Professor Pervez Hoodbhoy is a vocal critic of Pakistan's Higher Education Reform initiated by Dr. Ata ur Rahman, adviser to President Musharraf, in 2002. This reform resulted in over fivefold increase in public funding for universities, with a special emphasis on science, technology and engineering. The reform supported initiatives such as a free national digital library and high-speed Internet access for universities as well as new scholarships enabling more than 2,000 students to study abroad for PhDs — with incentives to return to Pakistan afterward. The years of reform have coincided with increases in the number of Pakistani authors publishing in research journals, especially in mathematics and engineering, as well as boosting the impact of their research outside Pakistan.
Reacting to the recent publication of a report on reform by Dr. Athar Osama, Prof. Adil Najam, Dr. Shams Kassim-Lakha and Dr. Christopher King published in Nature Magazine, Dr. Hoodbhoy wrote a letter to the editors of the magazine that was highly critical of the HEC under Dr. Rahman. Here is Dr. Rahman's response to Dr. Hoodbhoy's latest criticism:
There are four aspects of the comments of Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy that need to be considered:
1. Firstly, Dr. Hoodbhoy himself admits that there has been a huge increase in international publications at QAU after HEC came into existence when he mentions the number of international publications in the two time periods. Strangely, he picks a six year period, 1998-2003, and then compares it with the subsequent 4.5 years (?) , 2004 to mid 2008, (the correspondence occurred in August 2008, so he could not possibly have had access to the figures for the entire year) I can only assume that he has mentioned 2003 by mistake in the second “5 year” period as there is no reason to include the publications of the year 2003 in both time periods, which he has done. It is clearly unfair to take two time periods of different durations and compare them.
2. In the first 6 year period (1998-2003), Dr. Hoodbhoy admits that there were only 631 research publications from QAU, but in the second 4.5 year period these had risen to 1482 research publications, a tripling of publications on average per year, even by his own estimates.
3. As the HEC programs began in 2003 and their real impact occurred 2-3 years later, a year-wise comparison is far more relevant than an average over a 5 year period as the dramatic change that has occurred gets partly masked when a 5 or 6 year average is taken, though it is still very visible. Dr. Hoodbhoy ignores the figures that Dr. S.T.K. Naim had worked out that in the year 2004, there were only 84 research publications from QAU (an average of only 7 publications per month), but by 2008 they had increased many fold.
4. The citations argument used by Dr. Hoodbhoy is invalid as citations increase with the passage of time. Dr. Hoodbhoy, therefore, wrongly compares the citations of papers of an earlier period with those of a later period. To clarify this issue further, if two papers of equal quality and in a similar field are published, say in 1998 and 2007, and the citations of both are counted in 2008, then the paper which was published in 1998 will have accumulated more citations by 2008 because of the much longer 10 year time period, than the paper published in 2007, as that would have had only one year for the citations to accumulate. Dr. Hoodbhoy is therefore comparing apples with oranges when he tries to compare citations of papers published in an earlier period with a later time period. In order to fairly compare citations, the same duration of time period must be taken. Thus if one takes 1998 publications and counts the citations till 2008, then one will need to take the 2008 publications and count their citations till the year 2018, before one can compare the figures for the citations of the two sets fairly.
The undeniable fact is that the total number of research publications from universities in Pakistan was only about 600 per year till 2001 but then started rising rapidly, and by the year 2008 it had increased to over 4,300! Brazil achieved such an increase over a 35 year period between 1960 to 1995, which Pakistan achieved in only 6 years. After my appointment in March 2000 as the Federal Minister for Science and Technology in Pakistan, I convinced the government to enhance the budget for science and technology in Pakistan by 6000% between July 2000 to October 2002. After my appointment as Chairman, Higher Education Commission (Federal Minister) the budget for higher education was similarly increased by 2400% during 2003 to 2008. Major achievements during these periods were:
1. Establishing 51 new Universities and awarding institutions during 2002-2008,
2. Tripling university enrollment (which had reached only 135,000 from 1947 to 2003) to about 400,000 in 2008,
3. Establishing a powerful Digital Library which provides free nation-wide access to every student in every public sector university to 45,000 textbooks/research monographs from 220 international publishers as well as to 25,000 international research journals,
4. Establishing video-conferencing facilities in most public sector universities that allow lectures to be delivered live and interactively to students in Pakistan from technologically advanced countries
5. Enhancing salaries of academics so that salaries of University Professors were increased to a level about five times the salaries of Federal Ministers, with a corresponding reduction in tax from 35% to only 5%, in order to attract the brightest young men and women into academia,
6. Promoting research through a massive research grant program which resulted in a 600% increase in ISI abstracted publications from about 600 per year in 2001 to 4300 research publications in 2008, accompanied by about 1000% increase in international citations in the same period,
7. Placing a satellite in space (Paksat-1) which is now used for distance learning by the Virtual University,
8. Establishing video-conferencing facilities in most public sector universities and initiating a lectureship program, allowing live interactive lectures to be delivered from technologically advanced countries,
9. Providing free access to scientists/engineers anywhere in the country to sophisticated instruments installed in any institute in Pakistan.
The Bottom Line: In the final analysis, it is not what I or Dr. Hoodbhoy think about the developments, but what is the opinion of neutral international experts who have carried out detailed year-long reviews of the developments during the period that I was heading the Higher Education Commission. A few extracts are given below:
1. Prof. Fred Hayward (independent international educational consultant from USA) carried out a detailed analysis of the developments and published an article entitled “Higher Education Transformation in Pakistan: Political & Economic Instability,” Date: Number 54, winter 2009 Source: International Higher Education Quarterly. I quote: “The news about Pakistan over the last few years has been dominated by reports of political turmoil, terrorism, religious fundamentalism, economic decline, and the Afghan War. What has been missed is the phenomenal transformation in higher education over the last six years, which represents a critical development for Pakistan and a potential engine for growth and national recovery.”
2. Report of US-AID about HEC states that “We are very impressed with the breadth, scope, and depth of the reforms implemented by the HEC since 2002. No other developing country we know has made such spectacular progress.”
3. World Bank Report is very complimentary of many excellent programs introduced.
4. British Council: The report states: “I have worked in many countries in South America, the Middle East, North Africa, and in Russia and India, over the last six years. None in my view, with the exception of India, has the potential of Pakistan for the UK university sector, largely because of the dynamic, strategic leadership of the Chairman of HEC”.
5. Nature: Several articles and editorials have appeared in the world’s leading science journal “Nature” (the most recent in the issue published on 3rd September 2009) in which the very significant progress made by Pakistan in the higher education sector has been applauded and the need for the new government to built on the solid foundation laid has been stressed.
6. Science Watch (Thomson Reuters) has ranked Pakistan as a rising star in five disciplines, more than in any other country of the world.
Riaz Haq's Note: For the first time in the nation's history, President Musharraf's education adviser Dr. Ata ur Rahman succeeded in getting tremendous focus and major funding increases for higher education in Pakistan. According to Sciencewatch, which tracks trends and performance in basic research, citations of Pakistani publications are rising sharply in multiple fields, including computer science, engineering, mathematics, material science and plant and animal sciences. The number of papers published by Pakistani scientists reached 4300 in 2007 (For comparison purposes, India-based authors published 27000 papers in 2007, according to Science Watch). Over two dozen Pakistani scientists are actively working on the Large Hadron Collider; the grandest experiment in the history of Physics. Pakistan now ranks among the top outsourcing destinations, based on its growing talent pool of college graduates. According to Pakistan Software Export Board, Pakistani IT industry has grown at 40% CAGR during the 2001-2007, and it is estimated at $2.8 billion as of last year, with about half of it coming from exports. As evident from the overall results, there has been a significant increase in the numbers of universities and highly-educated faculty and university graduates in Pakistan. There have also been some instances of abuse of incentives, opportunities and resources provided to the academics in good faith. The quality of some of the institutions of higher learning can also be enhanced significantly, with some revisions in the incentive systems.
Admission meritocracy, faculty competence and inspirational leadership in education are important, but there is no real substitute for higher spending on higher education to achieve better results. In fact, it should be seen as an investment in the future of the people rather than just another expense.
Of the top ten universities in the world published by Times of London, six are in the United States. The US continues to lead the world in scientific and technological research and development. Looking at the industries of the future such as nanotechnology, biotechnology, green technologies, the US continues to enjoy a huge lead over Europe and Asia. The reason for US supremacy in higher education is partly explained by how much it spends on it. A 2006 report from the London-based Center for European Reform, "The Future of European Universities" points out that the United States invests 2.6 percent of its GDP in higher education, compared with 1.2 percent in Europe and 1.1 percent in Japan.
In spite of the new education policy promising to more than double education spending from about 3% to 7% of GDP, uncertainty remains about the budgetary situation. Continuing political instability and the deteriorating security situation have created a loss of confidence in government and new questions about the future of higher education. These factors threaten to reverse the phenomenal gains of the last few years, and undermine the prospects for national development toward a knowledge economy. In addition, there is growing uncertainty about the future of the Higher Education Commission, including its administrative and financial autonomy. Thus, one of the few hopeful signs of progress in Pakistan appears to be in jeopardy. While there are many claimants on the national budget in this period of economic difficulty, the failure of higher education transformation would be a devastating reversal for Pakistan and make economic growth, social recovery, and political stability even more difficult than at the present time.
Let us hope that the recent appointment of Dr. Javaid R. Laghari as new Chairman of the HEC will help clarify the situation and restore confidence in the future of higher education in Pakistan.
Higher Education Transformation in Pakistan
Pakistan's $2.8 Billion IT Industry
President Musharraf's Legacy
Education in Pakistan
Reforms? What Reforms? by Pervez Hoodbhoy
India's New Millennium in Science
Higher Education Transformation in Pakistan
Nature's Coverage of Higher Education Reform
Asia Gains in World's Top Universities
Poor Quality of Higher Education in South Asia
Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy's Letter to Nature
Pakistan has been rated a ‘Rising Star’ in research multiple times over the last couple of years by ScienceWatch.com, a Thompson Reuters website which tracks trends and performance in research by analyzing its database of scientific papers and citations. The ‘Rising Star’ rankings are published every two months to acknowledge new entrants, by identifying the scientists, institutions, countries, and journals which have shown the largest percentage increase in total citations. In the May issue of the ratings, Pakistan was named a ‘rising star’ in two areas, ‘Materials Science’ and ‘Plant & Animal Science’. Amongst other countries of the region, Bangladesh was also listed as a rising star in ‘Computer Science’ and ‘Pharmacology & Toxicology’. Iran was named in four categories, and Qatar and UAE in one category each.
