Thursday, March 11, 2010

Random Musings

There were a couple of articles in the papers today that I thought were worth commenting on but didn't deserve their own post. So I’m rounding out my impressions of both in one.

First up, the results of a survey conducted by the National Population and Family Development Board shows that Malaysians are marrying later and having fewer babies:

More getting married later or not at all

”A recent survey by the National Population and Family Development Board on trends between 2000 and 2007 indicated that the average marriage age of marrying Malaysians would increase to 33 years by 2015 or they may choose not to get married at all.

Universiti Malaya’s Associate Professor Tey Nai Peng said the average age at first marriage for men and women had increased from 25.5 and 22.0 years respectively in 1970 to 28.6 and 25.1 years in 2000.

Also, the number of those who had never been married between the ages of 25 and 29 years had more than doubled for women from 13% to 29%, and rose from 32% to 54% among men, he added.“

This all of a piece with the demographic transition that Malaysia is undergoing (detail in this post). It will only become a problem if fertility drops below the replacement level, and we are a long way (as in, at least a couple of generations) from even having to think about that issue. The only concern here is really the potential breakdown in the family institution, for which I'm not competent to comment on.

Second, our Higher Education Minister thinks giving budding professors more pay and less work equals Nobel prizes:

Pay rise will help lecturers focus on R&D

"The pay rise for lecturers at public universities without them having to hold administrative posts will reduce politicking. Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin said this meant that they would not have to fight for posts in the varsities, but could instead focus on their fields of study through research and development.

'It will help create more Nobel laureates, because the professors will not be bogged down with administrative work,' he said yesterday."

If I'm not mistaken (feel free to correct me), most Nobel prize winners won on the basis of work they developed before gaining their professorship. In which case, giving more time to professors for research won't necessarily create more and better research output. And how many Nobel Prize winners does Malaysia have anyway? None?

I've also been doing a bit of research (for completely unrelated reasons) into the question of Malaysian academia's contribution to innovation, and strengthening linkages between universities and industry. The global research literature on these issues is enormous, but numerous studies indicate incentive and cultural problems in fostering innovation through collaboration and commercialisation of university research output.

The basic issue is that the primary purpose of universities is teaching and research – they are judged on quality of graduates and on publication of research. On the other side, what industry is interested in is new ideas and solutions they can turn into products and services, with maybe a sideline in overcoming industry problems and obstacles. Success is judged by the top-line (sales) and the bottom-line (profits).

In a nutshell, the R&D problem we have is that universities are interested in the ‘R’ while industry are interested in the ‘D’. Put in another way, universities are good at starting things but poor at finishing, while industry is the other way around. Failure to bridge that fundamental culture gap is one big reason why university-industry collaboration has failed to produce big results in Malaysia.

No comments:

Post a Comment