty Ghezae, IFS DirectorThank you. Hope you enjoyed this feature and keep an eye on our next blog.                                                                                                                                                   Dr. Nighisty Ghezae, IFS Director


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