This is not the first time that Pakistan has been named in these ratings recently. In fact, Pakistan’s record has been very consistent since March 2008, the earliest ratings that are available on the website. Here’s a listing of Pakistan’s mention in the ‘rising star’ ratings:
* March 2008: Engineering, Mathematics
* May 2008: Materials Science
* July 2008: Engineering
* September 2008: Computer Science, Engineering, Materials Science, Mathematics, Plant and Animal Sciences (5 areas!)
* November 2008: Engineering
* January 2009: Computer Science
* March 2009: Computer Science
* May 2009: Materials Science, Plants and Animal Sciences
* July 2009: None
Quaid-e-Azam University in Islamabad, the country’s top university in terms of the number of publications per year, has also been recognized as a ‘rising star’ institution, in Jan 2009 and July 2008 issues, both times in the area of ‘Engineering’.
The ratings are based on the largest percentage increase and not the absolute numbers, and therefore, cannot be used to quantify research productivity in absolute terms. However, they definitely demonstrate the trend of a substantial increase in international publications from Pakistan compared to previous years. It is very healthy that a number of different areas are covered in these past two years, showing an across the board enhancement of research productivity.
While there has been a lot of debate on the effectiveness of HEC’s reforms in higher education, at least one thing is clear: the increased emphasis on research, largely due to HEC’s programs, has started to bear fruit. These are hard numbers here, based on data by the company that maintains the largest scientific citation index in the world, and cannot be easily refuted by the nay-sayers.
Here is a NY Times story on how China is luring top Chinese-American scientists from US:
BEIJING — Scientists in the United States were not overly surprised in 2008 when the prestigious Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Maryland awarded a $10 million research grant to a Princeton University molecular biologist, Shi Yigong.
Dr. Shi’s cell studies had already opened a new line of research into cancer treatment. At Princeton, his laboratory occupied an entire floor and had a $2 million annual budget.
----------------------------“He was one of our stars,” Robert H. Austin, a Princeton physics professor, said by telephone. “I thought it was completely crazy.”
China’s leaders do not. Determined to reverse the drain of top talent that accompanied its opening to the outside world over the past three decades, they are using their now ample financial resources — and a dollop of national pride — to entice scientists and scholars home.
The West, and the United States in particular, remain more attractive places for many Chinese scholars to study and do research. But the return of Dr. Shi and some other high-profile scientists is a sign that China is succeeding more quickly than many experts expected at narrowing the gap that separates it from technologically advanced nations.
China’s spending on research and development has steadily increased for a decade and now amounts to 1.5 percent of gross domestic product. The United States devotes 2.7 percent of its G.D.P. to research and development, but China’s share is far higher than that of most other developing countries.
Quantity is not quality, and despite its huge investment, China still struggles in many areas of science and technology. No Chinese-born scientist has ever been awarded a Nobel Prize for research conducted in mainland China, although several have received one for work done in the West. While climbing, China ranked only 10th in the number of patents granted in the United States in 2008.
Chinese students continue to leave in droves. Nearly 180,000 left in 2008, almost 25 percent more than in 2007, as more families were able to pay overseas tuition. For every four students who left in the past decade, only one returned, Chinese government statistics show. Those who obtained science or engineering doctorates from American universities were among the least likely to return.
Recently, though, China has begun to exert a reverse pull. In the past three years, renowned scientists like Dr. Shi have begun to trickle back. And they are returning with a mission: to shake up China’s scientific culture of cronyism and mediocrity, often cited as its biggest impediment to scientific achievement.
They are lured by their patriotism, their desire to serve as catalysts for change and their belief that the Chinese government will back them.
“I felt I owed China something,” said Dr. Shi, 42, who is described by Tsinghua students as caring and intensely driven. “In the United States, everything is more or less set up. Whatever I do here, the impact is probably tenfold, or a hundredfold.”
He and others like him left the United States with fewer regrets than some Americans might assume. While he was courted by a clutch of top American universities and rose swiftly through Princeton’s academic ranks, Dr. Shi said he believed many Asians confronted a glass ceiling in the United States.
Here's a story about the security situation affecting foreign universities plans in Pakistan:
New Delhi — Nine foreign universities that had agreed to set up engineering schools in Pakistan — with their own faculties and administrators — have now decided not to do so because they are leery of the worsening security situation and political uncertainty in the country, a daily newspaper in Pakistan reported, citing an unnamed spokesman of President Pervez Musharraf.
The foreign universities’ professors and other officials are unwilling to move to Pakistan despite very attractive remunerations offered by the Pakistan government, which plans to spend $4-billion on the nine projects with universities in Austria, China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Sweden, and South Korea. The foreign universities may also have changed their minds, another newspaper said, because they are finding it difficult to arrange for the many professors needed to staff the new institutions, some of which Pakistan has already begun to build.
In March Pakistan’s Higher Education Commission refuted rumors that plans to open the universities had been deferred or canceled, and said that they would start classes this year, as scheduled. “Foreign faculty has also concerns regarding the security situation in the country, but we are constantly in contact with them, they did not refuse to land in the country, and the project is on the track,” Sohail Naqvi, the commission’s executive director, was quoted as saying.
In 2002 Pakistan began an ambitious program to reform its higher-education system by setting up the commission, which has since created programs to enroll more students in Ph.D. programs in Pakistan and abroad, to hire foreign faculty members, to establish new universities throughout the country, and to collaborate with foreign partners to open engineering schools. The reforms have been controversial.
A local newspaper this month quoted an unnamed Ministry of Education official as saying that control of the commission would be handed over to the education ministry, rather than report directly to the president. —Shailaja Neelakantan
In Silicon valley recently, the US federal government has pumped in about $500 million each into two green tech startups..Solyndra pv solar and Tesla all-electric cars. Obama was here this week to promote green tech and spoke to Solyndra employees.
In addition, there is $1 billion in federal grants being offered to biotech firms under the new healthcare bill.
The reason for US supremacy is partly explained by how much of its public funds it spends on higher education. A 2006 report from the London-based Center for European Reform, "The Future of European Universities" points out that the United States invests 2.6 percent of its GDP in higher education, compared with 1.2 percent in Europe and 1.1 percent in Japan.
Here's a blog post by Kerri-Ann Jones, Assistant US Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, on U.S. and Pakistan collaborating on Science and Technology:
As part of the U.S.-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue initiated in March by U.S. Secretary of State Clinton and Pakistani Foreign Minister Qureshi, I recently led the U.S. delegation to the Science and Technology Working Group in Islamabad, June 8-9. The two-day meetings discussed three areas where our two governments could increase collaboration: enhanced science and technology cooperation, enabling the science and technology enterprise, and encouraging innovation and entrepreneurship.
It was encouraging to hear the Working Group specifically agree on building upon ongoing joint research and ways to highlight new knowledge that can improve social conditions and enhance economic opportunities. Working Group members also agreed to explore building the capacity of academic institutions and transferring technology from the lab to the private sector, while emphasizing the need to share successful models of innovation and entrepreneurship.
One of the most memorable experiences during my visit was attending an exhibition featuring 38 Science and Technology research projects funded through the Pakistan-U.S. Science and Technology Cooperation Program. I also had the privilege of visiting Pakistan's National University of Science and Technology, where I met with researchers who are conducting studies on climate change, finding innovative ways to use telemedicine to improve disease surveillance networks, and designing improved search engines.
The Science and Technology Working Group meeting was the first of the 13 Strategic Dialogue Working Group sessions taking place this month in Pakistan. Other Working Group topics include: law enforcement, energy, water, economics and finance, market access, defense, health, women's issues, and agriculture. I am inspired and encouraged by our Science and Technology discussions as they are addressing some of the most pressing environment, science, technology, and health issues facing Pakistan today, and building strong partnerships between our Science and Technology communities. The U.S.-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue represents the shared commitment of both nations to strengthening the bilateral relationship and building an even broader partnership based on mutual respect and mutual trust.
Dr. Hoodbhoy has been harshly critical of fraud in Pakistan's academia in terms of fake research and plagiarism in paper publication. Here is an excerpt from a NY Times report about fakery in China:
China devotes significant resources to building a world-class education system and pioneering research in competitive industries and sciences, and has had notable successes in network computing, clean energy, and military technology. But a lack of integrity among researchers is hindering China’s potential and harming collaboration between Chinese scholars and their international counterparts, scholars in China and abroad say.
“If we don’t change our ways, we will be excluded from the global academic community,” said Zhang Ming, a professor of international relations at Renmin University in Beijing. “We need to focus on seeking truth, not serving the agenda of some bureaucrat or satisfying the desire for personal profit.”
Pressure on scholars by administrators of state-run universities to earn journal citations — a measure of innovation — has produced a deluge of plagiarized or fabricated research. In December, a British journal that specializes in crystal formations announced that it was withdrawing more than 70 papers by Chinese authors whose research was of questionable originality or rigor.
In an editorial published earlier this year, The Lancet, the British medical journal, warned that faked or plagiarized research posed a threat to President Hu Jintao’s vow to make China a “research superpower” by 2020.
“Clearly, China’s government needs to take this episode as a cue to reinvigorate standards for teaching research ethics and for the conduct of the research itself,” the editorial said. Last month a collection of scientific journals published by Zhejiang University in Hangzhou reignited the firestorm by publicizing results from a 20-month experiment with software that detects plagiarism. The software, called CrossCheck, rejected nearly a third of all submissions on suspicion that the content was pirated from previously published research. In some cases, more than 80 percent of a paper’s content was deemed unoriginal.
The journals’ editor, Zhang Yuehong, emphasized that not all the flawed papers originated in China, although she declined to reveal the breakdown of submissions. “Some were from South Korea, India and Iran,” she said.
The journals, which specialize in medicine, physics, engineering and computer science, were the first in China to use the software. For the moment they are the only ones to do so, Ms. Zhang said.
Plagiarism and Fakery
Her findings are not surprising if one considers the results of a recent government study in which a third of the 6,000 scientists at six of the nation’s top institutions admitted they had engaged in plagiarism or the outright fabrication of research data. In another study of 32,000 scientists last summer by the China Association for Science and Technology, more than 55 percent said they knew someone guilty of academic fraud.
Dr. Hoodbhoy has been harshly critical of fraud in Pakistan's academia in terms of fake research and plagiarism in paper publication. Here is an excerpt from Calcutta's Telegraph newspaper report about science fraud in India:
Some of India’s most respected scientists are accused of covering up wrongdoing by others. Not surprisingly, not everybody is happy with the SSV’s efforts. One scientist derisively calls it a “self-appointed watchdog” while another likens it to Don Quixote, charging at imaginary windmills.
Yet the evidence is out in the open. Physicist K.R. Rao, associate editor of Current Science, a peer-reviewed research journal published by the Indian Academy of Sciences, Bangalore, says he has detected 80 cases of plagiarism — major and minor — in articles submitted to the journal in recent years.
