WILL WE WITNESS FURTHER ANGUISH OF THE INDONESIAN SCIENTIFIC COMMUNITY?


  • Monday, 03 January 2022 09:32
  • Artikel
  • 0 Berkas di unduh
  • 468x dibaca.

By Lily Hikam *)

It is sad (but maybe true) to say that the Indonesian scientific community is starting this new year of 2022 with a whimper, not a bang.

As many are aware by now, the merging of the Ministry of Research and Technology (MoRT) into the Ministry of Research & Technology, Culture and Higher Education has resulted in a tsunami of closures and mergers of institutions under the auspices of the MoRT. The household name of LIPI seemingly changed overnight to the newer BRIN (Badan Riset dan Inovasi Nasional or the Board of National Research and Innovation). Additionally, in the name of efficiency and budget streamlining, ALL research institutes previously under the MoRT are abolished and turned into “Research Units” under BRIN. This means that BATAN, LAPAN, LIPI, BPPT, and various research institutions have to significantly shrink down their workforce to accommodate for this ambitious merging of multiple research institutes.

WILL WE WITNESS FURTHER ANGUISH OF THE INDONESIAN SCIENTIFIC COMMUNITY?n the surface. the mass-firing of qualified people and scientists as a result of uncompromising and frankly short-sighted bureaucratic policies is just a small consequence of this. Aside from the abrupt and significant job loss due to this re-structurization, there is also another consequence that is less acknowledged, namely the very real possibility of a mass migration of talented and highly qualified scientists who could be great assets to the country, especially in the midst of a pandemic. This phenomenon, widely known as a Brain Drain, has been a looming threat for Indonesia for decades. But now it has been exacerbated by the further limitation of who can and who can’t be called a scientist and do research. This could only hamper the efforts to advance research and development in Indonesia and it is no secret that we are in need of some significant boost in that department.

In the beginning, we were told that the consolidation of the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Education, Culture, Research and Technology along with the creation of BRIN was to eliminate the bureaucratic red-tape many felt has hampered the advancement of research and development in Indonesia. Yet, I find it ironic that now BRIN is experiencing difficulty in hiring and retaining highly skilled workers, not because there are no skilled lab workers but because according to their own policies these people do not qualify to be employed by BRIN in a civil servant research scientist capacity, as seen in the example most cited lately in the mass firing of researchers and staff from the Eijkman Institute of Molecular Biology Research (EIMBR).

Is it because these people have no qualifications?

That couldn’t be further from the truth, because these people all graduated from colleges and universities with a bachelor’s degree, Master’s degree and received some of the best scientific training ones could hope to get in this country. Their only crime, it seems, is that they don’t have those three letters behind their name that seemed to count so much for so little in this country: P. H. D. (Ph.D.)

BRIN only seems to want to retain people with PhDs. The existing civil servant research scientists who were hired before this policy was implemented (which is the majority of them) are all pushed into getting one under the threat of not getting promoted. As someone with a Ph.D., I could attest to the struggle and the hard work one had to put in to obtain this degree. Getting a Ph.D. is a commitment, perhaps on the same level as marriage, because you are dedicating your life and what remained of it to the discovery and the advancement of your specific field. You are expected to contribute to the knowledge advancement of your field in order to get this degree. Getting a Ph.D. is not something you can spontaneously want to do because your boss said so, or because the title would look cool on a business card. You have to want to pursue it yourself for this degree to mean something, and not just as a means to advance your career. Also getting a Ph.D. is expensive as heck, and unless you’re a member of the Bakrie family or the like, chances are you would need the scholarship to pay for completing your study.

Unfortunately, Indonesians with a Ph.D. are still rare for reasons I have outlined previously. The latest tally put the percentage of people with PhDs in Indonesia as a proportion of the population at 0.14%. So, I would like to pose this question: How can one have such hubris to only want to hire PhDs in a research institution that requires more than just PhDs to make things work?

The fact of the matter is this issue is bigger than what it seems on the surface. the mass-firing of qualified people and scientists as a result of uncompromising and frankly short-sighted bureaucratic policies is just a small consequence of this. Aside from the abrupt and significant job loss due to this re-structurization, there is also another consequence that is less acknowledged, namely the very real possibility of a mass migration of talented and highly qualified scientists who could be great assets to the country, especially in the midst of a pandemic. This phenomenon, widely known as a Brain Drain, has been a looming threat for Indonesia for decades. But now it has been exacerbated by the further limitation of who can and who can’t be called a scientist and do research. This could only hamper the efforts to advance research and development in Indonesia and it is no secret that we are in need of some significant boost in that department.

This has been a great blow against the scientific community, but I’m positive that we can bounce back through it. Already I’m seeing many encouraging & supportive words, not just from fellow scientists, but also laypeople who understand the urgency and the need for a proper scientific research institute unencumbered by bureaucracy and above politics. Isaac Newton once said, “If I have seen further than others, it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants”. Great discoveries and advancements cannot be made by one person alone, but by a community of people, all working towards the same goal. Only when we work together can we achieve something great. And for those of us left behind to pick up the pieces, the rest of us stand in solidarity with you.

Happy New Year 2022, anyways!

*) Ph.D. in Biomedical Science, UC Irvine, USA