Lincoln P. Edwards | Gov’t Must Assemble Key Research Institutions

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April 8, 2020

I am pleased that The Gleaner’s editorial of Monday, March 30, 2020, titled ‘Where’s the region’s COVID-19 research?’ has shed light once again on the importance of research to the development of any country. The editorial rightly pointed out that much more could be achieved by Jamaica and the region, if research becomes a way of life. In this regard, Jamaica could benefit from a study of successful research models in the United States (US) or elsewhere.

In research-intensive universities in the US, a faculty member is hired, given significant resources to equip a laboratory, and guaranteed a salary for three or four years. Their time is protected to be dedicated mainly to research by minimising their teaching or other involvement in non-research activities.

This level of focus has produced much research success, which is usually assessed by the number and quality of peer-reviewed publications and the acquisition of external funding. This model has resulted in millions of dollars from both public and private sources entering the universities. The salary savings plus the overhead payments are welcomed by universities.

One shortcoming of this model is that institutions without a robust research infrastructure (many historically black colleges) find it difficult to compete in an open process against those who do. This is because an important criterion in the selection process is the research environment.

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