Earlier this year, chemistry professor P. Chiranjeevi at the Sri Venkateswara University, Tirupati, was punished for copying from others’ research. Repeated attempts to reach him failed, but a member of the investigating committee says Chiranjeevi denied any wrongdoing when he appeared before it. The committee indicted him, and Chiranjeevi was barred from holding administrative posts or taking new research students.
In October last year, a team of materials scientists from Anna University, Chennai, and the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research, Kalpakkam, was found to have published a paper on ionic conductivity that was a copy of a previous paper by a Swedish team. But the one who hit the headlines was Raghunath Mashelkar, former director general of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research.
In March 2007, Mashelkar admitted in a letter to the SSV that sections of a book he had co-authored on intellectual property rights had reproduced verbatim material from a paper by a British scholar without crediting him. “…I am highly embarrassed by this and I have decided to take some hard actions,” he wrote. He said he would stop further editions of the book and not take any personal gains from it.
A few months earlier, the US Journal of Biological Chemistry (JBC) retracted a research paper by Gopal Kundu and his colleagues at Pune’s National Centre for Cell Science (NCCS). Kundu was accused of using the same data or images relating to proteins in two unconnected articles submitted to the journal. Kundu holds there was “absolutely no wrongdoing” by his team. He says another international journal has accepted the data.
But the authorities are still wary of confronting such accusations. Three committees, for instance, looked into the Kundu affair. A seven-member panel of top scientists exonerated him despite JBC’s withdrawal of the paper. Panel chairman G. Padmanaban says the journal’s decision was not “wrong”, but “harsh”.
The inconsistency between the Padmanaban committee’s views and JBC’s decision to withdraw Kundu’s paper has prompted some scientists to take the issue up. Rahul Siddharthan, a physicist and computational biologist at the Institute of Mathematical Sciences, Chennai, says he stepped into the controversy with “a sense of deep indignation” at the way the committee decided to dispose of the case. He says the duplication — intentional or unintentional — of images is so “blatantly obvious” that he cannot understand how a top scientists’ committee can dismiss the charges.
Some scientists at Lucknow’s Central Institute of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants have complained to the SSV that their director, Suman Preet Singh Khanuja, has been claiming credit for too many research papers. Since he took over as director in 2001, Khanuja has published more than 140 papers and staked his claim to at least 40 patents. Some question how a director can find time to produce on an average 20 research papers a year. A large number of the papers appeared in a journal produced by his institution and of which he is the chief editor.
Here are some excerpts from a Friday Times Op Ed by University of Wisconsin's Dr Howard Schweber who
taught students at a private university in Lahore, Pakistan and found them bright, resourceful and highly confused. He particularly singles out lack of general education and consequent lack of critical thinking skills as problems:
.... the students I met and taught reveals more mysteries. Some had serious problems with English, particularly in their writing, but most were extremely well prepared as far as language skills were concerned. It is when we look beyond language skills that puzzles begin to appear. What was most startling was the realization that these students were palpably uncomfortable with abstract concepts and what people in Education Schools call ‘critical thinking skills.’ When I raised this point to faculty and alumni, every one without exception acknowledged the problem, and pointed to the system of secondary education as the culprit. Undoubtedly the point is correct, but I think there is a deeper observation to be made here. In addition to being uncomfortable with abstract concepts, these students and their families seem to be uncomfortable with the idea of knowledge that is not justified by an immediate practical application. That discomfort extends to a reluctance to embrace basic scientific research as well as the humanities. I heard from students who wanted to study theoretical physics whose parents insisted that they become engineers; students who wanted to become historians whose parents did not see the point. The same attitudes exist in other places to be sure, but among my Pakistani students it seemed almost universal.
Part of the reason for this discomfort with abstraction may have to do with a curiously limited range of background knowledge. My students – many of whom, again, had graduated from the finest schools – knew almost literally nothing of non-Pakistani history and culture. The reason is not that Pakistan is culturally isolated – far from it. At one point I found myself confronted by a room full of students who had an exhaustive knowledge of the movies that were Oscar candidates last year, but among whom the vast majority had never heard of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony. In general, students had no idea – not even a wrong idea! – about the significance of the French Revolution or World War I, the history of nationalism and empires, the contents of the Book of Genesis, the Scientific Revolution or the Renaissance. Again, when I pressed students, faculty members and alumni, the answer was always the same: the fault lies with the secondary school curriculum, and particularly the fact that during General Zia ul Haq’s rule secondary school curricula were shifted to emphasize Pakistan Studies and Islam at the expense of everything else. Again, that can only be a very partial explanation. But it is worth noting that this lack of cultural literacy helps feed the culture of conspiracy theories for which Pakistan is justly famous.
But what happens once these students get to college? I saw and heard about fine courses in Shakespeare and Islamic Jurisprudence, but when it comes to the social sciences it appears that the students who learn anything about these subjects at all (that is, those who choose to take courses outside of Accounting and Finance) are fed a steady diet of snippets of readings and excerpts from trendy current theories. Many students could and were eager to could talk fluently about Edward Said, Noam Chomsky, and (rather weirdly) Nazi Germany, but Locke and Rousseau, Machiavelli and Madison, Cromwell and Marx were all equally unknown territory. Undoubtedly, at this point I will be accused of Western ethnocentricism; how many American college students know the names of the first four Moghul Emperors?
Here is a recent Dawn report of international recognition of Pakistani woman scientist:
KARACHI: Pakistani Scholar Dr. Hina Siddiqui won the best “Oral Presentation Award” in the 11th Eurasia conference on Chemical Sciences. The international conference was held in Jordon from Oct.6 to Oct.10, 2010.
Dr. Siddiqui’s presentation was declared as one of the top three oral presentations in the conference, where a panel of experts decided upon the top three finalists. Another scholar from Peshawar also got prize in the event, where over 200 scientists delivered their presentations from 69 countries.
Eurasia Chemical Sciences conference was launched by three chemists in 1988 to foster network and knowledge sharing among the researchers of North and South.
Dr. Siddiqui is a PhD in organic chemistry and currently working as research officer at International Center for Chemical and Biological Sciences (ICCBS) at Karachi University.
When she was in school, she read an inspiring interview of Prof. Dr. Atta-ur-Rahman from Hussain Ebrahim Jamal (HEJ) Research Institute of Chemistry, University of Karachi, published in a well-known Urdu science magazine named Amali Science.
In that Dr. Atta-ur-Rehman said institutions are not made up from bricks and stones rather they are made up of people who have dreams and vision.
The sentence changed Siddiqui’s vision and she devoted herself to exploring the unknown. In 2005, she joined HEJ and started her Ph. D under supervision of Prof. Dr. Mohammad Iqbal Choudhary, during her Ph.D Studies she worked on the anti-oxidant properties of various chemical constituents, also she got UBF (Umear Basha Foundation) scholarship and went to University of Kansas for one year to excel in Organic synthesis research.
In the Eurasia conference, a shield and certificate was presented to Siddiqui and the organisers also waived the registration fee of upcoming 12 Eurasia Conference on Chemical Sciences which will be held in Greece in 2012.
Siddiqui told Dawn.com that it is not her prize but it is HEJ award because in HEJ every student gets a world class education and training to excel anywhere in the world.
Siddiqui said that HEJ is a great place to shine, because it is an equal opportunity institute where merit is the only criteria rather than gender discrimination. She urged the females to consider research as their career and vows to continue research and development in the future.
Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy has continued his animus toward Dr. Ata through a piece in Dawn titled "A Case of Bogus Science". In this piece, Hoodbhoy accuses Ata-u-Rehman of engaging in "bogus science" by asking in his ecent paper on HAARP: “Is the HAARP then, a harmless research tool — or a weapon of mass destruction far more lethal than nuclear weapons? We may never know.”
I think Dr. Ata is well within the realm of science in speculating about HAARP's ability to effect weather patterns and seismic activity.
Here are some of the arguments that support Dr. Ata's concerns:
1. Major seismic activity is often preceded by extreme weather phenomena induced by ionospheric disturbances - like thunderstorms with extensive lightning discharges. Before the release of tectonic stresses, there are large changes in ground potential, and these interact with the atmosphere and eventually with the ionosphere. It is conceivable that humans could manipulate the coupling in the reverse direction - from the ionosphere via the atmosphere to the lithosphere.
2. HAARP's transmitter's 3.6 MW is not a "puny" amount of power, especially when focused like a laser beam to "tickle" existing tectonic instability, thereby releasing the energy already stored in tectonic plates.
Here is a response from Dr. Ata to this aticle by Dr. Hoodbhoy:
In my article that I had written on HAARP, I was simply referring to an ALLEGATION made by others. If you read the preceding sentence to the one on earthquakes, it makes it very clear that certain allegations have been made against this the development of thistechnology---the preceding sentence starts with “It has been alleged that the programme aims to ----“. The subsequent sentence which is a continuation of the preceding one, continues the with allegations made. No where do I state that the allegation is correct. Indeed my conclusion at the end of the article is, and I quote: “ Is HAARP a harmless research tool ---- or a weapon of mass destruction far more lethal than nuclear weapons? We may never know.” This clearly establishes that the evidence against HAARP is inconclusive, in my opinion.
Dr. Hoodbhoy has alas taken one of the allegations against HAARP made by others (about its ability to cause earthquakes) and twisted it around as if I was making it. He has then gone on to write and a long and venemous article in Dawn against me and what a poor scientist I am. This is loathsome behaviour from one who pretends to be a scientist.
The allegations about HAARP that it can cause earthquakes are obvious nonsense, but its ability to change weather patterns has many US patents behind it and deserves serious consideration because of the chain reaction that the ionisation processes can cause.
Here is a response from Dr. Ata to this aticle by Dr. Hoodbhoy (Part 2):
Let me summarise:
In my article I had described the work going on at a US military research facility in Alaska for the last several decades on developing weapons that can alter weather patterns (HAARP). Dr. Hoodbhoy has dismissed the article as being a case for “bogus science” .
The facts are as follows:
(1) The European Union in an unprecedented move officially condemned the US for the research being conducted at this US Alaskan secret facility. The formal EU resolution No. 24 of 28th January 1999, states “Considers HAARP by virtue of its far-reaching impact on the environment to be a global concern and calls for its legal, ecological and ethical implications to be examined by an international independent body before any further research and testing; regrets the repeated refusal of the United States Administration to send anyone in person to give evidence to the public hearing”: The link is available at : ”: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/pv2/pv2?PRG=DOCPV&APP=PV2&DATE=280199&DATEF=990128&TPV=DEF&TYPEF=A4&POS=1&SDOCTA=8&TXTLST=1&Type_Doc=RESOL&PrgPrev=TYPEF@A4|PRG@QUERY|APP@PV2|FILE@BIBLIO99|NUMERO@5|YEAR@99|PLAGE@1&LANGUE=ENDr. Hoodbhoy has dismissed this resolution as being based on “bogus science” and gone on to defend the US by stating that the European Union members who passed this resolution may not have been scientists. Not surprisingly, Dr. Hoodbhoy claims to be more learned on such matters than members of the EU Commission who have access to the best scientists in the world!
