Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Straight to 21st Century Research Fund Scheme for Ghana: A review of the Ghana National Research Fund Bill, 2019

Straight to 21st Century Research Fund Scheme for Ghana: A review of the Ghana National Research Fund Bill, 2019

 


This writing covers points of concerns and additional recommendations on the new Ghana National Research Fund Bill, 2019. In 2016 I made the effort to contribute my input to the development of the NPP Campaign Manifesto on the science and technology section. I have therefore campaigned for the drafting of the National Research Fund Bill with the hope that it will capture the critical ideas I shared in my memo to the then Vice-Presidential candidate Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia. The draft bill is finally here, and I am quite disappointed that it did not capture the essence of the NPP Manifesto promises made in the 2016 Elections.  The least the drafters could have done was to capture the entire concept from the manifesto and then add more features to make it compatible with current global trends and the needs of 21st Century economy. As it is now, I feel it captures only 30% of the concept and leaves a large space for improvement. When it comes to the issue of research, science and technology, no country can afford to use outdated schemes to administer its programme. There is the need to commence operation with a modern 21st century world class concept to attract the best from the people of Ghana both home and abroad.

 

NPP Science, Technology, Innovation and Tertiary Education Policy – 

2016-2020: Memo by Dr. Patrick Kobina Arthur

https://pakar1-corner.blogspot.com/2020/06/npp-science-technology-innovation-and.html

 

Ghana National Research Fund Bill, 2019

https://www.parliament.gh/epanel/docs/bills/Ghana%20National%20Research%20fund%20Bill,%202019(1).pdf#viewer.action=download

 

 

Below are the point by point review of concerns:

 

Point 1

 

1. (a) provide financial resources to support, promote and

publicise research, technology generation and innovation

in the tertiary and research institutions specified in the First

Schedule;

 

Not all the important research has to be publicized.

Example is funding to small business/research-based organizations working on proprietary technology with globally competitive outcomes, which has the potential to boost the national economy. All major National Research Funds across the world do this.

 

Point 2

 

3. (a) seed money of fifty million Ghana Cedis specifically

allocated for the start-up of the Fund;

 

In November 2017, the Minister of Education announced that the seed fund of 50 million dollars had been approved by cabinet. How did the currency change to Ghana Cedis in this draft bill?

 

Point 3

5. (1) The governing body of the Fund is a Board consisting

   

      (a) a chairperson;

      (b) the Administrator of the Fund;

 

Persons appointed to this role should be people with proven track record in research and are internationally recognized for winning international grants to bring to the job international best practice and also sound scientific leadership.

 

Point 4

(2) The members of the Board shall be appointed by the President

      in accordance with article 70 of the Constitution.

 

It is important to have representation on the governing board by organizations such as Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences, CSIR, UTAG, TUTAG, Vice Chancellors Ghana and equivalent from TUs. To ensure independent advice and direction free from political influence.

 

Point 5

7. (1) A member of the Board shall hold office for a period of three

years and is eligible for re-appointment, but a member shall not be

appointed for more than two terms.

 

The tenure of three years is too short. NIH Director has been in office from 2009 to 2017 and was re-appointed to continue. NIH is the major research fund administration in the USA. There is a merit to directors having longer stay in office.

 

 

Point 6

Ministerial directives

13. The Minister may give policy directives consistent with the object

of this Act to the Board and the Board shall comply.

 

To prevent short-term interruptions of the operational vision of the GNRF, the Board should rely on operational guidelines which are crafted every ten years and subject to parliamentary approval and not short-term ministerial directives. They should also have a mechanism to respond to events such as outbreaks, etc. to modify its operational guidelines without the influence of the sitting minister.

 

Point 7

Appointment of Administrator

16. (1) The President shall, in accordance with article 195 of the

Constitution, appoint an Administrator for the Fund.

 

Subject to Point 3: That is a person with proven track record in research and are internationally recognized for winning international grants to bring to the job international best practice and also sound scientific leadership.

 

 

Point 8

Appointment of Deputy Administrator

18. (1) The President shall, in accordance with article 195 of the

Constitution, appoint a Deputy Administrator for the Fund.

 

Subject to Point 3 That is a person with proven track record in research and are internationally recognized for winning international grants to bring to the job international best practice and also sound scientific leadership.

 

 

 

Point 9

22. For the purpose of achieving the object of the Fund, the Board

shall apply

 

The percentage of fund allotted to different disciplines should be left open to the discretion and the results of the needs assessment exercise conducted by the board from time to time. Fixed percentages to the different discipline will lead to uncompetitive outcomes.

 

 

Point 10

 

Eligibility for funding

28. (1) A person qualifies to apply for funding for research if that

person

(a) is a citizen of Ghana;

 

All over the world, research funding is offered to all researchers who are employed by national institutions. The issue of being in the employment of the national institution is key and not the citizenship of the researcher. There are many Ghanaian researchers holding Ghanaian passports who work in other countries and are eligible to apply for and win research funding in those countries.

 

 

Point 11

 

The Minister may, by legislative instrument, make Regulations

for the effective implementation of this Act.

 

The GNRF should be given operational independence and not be subject to the strings of the minister to ensure that highest professional competence and leadership is obtained in the national interest.

 

Additional Recommendations:

 

1. The GNRF must create a PhD fellowship programme with immediate effect after commencing operations to select brilliant students from the undergraduate programme to ensure that high caliber of talent is retained in the country. The absence of such a programme has driven many of the brightest of Ghana’s youth abroad many of whom never return to the country. The fellows will be distributed among the departments and unit offering graduate programmes in collaborations with research institutes. Fellows should be provided with competitive travel award to gain international experience during the time of their fellowship.

 

2. In keeping with talent development agenda, Postdoctoral and Senior fellowship programmes should be created for early and mid-career researchers in line with international trends. This will ensure the necessary capacity building to drive institutional advancement and economic development in Ghana.

 

3. The GNRF must as a strategic development create a high end, shared core technology facilities covering several key areas of research and development. Core facilities are modern approaches of driving research by clustering high end equipment in a single location to be given the best of everything, which is not possible in a distributed system. This will ensure maximum usage and constant care, attention and innovation. Core facilities such as chemical analysis core, bioimaging core, genome sequencing core, engineering design core, Physical lab core, IT core, etc. These core facilities will be provided with dedicated funding and supervision by the GNRF board and the host institutions to support the needs of the research communities in Ghana.

 

4. Special funding scheme for multi-disciplinary research programmes target big challenges like locust invasion, endemic diseases, waste management, flooding, etc. A scheme of this nature will draw all the expertise needed to use the power of graduate training and research to deal with complex problems and derive outcomes such as a sustainable breakthroughs and management systems which can be established as enterprises beyond the term of the research programmes.

 

5. Funding schemes for private small business to conduct research and development activities. Research funding should not be targeted at training, education and knowledge generation outcomes only. The outcomes should include industrial production and services to drive economic development and employment creation. The Grand Challenges model of funding can be employed for this scheme based on a four phased approach with increasing funding offer from phase 1 to 4. Phase 1 is typical – proof of concept; Phase 2 – transition to scale; Phase 3 – Low-medium scale operation; Phase 4 – large scale operation. The funding offering can be a mixture of grant, loan and equity.

No comments:

Post a Comment