Saturday, December 13, 2008

Poor Performance Of Bangladeshi Research Organizations: Where Are The Problems?

Frequently we read news that Non Resident Bangladeshi scientists have done this or that excellent research in this or that field or have won prize for his invention or discovery. Though no statistics can be provided but those who are active in different internet based groups of Bangladeshi will agree that there is hardly any world class laboratory where Bangladeshi scientists are not working. Not only that every year increasing number of Bangladeshi science graduates going to the scientifically advanced and proficient countries including USA,UK, Japan, Singapore , Canada, Norway, Korea for PhD or postdoctoral research. At least from this increasing number, we can guess that performance of Bangladeshi science graduates in international standard is satisfactory. This increasing trend indicates high ability of research of Bangladeshi science graduates.

If this is the case, then why the performance of our national research organizations is not at the satisfactory level? Where are the problems?

We need to analyse and find out the reasons for poor performance and take measures accordingly.

Before that we need to know what is performance or what are the factors determining performance. Otherwise we will not be able to find real cause of such poor performance.

The equation for performance is , Performance = ability X motivation.

From the equation we see that the two factors are equality important for performance. Decrease or fall in anyone affects performance and the other factor. If ability is poor or ability can not be utilized, motivation decreases. If motivation is not enough, ability can not be utilized properly. In both the cases, performance decreases. So recruiting able researcher is not enough, keeping them motivated is equally important.

Now come to the point. Where are the problems in Bangladeshi research organisations, in the ability or motivation of the researchers ? Is it that science graduates working in the Bangladeshi laboratories are not able? Or can not utilize their ability? Or not motivated enough to utilize their ability? Answers of these three questions are critical for improvement of performance of Bangladeshi research organizations.

To get answer of the first question, we need to keep in mind that to join in national research organizations one must have at least three first class results in their four degrees/certificates. A large number of very brilliant graduates also join in these organizations. On the other hand, graduates with very good results, good results and below average (with two second class) results go abroad for higher study and then join in research jobs. So we can not say that the average ability of the researchers in national research organizations is poor than the average ability of NRB scientists. So dearth in ability of scientists in Bangladesh is not the cause of poor performance of our national research organizations.

Then is inability to utilize their ability the cause of poor performance? Or lack of motivation to utilize ability or improve ability?

Yes, these are the cause of poor performance of our national research organizations. Then comes the question, why they are not able to utilize their ability or not motivated enough to utilize and improve ability?

What are the specific reasons for which they can not utilize their ability? Lengthy and faulty procurement process for which they don’t know whether they will get the instruments and equipments they are ordering or if yes, and then do not know when. Lengthy and faulty procurement process for which they can not buy whenever and whatever chemicals and reagents they need? Faulty procurement for which any one can get tender for supplying instruments and equipments in these organizations though they don’t have service engineer for installation, giving training on operation and post sale service? One example can be given from the experience of the author. A multifunctional microscope came to one laboratory of the largest research organization of the country at the end of 2006. But those who were working in the lab since august 2003, didn’t know who ordered it and for what purpose. The person who came to handover the microscope didn’t know how to operate it and could not train the users. Similarly, at the beginning of financial year, each laboratory has to give requisition of equipment, instruments and reagents and chemicals as per the allocated fund. People usually give requisition so that all of the allocated fund will be used whether they require all these things or not. They do because if a laboratory can not spend all the money, next time budget of the laboratory will be reduced. If such is the procurement process, how come researchers use their full ability?

Is there any measure to keep the researchers motivated? Neither sticks nor carrot. If some one do excel in his work, no reward. If some one becomes too lethargic, no sticks to wake him up. Such lethargic person gets sympathy during promotion due to seniority. No quality checking of research. Paper for Publication can be sent without sending it through proper channel though using the name of the organization.

Are these all for poor performance of our research organizations? Certainly not.

Disrupted power supply is another reason of poor performance of these organizations. During summer, electricity supply is so disrupted that it is difficult to carry out any experiment for two hours continuously. This problem should be brought to the notice of minister or high official of the ministry. But interesting thing is done during the visit of the ministers or high officials. It is done not to bring the problem to the notice, rather to hide the problem. The Administration of the organization request the local distributor of electricity to keep supply of power at least for the time of the visit of the VIP. They never contact with them other time for constant power supply in the organization. This is the authors experience in his research organization.

Are All reasons for poor performance discussed? No, one major cause is yet to be mentioned. What’s that ? Every body knows it. So even without mentioning it , question can be asked . How much of our research fund is utilized and how much is wasted? Can we utilize 25% of our resources? If the fund is doubled but the management is as inefficient as it is now, what will be consequence of increasing fund? Wastage of money or improvement in research? If fund increases from 100tk to 200tk but its utilization efficiency is still 25%( author’s assumption is that the fund utilization efficiency of Bangladeshi research organization is 25%, in no way it is more than 35%), 50 TK will be utilized and wastage will be 150tk. But even if funding is 100TK, but efficiency is increased to above 50 %, more than 50 TK will be utilized. If efficiency is 75%, then?
So before increasing fund, making the management process efficient to get maximum output of input (Input) more important.
What should be done to create wave in the stagnant pond of Bangladeshi research organizations will be discussed later.