(2). Twelve US patents have been granted to ARCO power Technologies Incorporated (APTI) since 1985 on the use of HAARP for altering weather patterns The first of these twelve patents was U.S. Patent 4686605 entitled : “Method And Apparatus For Altering A Region In The Earth's Atmosphere”, linked to the Star Wars Defense system. These patents do NOT represent “bogus science” as claimed by Dr. Hoodbhoy but two decades of serious research on which hundreds of millions of dollars were spent which raised deep concerns of the European Union. APTI was sold in 1994 to, “E-Systems”, one of the largest intelligence contractors in USA , and E-Systems was later acquired at a price of US$ 2.3 billion by Raytheon Corporation, a large US company with several military contracts. What is Raytheon doing with HAARP if there are no military applications?
(3) All the patents granted by the US patent office, after careful independent evaluation by scientists, support the claims that the technology can affect weather. Dr. Hoodbhoy again claims to be more knowledgable than US Patent Office specialists who vetted and approved these patents.
(4) Nowhere in my article have I stated that the technology caused earthquakes ---- I did state that these allegations had been made by others, including the President of Venezuela. Dr. Hoodbhoy twists these statements out of context, conveniently forgets to mention that these were allegations of others as correctly mentioned by me, and then goes on to criticize me for making them. What a shame !!!!!
Dr. Hoodbhoy will be well advised to do some serious physics research and make some genuine contributions to science in Pakistan . He obviously gets his kicks by trying to insult others publicly, while he himself has not produced a single PhD or published a single international research paper for several years---- that is however his business. Regards Atta Prof. Atta-ur-Rahman, FRS
UNESCO Science Laureate
Honorary Life Fellow
University of Cambridge
Oh my God.
Thank you SO much for this wealth of information. Please keep it up, your posts are wonderfully informative.
Its also interesting to read about the differences in opinion between Dr. Hoodbhoy and Prof. Ata ur Rahman.
I must say that an increase in Higher Education spending by the Pakistani government must be welcomed (and is long, LONG overdue). Its just a shame that a few bad apples, coupled with the pervading political and economic environment are giving the reforms a bad name.
There is still a LONG, LONG way to go. Note that Higher Education is, unfortunately, only a privilege for the minority. We have to address the majority as well.
Here's a story about the promise of Danish Schools, a series of boarding schools being set up in Pakistani Punjab by the provincial govt of chief minister Sahbaz Sharif for the poor as an alteranative to the madrassa system:
Outside the window, a Pakistani flag flutters, inside, a teacher asks a group of 6th-grader girls and boys, “Who can make a food chain?” A girl comes up to the board and uses a pen as a mouse to click and drag an animated plant to the first box, a worm to the second and a bird to the third. “Excellent,” Says the teacher. She goes and sits down with a smile on her face.
This is not an ordinary board, it’s a smart board, the first of its kind in Pakistan, and this is no ordinary school. Inaugurated January 18th, The Danish School System at Rahim Yar Khan stands in stark contrast to the rural terrain of this Southern Punjab city. Children enrolled in this school have to fit a certain criteria, not just that they have to pass an entry test, but they have to either have a missing parent, or both parents, they have to have an illiterate parent and they must have a monthly income of less than USD 100 - they must belong in short to the forgotten class of Pakistan’s poor and minorities.
This is affirmative action, giving the underprivileged a chance to have a level playing field. But how real is it? For one, it has the clear support of the government of Punjab which has faced severe criticism from all quarters about the surge of 25 billion rupees invested in a series of these purpose-built campuses for both girls and boys all over Punjab. These critics claim that money could have been better spent elsewhere on better alternatives like building roads or canals.
The Danish Schools stands as an alternative to madrassa education because the school provides free lodging and boarding to all its students. It not only gives students a rounded education in the sciences and the arts but also provides social and extracurricular exposure. An on call psychologist also monitors each of the student’s behavior and has counseling sessions with the children and their parent or gurdian for a smooth transition into boarding life.
Despite the challenges, there is a certain spark and energy in the entire Danish school core committee headed by LUMS Provost, Dr Zafar Iqbal Qureshi, and the teachers and students. At the inaugural ceremony, one child danced on Shakira’s Waka Waka, another child, Aasia Allah-Wasiah told a 500 odd gathering the story of her life, how she became an orphan and how Danish school was her only hope for a future.
Not all parents were this easily convinced of Danish School’s objectives. One asked the girls’ school principle, “Why would you give me back my child after giving her clothes and shoes and spending so much on her? I know this is a conspiracy to buy our children from us.”
Other parents objected to there being non-Muslim students eating in the same utensils. The management responded by saying “we all eat in the same plates as any Hindu or Christian boy because this school is for everyone equally.” Needless to say that Rahim Yar Khan, despite scattered industrial units is largely agrarian and the people are deeply influenced by the exclusivist brand of Wahabism.
With a meager amount of the GDP being spent on education, it is a positive sign to have politicians finally focus on this sector to secure their vote bank. With time the criticism towards these initiatives, such as the importance of Danish schools adopting the O-Levels system, may fine tune the programs into being more effective for the people. And especially those people who don’t have a voice.
Here is a sobering assessment of the education crisis in Pakistan, as reported by the BBC:
The Pakistani government says the country is in the midst of an educational emergency with disastrous human and economic consequences.
A report by a government commission found that half of all Pakistani school children cannot read a sentence.
The commission found funding for schools has been cut from 2.5% of GDP in 2005 to just 1.5% - less than the national airline gets in subsidies.
It describes the education crisis as a self-inflicted disaster.
The report says 25 million children in Pakistan do not get primary education, a right guaranteed in the country's constitution.
Three million children will never in their lives attend a lesson.
The report says that while rich parents send their children to private schools and later abroad to college or university, a third of all Pakistanis have spent less than two years at school.
"Millions of children are out of school, there is a crumbling infrastructure and education budgets are constantly shrinking but... the situation can be improved in a matter of years if there is a political will for change," the report says.
It says that at the current rate of progress Punjab province will provide all children with their constitutional right to education by 2041 while Balochistan province - the worst affected area - will not reach this goal until 2100.
The report says that only 6% of children in the country get their education in religious schools or madrassas.
The commission found that:
* 30,000 school buildings are so neglected that they are dangerous
* 21,000 schools do not have a school building at all
* Only half of all women in Pakistan can read, in rural areas the figure drops to one third
* There are 26 countries poorer than Pakistan who still manage to send more of their children to school
* Only 65% of schools have drinking water, 62% have latrines, 61% a boundary wall and 39% have electricity
The report said that Pakistan - in contrast to India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh - has no chance of reaching the UN's Millennium Development Goals for education by 2015.
The findings also affect population growth - because educated women have smaller families with children who are healthier and more inclined to use their own education to nurture the next generation.
The report concludes that if the government doubled its present spending on education, significant progress could be made in just two years.
Here's a Times of India report on lagging research in India:
DHARWAD: India may not compete with other countries in the field of science and technology (S&T) if our scientists fail to make serious efforts to improve the track record in the field of scientific research and development (R&D), said VTU vice-chancellor H Maheshappa.
Inaugurating a six-day workshop on `Graph algorithms' jointly organized by the department of Computer Science, Karnatak University, and VTU here recently, he said India's track record in the field of scientific R&D has remained insignificant when compared with countries like China. This trend has to be changed if we really wish to emerge as successful competitors and carve a niche for India in the field of S&T, he said.
Pointing out the progress achieved by China in this regard, he said China is far ahead of India in the field of scientific R&D. "While the researchers from China file hundreds of patent applications everyday, India stands not even nearer to China in this respect. He said India has potential, including talented pool of teachers and researchers, state-of-the-art research institutes and financial investment by the government for the promotion of scientific R&D.
Expressing concern over the lack of teachers with research background in technical educational institutes, he said though the state has nearly 200 engineering colleges, the number of teachers with research degrees is minimal. "This scenario has to be changed. VTU has plans to tie up with universities like Karnatak University to assist engineering college teachers on understanding of basic science and research methodology," he added.
Here are some excerpts from a report of Pakistan's Higher Education Commission (HEC) under attack by crooked politicians:
ISLAMABAD: Parliament’s revenge against the Higher Education Commission (HEC) for its laudable role in identifying the fake degree holding MPs will not only destroy the higher education structure, built in decades, but also threatens huge and committed $550m (Rs47 billion) in foreign assistance.
Informed government sources told The News that the USAID had hinted on Friday of keeping on hold the committed $250 million assistance under the Kerry-Lugar Act to establish three centres of excellence besides pursuing certain other potential goals for higher education development in the country.
Already, the World Bank, which has only recently approved $300 million soft loan for the HEC to support its various programmes for the next five years, has verbally told the commission’s bosses to wait as the Bank is unsure about the future of the HEC.
The sources said that the USAID, in its communication with the HEC officials, has indicated of not doing the cost reimbursement PIL for the next six months because of a meeting the USAID had with the Economic Affairs Division, which has told the American agency that the HEC is going to be devolved.
Out of the $250 million, so far only $45 million has been transferred to the HEC by the USAID, which had agreed to hand over to the HEC all the education related programmes handled by the US Financial Assistance Development (FAD) programme. Now for the HEC officials, all the committed US aid for the HEC is frozen.
The sources said that under the USAID assistance programme, the HEC had designed to set up three centres of excellence (CoE), including the CoE in water resource at the Mehran University of Engineering and Technology, the CoE in food security at the University of Agriculture, Faisalabad, and the CoE in energy at the University of Engineering and Technology, Peshawar.
Already, as reported, the Higher Education Commission (HEC) would lose 300 million dollars of loan approved by the World Bank (WB) to support its various programmes for the next five years.
According to the report, the $300 million equivalent credit was supposed to finance the government’s tertiary education development programme. It is said that the loan deal would automatically come to an end after the devolution of the HEC due to some legal implications. “There is a clause in the agreement between the WB and HEC that any change in the legal status of the HEC would end the agreement at once,” the reporter quoted HEC Executive Director Dr Sohail Naqvi as saying. This is a soft loan.
The HEC is facing the wrath of the parliamentarians after it had refused to accept any pressure for the verification of the MPs’ degrees, more than 50 of which have already been declared invalid whereas above 200 degrees were termed suspected.
The federal and provincial governments and members of parliament and provincial assemblies exerted all sorts of pressure on the HEC to stop it from the verification work but to no avail. Later, more than 200 MPs refused to cooperate despite the apex court’s decision, refusing to provide to the HEC or the universities concerned the details of their qualification certificates and degrees to stop their verification by the HEC.
