IFS: A model organization for nurturing young scientists in developing economies

Published: 2019-01-29

During this new year of 2019, our blog posts will feature a range of countries in which IFS has awarded grants to early-career scientists. We are pleased that this first post comes to us from Professor Amaret Bhumiratana of Thailand, who himself has been involved with IFS as a grantee and as a member of the Scientific Advisory Committee on Food Science. We hope you enjoy this feature of our website.

Professor Amaret Bhumiratana

Everyone knows that scientific research leads to new knowledge, disruptive and non-disruptive innovations, technological products and processes, commercial development and economic prosperity. Many developing economies have attempted to promote innovation through catchy slogans such as “start-up nation”, “disruptive innovation”, “4.0 economy” and others. All countries aim to stimulate initiatives which hopefully will lead to innovation through scientific research. However, innovations come from good basic scientific research, and in particular from excellent young scientists. Thus, to obtain innovation, they must be supported to do good research.

Since 1974, IFS has been nurturing young scientists in developing economies by awarding relatively small grants that have an outsized impact. After one or two rounds of receiving IFS grants, many IFS grantees have matured to become highly successful scientists in their own countries. IFS provides an effective system that not only includes guidance, mentoring and collaboration, but also emphasizes the importance of publishing grantees’ research findings in respected international scientific journals.

We undertook a study to follow up on IFS awardees from Thailand and the results were intriguing. The total number of IFS awardees from Thailand from 1974 to 2017 was 137, of whom we could track 135 (99%). Before receiving IFS grants, there were 106 with doctoral degrees and 31 with masters degrees. After receiving the grants, 127 had doctoral degrees and eight had masters degrees. Thus, about 94% of IFS awardees are doctoral degree holders. Eighty-eight percent of IFS awardees are university researchers and 12% are non-university researchers. Out of 122 IFS awardees affiliated with universities, 32 (26%), 46 (38%) and 17 (14%) presently hold academic positions as Assistant Professor, Associate Professor and Professor, respectively. At least 48 (36%) of IFS awardees have been academically recognized by peers (nationally and internationally) through various achievements and winning awards such as being appointed as members of The Royal Society of Thailand, and receiving Outstanding Scientist Awards, Outstanding Research Awards and others.

When a young doctoral degree candidate graduates (either with or without post-doctoral research experience) and comes back to her or his country after a period of research training in a sophisticated laboratory in a developed country, the road to become an independent researcher is not easy. Research support such as equipment, grants, collaborators and graduate students are essential. Collaboration, particularly internationally, can speed up the career path of a doctoral degree graduate to become an independent researcher. The young scientists who received IFS grants reported that they were provided with more than just research funds. They acquired confidence, felt that that they could compete successfully for research grants at an international level, and developed a positive attitude toward a career in science. IFS also provided essential international research collaboration and networking. Perhaps the competitiveness of IFS’s granting system is the reason why our study respondents felt that it seems to be more like an award than a research grant. The main work of IFS is to support the development of human resources in developing economies, but with limited funding, IFS can only do so much. It is, however, a model that can be adopted and/or adapted if policy-makers aim to create and foster innovation in their countries, by supporting excellent young scientists to do excellent research.

Nighisty Ghezae, IFS Director

We hope you have enjoyed this month's feature. Please keep an eye out for our next blog post. Thank you.

                                                                    Dr. Nighisty Ghezae, IFS Director


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