In its meeting on March 28, 2011, the federal cabinet, instead of devolving all functions of the Education Ministry, decided to retain several of them at the federal level by assigning these functions to different ministries and divisions like the cabinet and foreign ministry.
British Prime Minister David Cameron, now on a visit to Pakistan, has offered about $1 billion in aid for education, according to Financial Times:
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David Cameron offered Pakistan’s leaders up to £650m ($1,055m) of aid for schools and heaped praise on their “huge fight” against terrorism in a diplomatic gamble to end years of mutual mistrust with a gesture of goodwill.
During a confidence-building visit to Islamabad with an entourage of his most senior security advisers, Mr Cameron jettisoned the usual list of UK demands and instead gave Pakistan the benefit of the doubt over Afghanistan and its support for militant groups.
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Such optimism over Islamabad’s intentions marks a big break in British diplomacy, making a stark contrast with Mr Cameron’s description of Pakistan “looking both ways” on terrorism, a remark that triggered a serious diplomatic incident last year.
Rather than regarding Pakistan as a country that “can do more”, particularly on curbing Taliban activities, the British assumption is now that Islamabad’s security agencies have limited control over militant groups they once helped to create.
The big test for Mr Cameron is whether his expression of trust can generate better results than the more transactional approach adopted in the past. British officials say they are already seeing tangible improvements in intelligence co-operation and a greater willingness to discuss a political peace deal in Afghanistan.
Mr Cameron sought to demonstrate the breadth of the new partnership by offering funds for up to 4m school places by 2015. “I struggle to find a country that’s more in our interest to progress and succeed than Pakistan,” Mr Cameron said after a meeting with Yusuf Raza Gilani, Pakistan’s prime minister.
“If Pakistan succeeds then we will have a good story ... if it fails we will have all the problems of migration and extremism, all the problems.”
The package of up to £650m, which more than doubles previous education funding, forms part of an aid programme that is set to become Britain’s biggest.
The centrepiece of Mr Cameron’s visit was a security round-table with Pakistan’s civilian leadership and General Ashfaq Kayani, its military chief. Sir John Sawers, head of the Secret Intelligence Service, MI6, and General Sir David Richards, chief of the defence staff, also attended, in their second visit to Islamabad in less than a month.
Mr Gilani later brushed aside questions over Pakistan’s willingness to combat terrorism. “We’ve the ability and we have the resolve and we are fighting and we’ve paid a very heavy price for that,” he said, citing the 30,000 casualties in Pakistan’s effort to quell an internal insurgency.
One senior Pakistani government official speaking after Mr Cameron’s meetings said closer security ties would take some more time to develop. “Clearly, the UK wants Pakistan to extend help to combat militant plots on British soil,” he said. “But the UK will also need to be much more forthcoming on helping Pakistan to go after members of its own militant groups from places like Baluchistan who have taken refuge in Britain.”
The Times Higher Education Supplement for 2011 ranks 6 Pakistani universities among the top 100 Asia for Life sciences and Bio medicine.
NUST ranks 60, UET-Lahore 65, Karachi University 68, University of Lahore 73, Punjab University 91 and Quaid-e-Azam University Islamabad at 94.
On THES IT and Engg rankings, there are 4 Pakistani universities: NUST is 47, Univ of Karachi 91, University of Lahore 89, UET Lahore 90.
While Pakistan fares badly, ranking 103 on a list of 125 nations, on CII-INSEAD Global Index of Innovation for 2011, it is included among the top 10 countries for the Innovation Efficiency sub-Index. These countries are Côte d’Ivoire, Nigeria, China, Pakistan, Moldova, Sweden, Brazil, Argentina, India, and Bangladesh.
This places Pakistan in 4th place on CII-Insead's Global innovation efficiency sub-index, 5 places ahead of India in 9th place, according to Economic Times of India:
India has improved its ranking in the global Innovation Efficiency Index to 9th position in 2011 from 101th last year on factors like political stability, R&D, market and business sophistication, according to a study.
Surprisingly, Pakistan was placed ahead of India at 4th position, the CII-INSEAD study said.
However, India has slipped on its ranking in the Global Innovation Index to 62nd position out of 125 countries in 2011 from 56th last year while Switzerland was at the top,
It said that a lot of Indian talent is returning home to the country and the youth in urban India are now more global than ever, "and they are quite in tune with new technologies, even ahead of the curve in many cases, as early adapters".
"Multinational corporations are making large investments in R&D outside of their headquarter countries, setting up R&D sites in low-cost emerging countries such as China and India to access global talent and take advantage of their proximity to target markets," the report said.
Indian major players such as Tata, Godrej, and Mahindras are shifting their focus towards the rapidly expanding middle-income group of customers by coming up with frugal innovations, keeping in mind the price sensitivity of Indian consumers, it said.
Here's a recent Op Ed titled "The Real War With India" by HEC chair Javaid Leghari published in Newsweek Pakistan:
It’s hit an all-time low. Pakistan’s commitment to the higher education sector has been scaled back by 10 percent at the same time that India has raised its higher-education budget by 25 percent. This reduction is in addition to the 40 percent cut imposed last year. This shortsightedness imperils economic growth by stunting prospects of a viable middle class.
India has a population six times the size of Pakistan’s. Its GDP, at $1.8 trillion, is 10 times larger than ours. Its growth rate is 8.5 percent, ours is 2.4 percent. Its value-added exports, at $250 billion, are more than ours by a factor of 15; and its FDI, at $26 billion per year, dwarfs ours by a factor of 22. India is set to surpass Japan to become the world’s third largest economy by 2014. This has all been made possible, in no small measure, because of India’s human capital. Pakistan needs to take a leaf out of their book to realize the possible.
The World Bank identifies several key factors to achieve and sustain economic growth: education, a skilled workforce, information and communication technologies, and innovation. These are the veritable pillars of a knowledge economy. Likewise, the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report 2010-2011 lists higher education and training, technology readiness, and innovation as essential for competitiveness.
Catching up to the rest of the world must start now. And there is much ground to cover. For Pakistanis between the ages of 17 and 23, access to higher education is at 5.1 percent—one of the lowest in the world. (India is at 12.2 percent and aiming for 30 percent by 2020.) Pakistan has 132 universities for a population of 180 million and a student population of about 1.1 million. India has 504 universities with an enrollment of over 15 million (its enrolment target is 40 million by 2020). Pakistan has approved funding for two new universities. Over the next five years, India will have established 29 universities and 40 other institutes. Pakistan can today produce about 700 Ph.D.s every year (up from a dismal 200 in 2002) while India can produce 8,900 and China some 50,000.
Pakistan is one of six countries invited to join UNSCEAR (United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation) as a permanent member. The other 5 Invitees are Belarus, Finland, the Republic of Korea, Spain and Ukraine.
The committee now consists of 26 permanent members, including
Whys is India not a scientific power, asks an Op Ed in The Hindu:
.....It is the robustness of scientific research and innovation that sets apart great powers from the mediocre ones.
We have good scientists, but why has India not produced outstanding scientists who make path-breaking discoveries that will make the world sit up and take notice? Should we continue to be satisfied with tweaking borrowed technologies? Is reverse engineering an innovative phenomenon?
All debates about scientific research inevitably end up zeroing in on the deficiencies of our educational system as the root cause of the abysmal record in scientific research. This is only part of the story.
A nation's culture — belief systems, values, attitudes — plays a significant role in determining the quality of scientific research. The Oriental attitudes differ from the Occidental values in many respects. Asian societies are basically collectivist, that is, the collective good of society ranks higher than individual happiness and achievements. People do not ask what they can do for their country; they are always asking what the country will do for them. They look up to the state for guidance, leadership and direction. There is no burning individual ambition to excel and achieve something new.
In the West, individuals try to achieve their potential through their own efforts, aided and facilitated by enabling laws and institutions. Self-reliance is the key objective of life. An independent life requires a free and questioning mindset that takes nothing for granted and constantly challenges conventional wisdom. Children are encouraged to push the frontiers of knowledge by self-examination and open-minded enquiry. It is only a sceptical and dissenting mind that often thinks out of the box to explore new vistas of knowledge.
Collectivism promotes conformism and deference to authority whether it is parents, elders, teachers or the government. It is heresy to question established values and customs.
We pass on our passivity and uncritical attitudes to our children. No wonder, the educational system encourages rote learning and unquestioning acceptance of what is taught in the classrooms and stated in the textbooks. How can we expect our children to suddenly develop an enquiring and inquisitive attitude when they have been brought up in a milieu that discourages ‘disruptive' thoughts?
India and China were once advanced nations before foreign rule drained their resources and sapped their willpower and scientific traditions. Cultures tend to become conservative and defensive when subjected to long spells of colonial exploitation.
Indians are great believers in destiny. But our tradition does not frown upon free will and individual excellence. We must realise that our ability for free action remains unhampered despite what destiny may hold in store for us.
Fear of failure
Another flaw in our culture that prevents individual excellence is the fear of failure. The stigma associated with failure makes our children risk-averse while choosing their courses and careers.
Scientific research is a long-drawn war on received wisdom that requires many battles before it can be won. Science was not built in a day. Some of the battles can end in defeat. In the West, they celebrate failure as a stepping stone to success.
Educational reforms must be preceded by mental deconditioning of parents, teachers, educationists and policymakers — throwing away the cobwebs of uncritical submissiveness to conventional knowledge. Let us bring up a generation that will not hesitate to ask inconvenient questions. This generation will be the torch-bearer of a scientific revolution that will unleash cutting-edge research to make the Nobel Prize committee sit up and take notice....
Here's Dr. Ataur Rahman's Op Ed in The News on building Pakistan's knowledge economy:
Agriculture represents the backbone of our economy. It can serve as a launching pad for transition to a knowledge economy, as it has a huge potential for revenue generation. But that can happen only if agricultural practices are carried out on scientific lines and use of technology maximised. The four major crops of Pakistan are wheat, rice, cotton and sugarcane. They contribute about 37 percent of the total agricultural income and about nine percent to the GDP of Pakistan.
Wheat is the most important crop of Pakistan, with the largest acreage. It contributes about three percent to the GDP. The national average yield is about 2.7 tons per hectare, whereas in Egypt the yields are 6.44 tons per hectare and in European countries such as France, Germany and the United Kingdom they are above seven tons per hectare. We presently produce about Rs220 billion worth of wheat. If we can boost our yields to match those of Egypt, it can generate another Rs350 billion, allowing us to systematically pay off the national debt and make available funding for health and education.
However, the government has been reluctant to invest in research, water reservoirs and dams and extension services so that the country continues to suffer. Some progressive farmers in irrigated areas have been able to obtain yields of 6-8 tons per hectare but they are very much a minority. In rain-fed areas the yields are normally between 0.5 tons to 1.3 tons per hectare, depending on the region and amount of rainfall. In irrigated areas the yields are normally higher, in the range of 2.5 tons to 3.0 tons per hectare. Improved semi-dwarf cultivars that are available in Pakistan can afford a yield of wheat between 6-8 tons per hectare. It is possible to increase the yields substantially with better extension services, judicious use of fertilisers and pesticides, and greater access of water from storage reservoirs and dams that need to be constructed.
Cotton represents an important fibre crop of Pakistan that generates about Rs250 billion to the national economy, and contributing about two percent to the national GDP. Pakistan is the fourth-largest producer of cotton in the world, but it is ranked at 10th in the world in terms of yields. The use of plant biotechnology can help to develop better cotton varieties. Bt cotton produces a pesticide internally and safeguards the plant against chewing insects. The yields of Pakistani seed cotton and cotton fibre are both about half those of China. A doubling of cotton yields is doable and it can add another Rs250 billion to the national economy.
The failed system of democracy in Pakistan is strongly supported by Western governments. It serves Western interests as it leads to docile and submissive leaders who serve their foreign masters loyally. The stranglehold of the feudal system thrives with no priority given to education. More than parliamentarians have forged degrees and the degrees of another 250 are suspect. The Supreme Court decision of verification of their degrees is flouted and ignored by the Election Commission. The bigger the crook, the more respect he is given by the government and the biggest crooks are conferred the highest civil awards. The economy has nosedived and we are today ranked among the bottom six countries of the world in terms of our expenditure on education.
Though the Higher Education Commission (HEC) has made enormous efforts to promote research work, Pakistan ranked 43rd in the world in terms of published scientific papers in the year 2010, according to Dawn newspaper.
According to the worldwide scientific journal ranking (SJR); Pakistan published 6,987 research documents in 2010. However, the same year United States was on top with 502,804 papers followed by China with 320,800 and United Kingdom with 139,683 research documents. On the other hand, India ranked ninth worldwide.
Among the Islamic countries, Pakistan trailed behind Turkey and Iran which published 30,594 and 27,510 research documents, respectively.
An official of the HEC requesting not to be named told this reporter that in 2007 Pakistan ranked 45th with 3,750 publications, in 2003 it was ranked 50th with 1,539 research papers and in 2000 54th with 1,174 papers. In 1996, the country was on 52nd position with 893 research papers.
The number of publications is directly proportional to the production of PhDs in the country.
“Pakistan gets over $10 billion every year through foreign remittances. On the other hand, due to financial crunch demand for foreign labour has been decreasing worldwide. Even in Saudi Arabia it has been decided to push out foreign labour force and adjust the locals in their places, because it is becoming difficult even for the oil-producing countries to address the problem of unemployment.”
The official claimed that in the West, population was decreasing and the new generation was more interested in the subjects of art and humanities rather than science, mathematics and research work.
Due to this, the official added, the demand for specialised persons would increase in the West and Pakistan can meet the requirement of these nations by producing specialised persons and earn huge foreign exchange.
Sources said most of the successive governments in Pakistan did not take future planning seriously and always tried to solve problems by makeshift arrangements. The government should focus on specialisation in different subjects because only specialised persons can earn foreign exchange to steer out the country from the financial problems.
Executive Director HEC Prof Dr S. Sohail H. Naqvi told Dawn that they had been trying to generate as many specialised persons as possible and for that reason were encouraging and facilitating universities. He said for increasing the number of PhDs, the commission required funds. “Hopefully, Pakistan will further improve its ranking regarding publication of
research papers,” he said.
Here's a SciDev report on Pakistan's Human Genome Project undertaken with Chinese collaboration at the University of Karachi:
A burgeoning genetics research collaboration between China and Pakistan has yielded its first result: the mapping of the genome of a Pakistani national.
The Beijing Genomics Institute (BGI) and the International Centre for Chemical and Biological Sciences (ICCBS), Karachi, had agreed last year to work together on seven genomic projects, train Pakistani scientists, set up a genomics centre in Pakistan, and transfer state-of-the-art technology to Pakistan.
The first project involved sending genetic samples of the first volunteer, former science minister Atta-ur-Rahman, who is also ICCBS patron, to the BGI for mapping.
'Genome mapping' involves locating and identifying genes to create a map, akin to identifying towns and cities, to create a road map. Genome maps help scientists locate genes for human diseases, by tracking the complete genetic information of individuals and, families over generations.
Researchers at the Panjwani Centre for Molecular Medicine and Drug Research (PCMD), under the ICCBS, and BGI mapped Rahman’s genes in 10 months. ICCBS director Mohammad Iqbal Choudhary announced the results to the media last month (27 June). The results are yet to be published in a scientific journal.
This makes Pakistan the world's sixth and the first Islamic country to completely map a human genetic sequence, Choudhary said.
More projects are underway to gain insights into various population groups in Pakistan; genetic predisposition to disorders, including liver and heart disease; anaemia, diabetes, cancers, Alzheimer's disease and blood disorders, Choudhary told SciDev.Net.
It could lead to "significant advances in their diagnosis and treatment" Kamran Azim, assistant professor at the PCMD, said.
"It is going to take more than two years to complete the genome projects and come up with the final conclusions about different aspects of the country's different population groups," Choudhary said.
BGI scientists are interested in studying the genetic structure and physiology of Pakistan's diverse ethnic groups, particularly those along the Makran coast, Balochistan province, and Kalash Desh in northern Pakistan, Choudhary said.
Manzoor Hussain Soomro, chairman of the Pakistan Science Foundation, observed that the development could pave the way for better medical management and new drugs discovery.
But, he cautioned, such research could also raise ethical, legal and social concerns over confidentiality and misuse of genetic information by prospective employers, insurers, courts of law and family members.
Soomro said that though it is not yet clear who would safeguard the genome mapping data, it should logically be the responsibility of Pakistan's national bioethics committee under the Pakistan Council of Medical Research.
Here's an ANI report on gene mapping in Pakistan:
Karachi, June 28(ANI): Scientists at the Karachi University have mapped the genome of the first Pakistani man with the help of the Beijing Genomics Institute.
This has made Pakistan the first country in the Muslim world to map the genome of the first Muslim man.
The achievement places Pakistan in the ranks of the few countries- the United States, the United Kingdom, India, China and Japan- that have successfully sequenced the human genome as well.
"Our nation is a mix of a lot of races," said Professor Dr M Iqbal Choudhary, who heads the project. "Pakistanis are like a "melting pot" i.e. a mix of Mughals, Turks, Pashtuns, Afghans, Arabs, etc."
"According to the researchers, the newly sequenced Pakistani genome has uncovered a multitude of Pakistan-specific sites, which can now be used in the design of large-scale studies that are better suited for the Pakistani population," The Express Tribune quoted Dr Choudhary, who is the director of the International Centre for Chemical and Biological Sciences at Karachi University, as saying.
The first Pakistani genome has been mapped using a recently developed technology, ten years after the first human genome was discovered.
Dr Panjwani Centre for Molecular Medicine and Drug Research at the University of Karachi took 10 months to accomplish the task. The individual who has been genetically mapped is a resident of Karachi. (ANI)
Here are excerpts of an article by Dr. Ata-ur-Rehman published in Pakistan Herald:
On July 23, 2006, an article was published in the leading daily Indian newspaper Hindustan Times, titled “Pak threat to Indian science.” It was reported that Prof C N R Rao (chairman of the Indian prime minister’s Scientific Advisory Council), had made a detailed presentation to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh about the rapid strides that Pakistan was making in the higher education sector after the establishment of the Higher Education Commission in October 2002 and my appointment as its first chairman. The article began with the sentence “Pakistan may soon join China in giving India serious competition in science.”
Serious apprehensions were expressed before the Indian prime minister at the rapid progress being made by Pakistan in the higher education and science sectors, first under the ministry of science and technology after my appointment as the federal minister of science and technology of Pakistan in 2000, and later under the Higher Education Commission. It was stressed during the presentation to the Indian prime minister that if India did not take urgent measures to upgrade its own higher education sector, Pakistan would soon take the lead in key areas of higher education, science and technology.
Something remarkable happened in Pakistan during the short period from 2000 to 2008 that rang alarm bells in India. It also drew unmitigated praise from neutral international experts. Three independent and authoritative reports, praising the outstanding performance of the HEC, were published by the World Bank, Usaid and the British Council. Pakistan won several international awards for the revolutionary changes in the higher education sector brought about under the leadership of the writer. The Austrian government conferred its high civil award “Grosse Goldene Ehrenzeischen am Bande” (2007) on the writer for transforming the Higher Education sector in Pakistan. The TWAS (Academy of Sciences for the Developing World, Italy) Award for Institutional Development was conferred on the writer at the academy’s 11th general conference in October 2009.
Prof Michael Rode, the chairman of the United Nations Commission on Science, Technology and Development and presently heading a Network of European and Asian Universities (ASIA-UNINET), wrote: “The progress made was breathtaking and has put Pakistan ahead of comparable countries in numerous aspects. The United Nations Commission on Science and Technology has closely monitored the development in Pakistan in the past years, coming to the unanimous conclusion that (the) policy and programme is a ‘best-practice’ example for developing countries aiming at building their human resources and establishing an innovative, technology-based economy.”
Pakistan was poised to make a major breakthrough in transitioning from a low value-added agricultural economy to a knowledge economy. Alas, corrupt politicians with forged degrees plotted to destroy this wonderful institution where all decisions were merit-based, a trait unacceptable to many in power. A government notification was issued on Nov 30, 2010, to fragment the HEC and distribute the pieces. At this point I intervened. It was on my appeal to it that the Supreme Court declared the fragmentation of the HEC to be unconstitutional. The development budget of the HEC has, however, been slashed by 50 percent and most development programmes in universities have come to a grinding halt.
The Indian government need not have worried. We Pakistanis, alas, know how to destroy our own institutions.
Pak threat to Indian science
Pakistan may soon join China in giving India serious competition in science. “Science is a lucrative profession in Pakistan. It has tripled the salaries of its scientists in the last few years.” says Prof C.N.R. Rao, Chairman of the Prime Minister’s Scientific Advisory Council.
In a presentation to the Prime Minister, Rao has asked for a separate salary mechanism for scientists. The present pay structure, he says, is such that “no young technical person worth his salt would want to work for the Government or public sector”.
He adds, “You needn’t give scientists private sector salaries, but you could make their lives better, by say, giving them a free house.”
Giving his own example, he says, “I have been getting a secretary’s salary for the last 35 years. But I have earned enough through various awards.
But I can raise a voice for those who aren’t getting their due.” Last year, Rao won the prestigious Dan David Award, from which he created a scholarship fund. So far, he has donated Rs 50 lakh for scholarship purposes.
The crisis gripping Indian science seems to be hydra-headed. “None of our institutes of higher learning are comparable with Harvard or Berkeley,” points out Rao. The IITs, he says, need to improve their performance: a faculty of 350 produces only about 50 PhD scholars a year. “That’s one PhD per 5-6 faculty members,” says the anguished Professor.
Rao fears that India’s contribution to world science would plummet to 1-1.5 per cent if we don’t act fast. At present, India’s contribution is less than three per cent. China’s is 12 per cent.
“We should not be at the bottom of the pile. When I started off in the field of scientific research at 17-and-a-half, I had thought that India would go on to become a top science country. But now, 55 years later, only a few individuals have made it to the top grade,” he laments.
Here are excerpts of a Nature magazine article on higher education support in Musharraf years:
Despite the problems, science has been flourishing in Karachi and other Pakistani cities, thanks to an unprecedented investment in the country's higher-education system between 2002 and 2008 (see 'Rollercoaster budget'). As funding increased more than fivefold in that time, new institutes focusing on proteomics and agricultural research sprouted, and the University of Karachi's natural sciences department rose from nowhere to 223 in the 2009 QS World University Rankings.
The surge in higher-education investment occurred after the rise to power of General Pervez Musharraf in 1999, who as leader of the army had led a low-key coup d'état and installed himself as de facto president. Musharraf was a liberal progressive who hoped to modernize Pakistan. "It was a moment in Pakistani history that now seems so distant," says Adil Najam, an expert in international development at Boston University in Massachusetts.
With the economy booming in the early 2000s, Pakistani academics sensed an opportunity. Higher education had never had much popular support in the country, where literacy hovers at about 50%, but in Musharraf they saw a champion. In a series of reports, Najam and others made the case that if the nation could mobilize its universities, it could transform from a poor agricultural state into a knowledge economy (see Nature 461, 38–39; 2009). The group called for a new Higher Education Commission (HEC) to manage the investment, as well as better wages for professors, more grants for PhD students and a boost in research funding.
Rahman, a chemist at the University of Karachi and, at the time, the minister for science and technology, enthusiastically set out to overhaul the nation's universities. With Musharraf's support, annual research funding shot up 474% to 270 million rupees (US$4.5 million in 2002) in the first year alone. The HEC set aside money for PhD students and created a tenure-track system that would give qualified professors a monthly salary of around US$1,000–4,000 — excellent pay by Pakistani standards.
Rahman's strong scientific background, enthusiasm for reform and impressive ability to secure cash made him a hit at home and abroad. "It really was an anomaly that we had a person of that stature with that kind of backing," says Naveed Naqvi, a senior education economist at the World Bank, based in Islamabad. "Atta-ur-Rahman was a force of nature."
Between 2003 and 2009, Pakistan churned out about 3,000 PhDs, roughly the same number awarded throughout its previous 55-year history. More than 7,000 PhD students are now in training at home and abroad. Meanwhile, scientific research publications have soared from roughly 800 in 2002 to more than 4,000 in 2009 (see 'Publishing power')...
Here's a Nature report on Pakistan's science & technology policy:
As they hail Pakistan's first comprehensive national science, technology and innovation (ST&I) policy, the country's science leaders are hopeful of effective implementation and funding.
The 'National Science, Technology and Innovation Policy–2012', launched last month (23 November) with support from the Pakistan Council for Science and Technology and the ministry of science and technology, is expected to help Pakistan emerge as a scientifically sensitive nation.
Describing the policy, at the launch, as "demand-driven and people-centric ", Changez Khan Jamali, federal minister for science and technology, said it was a milestone in Pakistan's self-reliant development strategy.
Jamali said the new policy was focused on improving the quality of life for common people through the creation of a conducive industrial and economic environment.
Pakistan has an ambitious plan to increase its science budget to 1 and 2 per cent of annual gross domestic product spending by 2015 and 2020 respectively, against the present 0.6 per cent.
Akhlaq Ahmed Tarar, secretary in the ministry, told SciDev.Net that he looked forward to "having close to 1 per cent allocation in the 2013 budget."
"The only fuel to make this policy a success is real political and fiscal support, which government is committed to provide – so there are hopes for an innovative and technologically advanced future for Pakistan," Tarar said.
A national policy for ST&I has been in the making since 1960 when the National Science Commission of Pakistan was constituted and tasked with finding ways to promote scientific research.
However, various hurdles stood in the way, the chief among them in more recent years being funding cuts forced by the recession and natural disasters.
The new policy focuses on environment science, biotechnology, energy, water, minerals, ocean-sciences and engineering as critical areas demanding priority.
It recognises innovation as an integral part of the S&T system while emphasising development of human resources, training and education.
Manzoor Soomro, chairman of the Pakistan Science Foundation, an autonomous body under the science ministry, told SciDev.Net that to make the new policy serve the country's socio-economic development better, public-private partnerships and academia-industry linkages would need to be forged.
"Higher Education Commission and the well-developed offices of research, innovation and commercialisation that already maintain R&D links with different public-private organisations, would be the beneficiaries of this policy," Soomro said.
In an ET Op Ed piece titled "Let’s stop promoting corruption in Pakistan’s universities", Prof Pervez Hoodbhoy argues that HEC is encouraging corruption in producing research papers.
What Hoodbhoy ignores is that “Publish or Perish” is the mantra for university professors in the United States. Such incentives have helped push genuine research along with some junk. But the Americans have not thrown the baby out with the bath water, nor should Pakistan.
Pakistan should implement its ambitious plan to increase its science budget to 1 and 2 per cent of annual gross domestic product spending by 2015 and 2020 respectively, from 0.6 per cent now.
Yes, but publish or perish is merely a catch phrase and not the practice. In a typical university in the US, the faculty peers select, appoint, and give promotions/tenure and not the university board. Salary is based on performance and performance is judged by competitive outside funding and success of obtaining funding depends on quality of research reviewed by peers selected nationally and every accusation of plagiarism is seriously investigated by the university faculty peers and not by the administrative board.
Tenure in a university is no guarantee for life long appointment and it is not the quantity but the quality of the seminal work that brings in funding is judged. In the US, Nobel prize winning does not guarantee a continued funding for that professor for his work. His work is equally judged among other competitive applications in all fairness. Only less than 3% of research applications received by NIH in every funding cycle is funded based on peer reviewed scoring and is highly competitive. Couple of my Nobelist friends are yet to receive NIH funding even after 9 years and they are functioning in endowment funding.
The university research funding in the US is very different from what is being practiced in Europe and you can not justify PAK situation that any crap /plagiarized publication is good enough to be a yard stick.
Any researcher knows that it takes at least three years for an original research to be drafted for publication and a well functioning research laboratory with adequate graduate students can only publish one or two papers in a year.
John: "Yes, but publish or perish is merely a catch phrase and not the practice. In a typical university in the US, the faculty peers select"
It’s not just the United States (or Pakistan) where research quality sometimes suffers from pressure to publish . The UK has the same problem as well as detailed by The Guardian newspaper: http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2011/sep/05/publish-perish-peer-review-science
Here's a Nation news story on Knowledge Hub in Karachi:
KARACHI - First time in the history of country, Latif Ebrahim Jamal National Science Information Center (LEJNSIC), Karachi University (KU), is going to start an open learning program, named ‘LEJ Knowledge HUB’, in Pakistan and globally as well.
These views were expressed by former HEC chairman Prof Attaur Rahman while speaking at a press conference at Karachi Press Club on Friday.
“Pakistan is now among the first in the world to initiate a learning platform which includes integrated courses from various major world sources for ready accessibility, structured mentoring and assessment system,” he added.
He said the programme has potential to change the entire landscape of higher education in Pakistan and the developing world.
Chairman Husein Ebrahim Jamal Foundation Mr Aziz Latif Jamal and Director International Center for Chemical, Biological Sciences (ICCBS-KU) Prof Iqbal Chaudhary were also present on the occasion.
Prof Attaur Rahman said that the vision of the program was to provide an interface for the researchers and reputed institutions from around the world to collaborate, share and enhance their knowledge. An easily accessible treasure chest of unending information is being made available to students, faculty and researchers alike, he maintained.
The entire programme is led by our most celebrated scientist and global leader in education, Prof Dr. Atta-ur-Rahman as a monumental service to the nation and the world at large. Talking about his federal minister ship, he said that the first major steps to enter into the new IT age were taken in Pakistan when I (Prof Atta) was the Federal Minister of Science & Technology in 2000-2002.
“Internet access was confined to only 29 cities till early 2,000. It was rapidly expanded to cover 2,000 cities, towns and villages during the next two years. Fiber was expanded from 40 cities to over a 1000 cities and towns. Bandwidth had been priced ridiculously high till then ---$ 87,000 per month for a 2 MB line per month. The rapid improvements in the IT infra-structure allowed me later as Chairman Higher Education Commission to use them for the benefit of the higher education sector,” he held.
“In the year 2001, a satellite was placed in space (PakSat 1) and a couple of transponders were set aside for distance learning courses of the Virtual University that we established in Lahore. Today the Virtual University provides quality education to over 100,000 students and has teaching programs across Pakistan and abroad,” he maintained.
Dr Atta said that the inaugural ceremony of the LEJ Knowledge HUB will be held at Sindh Governor House on December 12, when the 4-day 14th Asian Symposium on Medicinal Plants, Spices and Other Natural Products (ASOMPS) will also be concluded; President of Pakistan, Mamnoon Hussain will inaugurate the country’s great knowledge resource.”
Aziz Latif Jamal said: “LatifEbrahim Jamal National Science Information Center (LEJNSIC) has been serving as a hub of information dissemination and focal center of the Virtual Education Project Pakistan (VEPP) since 2008, led and supervised by Attaur Rahman and Prof Iqbal Choudhary.
Talking about the significance of the Asian Symposium, Prof Iqbal Choudhary said that a special session is dedicated to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the ASOMPS, which started in 1960 from Peshawar (Pakistan). Moreover, some plenary and keynote lectures will be also arranged through video conferencing.
“The program will consist of plenary lectures, keynote lectures, session lectures and poster presentations. Each session will address a theme topic within the area of Medicinal Plants and other Related Natural Products. Special events will be arranged to ensure a lively interaction between scientists and students of natural product chemistry,” he opined....
For the first time, nine research papers by Pakistani students have been selected for presentation at the American Society of Microbiology (ASM) Conference.
A total of 11 abstracts were submitted by M Phil students at Dow University of Health Sciences (DUHS) for the 114th international conference scheduled to be held in Boston later this month.
Leading author for the research papers and Head of Molecular Pathology at DUHS Dr Saeed Khan says the study of infectious diseases in Pakistan is critical, “because no one is safe till everyone is safe.”
The areas of research include diseases prevalent in Pakistan such as tuberculosis, HIV and Aids, Hepatitis B, C and D, and auto-immune diseases among other viral and bacterial infections.
Khan’s team comprises Asif Iqbal, Noorulaine, Nazish Haider, Maria Zahid, Zeba Zehravi, Fatin Zehra, Sehrish Mohsin, Noorul Huda, Ayaz Ahmed and Kanwal Niazi.
Khan, who will be the presenting author for his paper ‘Prevalence and drug resistance pattern of TB in different areas of Sindh’ says, “Due to the population not taking proper medication there is a change in bacteria making TB not treatable by drugs that currently available.”
The work is extensive and strenuous especially when researching and studying the pathology for HIV in Pakistan, Khan says. “The stigma attached to HIV and then the changes in prevalence among injecting drug users and sex workers is a challenge to track and document but it is important work which must be properly researched.”
One of the students and presenting author for research paper ‘Genetic diversity and geographic linkages of HIV using bioinformatics tools’ Maria Zahid says she didn’t expect such a positive response to their submissions.
“We had always planned to submit our (research) papers but was pleasantly surprised when almost all were accepted,” she told Dawn.com.
Zahid began working on her research paper in January last year and is analysing the circulation of the virus and which types and subtypes are common in Pakistan. “HIV has two types and 11 sub-types. We can only work on developing vaccines once we know which types and subtypes we are dealing with. Presently in Pakistan we have subtype A of the virus whereas worldwide subtype B is prevalent.”
The research team, which has been unconventionally awarded with grants to support their travel expenses is scheduled to depart for the United States on May 15 depending on the acceptance of their visa. http://www.dawn.com/news/1105040/duhs-students-set-for-unique-distinction-in-us
KARACHI: Prof Dr Attaur Rahman has been selected for the People’s Republic of China’s highest national award ‘Friendship Award of China’.
The award will be conferred on him at a ceremony to be held in Beijing on Monday, says a press release.
The friendship award is for foreign experts who have made outstanding contribution to the economic and social progress. The award is being given to Prof Rahman for his tremendous contributions to develop strong linkages between China and Pakistan in various fields of science and higher education.
Prof Rahman was responsible for initiating a major programme of academic collaboration and linkages with Chinese universities and other institutions as federal minister for science and technology and later as chairman of Higher Education Commission. Under these programmes some 400 students were sent to various Chinese universities and research institutions for PhD-level training.
Prof Rahman has initiated strong collaborations with many Chinese institutes. He signed an executive protocol for scientific cooperation between Chinese Academy of Sciences and Pakistan Academy of Sciences under which many workshops have been organised in Pakistan and China. These included a major international conference titled ‘IUCr South Asia Summit Meeting’ on ‘Vistas in Structural Chemistry’ held on April 28-30, 2014, Karachi, to celebrate the International Year of Crystallography.
Prof Rahman has also initiated a nationwide project for training students in universities of Pakistan in Chinese language through video-conferencing. A book by Prof Rahman titled ‘The Wondrous World of Science’ has been recently translated into Chinese language. He has recently been awarded International Cooperation Award from the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
Prof Rahman has 976 publications to his credit in several fields of organic chemistry, including 720 research publications, 37 international patents, 151 books and 68 chapters in books published largely by major US and European presses. He is the most decorated scientist of Pakistan, having won four civil awards — Tamgha-i-Imtiaz, Sitara-i-Imtiaz, Hilal-i-Imtiaz, and the nation’s highest civil award, Nishan-i-Imtiaz.
First university in #Pakistan tribal region, #Fata University, starts classes in four depts. #education https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/161141-Fata-University-starts-classes-in-four-depts … DARRA ADAMKHEL: The classes at four departments including Sociology, Political Science, Mathematics and Management Sciences have begun at the Fata University with 84 students enrolled for the Bachelor of Science degree programme.
The university located in Darra Adamkhel has the capacity to admit 120 students. However, 106 candidates submitted application for admissions while 84 of them were enrolled. None of the students who sought admission in the first-ever university in Fata is female.
The university premises have not yet been provided electricity, telephone connections and drinking water. Still the tribespeople have expressed joy over the opening of the university for students from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata).
Talking to The News, Vice-Chancellor Dr Syed Tahir Shah said the university had hired a consultant for preparing a master plan and design for the university. “The consultant would design the community centre, different blocks and other projects,” he added.
Dr Tahir Shah said the Frontier Works Organisation (FWO) would start work on the project in 2017 after approval of the design by the government.
He said the Tribal Electric Supply Company would construct a dedicated feeder for the university while Pakistan Telecommunication Company would lay cables to its premises in Darra Adamkhel.
He added the government had approved a tubewell for the university while funds had been released for the projects.The vice-chancellor said that President of Pakistan Mamnoon Hussain had issued directives for making appointments on merit. “The President made it clear that it was a federal university and competent persons across the country should be recruited for it,” he added.
Vice-Chancellor Dr Tahir Shah explained that one professor, eight regular lecturers and five visiting lecturers had already been appointed while a selection committee had been constituted to recruit the administrative staff.
He pointed out that a selection board had been constituted to recruit senior officials and faculty members.He disclosed that students from Fata and also Hyderabad, Sindh, had got admission in the university. Meanwhile, the Registrar of the Fata University Tasbihullah and Controller of Examination Nasir Shah, have taken charge of their duties.
Silent revolution in education
By Atta-ur-RahmanDecember 29, 2021
As a result of numerous projects undertaken by the technology-driven Knowledge Economy Task Force set up by Prime Minister Imran Khan in early 2019 under his chairmanship, the landscape of higher education, science and technology are presently undergoing a major positive change.
There has been a huge 600 percent enhancement in the development budget of the Ministry of Science and Technology over the last three years and projects of over Rs100 billion have either been approved or are in the final phase of approval. I happen to be the vice-chairman of this task force and the members include the federal ministers of finance, planning, education, science & technology, and IT/Telecom.
The fact that the prime minister himself oversees the working of this critically important task force and personally intervenes if matters are blocked by the bureaucracy gives it the political clout needed to forge ahead quickly in our plans to change the strategic directions of Pakistan from a weak natural resource based economy to a powerful knowledge economy. It is only by doing so that we can unleash the creative talent of our real wealth, our youth, through investments in education, science, technology and innovation/entrepreneurship.
It was under the Musharraf regime that the nation witnessed the first major thrust forward in science and technology, when I succeeded in convincing Gen Musharraf that the future of this great nation lay in investments in higher education, science & technology, thereby paving the way for developing a strong knowledge economy. The result was a 6000 percent increase in the development budget for science when I was the federal minister of Science, IT/Telecom. Later, when I became the founding chairman of the Higher Education Commission, a similar budgetary enhancement was witnessed in the budget of the higher education sector.
The programmes launched during the first decade were largely focused on strengthening the scientific manpower of the country, strengthening social sciences and linking universities with industry. There was a complete transformation of the IT sector with thousands of the brightest young men and women being trained at PhD level in leading universities abroad, and over a hundred computer science departments being strengthened with faculty and facilities. The first IT policy and implementation strategy was approved under my leadership in August 2000 which laid the foundations of the development of this important sector.
There was razor-sharp focus on the quality of education in universities rather than numbers during that period with the top priority being given to high quality faculty development. About 11,000 students were sent abroad to leading universities in the US and Europe for PhD level training. To ensure their return, salaries of professors were increased under a new contractual salary structure so that they became four times the salaries of federal ministers. However, to ensure top quality, there were six international evaluations by foreign experts introduced to judge the quality and productivity of the research output of the persons appointed. Each student abroad was offered the opportunity to win research grants of up to $100,000 for which they could apply a year before their return.
The state of university libraries was pathetic before the formation of the HEC. A digital library was therefore created that provided free access to 65,000 textbooks and 25,000 international journals. The Pakistan Educational Research Network was established, connecting all universities with high speed internet access. All students returning after PhD degrees from abroad were guaranteed jobs in universities. These and a host of other measures resulted in an astonishing 97.5 percent return rate of scholars sent abroad.
Silent revolution in education
By Atta-ur-RahmanDecember 29, 2021
The state of university libraries was pathetic before the formation of the HEC. A digital library was therefore created that provided free access to 65,000 textbooks and 25,000 international journals. The Pakistan Educational Research Network was established, connecting all universities with high speed internet access. All students returning after PhD degrees from abroad were guaranteed jobs in universities. These and a host of other measures resulted in an astonishing 97.5 percent return rate of scholars sent abroad.
To boost the IT sector, I persuaded the CEO of Intel to join hands with Pakistan, with the result that some 220,000 school teachers were trained with funding from Intel in 70 districts of the country. To boost mobile telecommunications the ‘Calling Party Pays regime was introduced. Previously subscribers had to pay for receiving calls. The result was an explosive growth in the mobile phones sector from 200,000 phones in the year 2000, now to about 180 million phones. The internet was also rapidly spread across Pakistan and our first Satellite PakSat 1 placed in space, thereby securing the only slot available in space for this country.
The amazing progress made in a short period was applauded by the UN and other experts and Pakistan was considered a model for developing countries to follow. In an article, ‘Another BRIC in the Wall’, the world’s leading ranking agency Thomson Reuters applauded the quality of research publications that were being published in international journals as compared to the four BRIC countries – Brazil, Russia, India and China – and concluded that the highest percentage of good quality highly cited papers was from Pakistan as compared to the BRIC countries. Some pseudo experts have tried to downplay these developments by publicising that some 258 papers have been retracted over the last 20 years. However about 20,000 papers are published annually from Pakistan in international journals and retraction of a small fraction of 0.1-0.3 percent of these is normal and comparable to the retraction rate from other developing countries such as India.
A number of excellent foreign engineering universities are now being established in Pakistan through our efforts. The Pakistan Austrian University of Applied Science and Engineering started functioning last year in Haripur in collaboration with eight foreign universities from Austria and China. Two other similar foreign engineering universities are now being established in Sialkot and Islamabad in close collaboration with local industry to help develop a strong knowledge economy. The focus of these new universities is on the new and emerging technologies such as AI, robotics, industrial biotechnology, new materials, energy storage systems, minerals development, bullet train manufacture and advanced agriculture.
The exciting initiatives now introduced by the HEC after three years of stagnation include the magnification of research programmes to support bright young faculty, a huge Rs13 billion knowledge economy task force project to send our brightest students for doctoral level training abroad, introduction of blended education in universities so that excellent online courses are integrated into the teaching programmes and encouraging university-industry linkages so that focus can shift from basic research to industrial and agricultural research.
Thanks to Prime Minister Imran Khan, a silent revolution is underway. The declaration of a National Education Emergency is now under active consideration so that Pakistan can tap into its real wealth – the 67 percent of its young population below the age of 30.
The writer is chairman PM National Task Force on Science and Technology, former minister, and former founding chairman of the HEC.
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