Friday, July 1, 2022

Stakeholders develop Manual for Botswana Research Fund

Stakeholders on Thursday convened at the University of Botswana’s Centre for Continuing Education (CCE) to develop an operational manual for the Botswana research Fund. The Department of Research, Science and Technology (DRST) organized the event.

Welcoming participants, the Department’s Director, Lesego Motoma, informed them that the first policy on National Research, Development and innovation was drafted in 1998. They then did not have a ministry, an issue that led to take-off failure. The same year Batswana researchers had alluded to the issue of having a Science Research Fund. A study was subsequently conducted to establish whether there was need to invest on research. It concluded that there was need.

She further explained that both national Vision 2016 and National Development Plan (NDP) 10 recommended two percent investment on development of a national science research. A final report on Botswana national research, science and technology plan was released in 2005.

In 2011, the Cabinet adopted policy on research, science technology and innovation. It was launched in 2012.

“Now it is time for implementation with all stakeholders. Structures are needed for coordination. The structures envisaged in the 2011 National Research Science Technology and Innovation Policy are the Coordinating Council; the Directorate of research, science and technology and the national research fund,” said Motoma. “The Ministry of Infrastructure, Science and Technology has started the process of establishing these structures. The Ministry, through the DRST is seeking to develop a holistic and better integrated approach to funding scientific research, development and innovation.”

She added: “The Ministry has partnered with the World Bank to develop the Operational Manual for the Botswana National Research Fund .As a process this workshop has been arranged to discuss the stakeholder expectations of how the fund should operate in order to maximize benefit to the research efforts that will yield tangible products and services.”

After that, Dr.Buzanani Tacheba presented on Botswana Innovation Hub – giving an overview of its current status and the services its P340m state of the art building will provide, a member of World Bank team led proceedings. Esperenza Lasagabaster chaired discussions on expectations of broad programmes of the fund and expectations of broad programmes and operations.

Dr. Marape Marape, Director of Research at Baylor-Botswana, pointed out the fact that local Researchers are inexperienced, something that finds more research funds being granted foreign researchers who operate from this country. Therefore, there is need for the training of researchers. The envisaged Fund should cater for this. He said there were no forums locally where they discuss their projects. This in turn has led to researchers doing same things at the same time.

“We have to compete with seasoned western researchers. But we have laboratories that are often down, forcing us to take our samples overseas. This should be addressed,” said Marape. “There is no guide as to what research priorities Botswana needs as a country. This leads to researchers doing small researches that ultimately benefit them as their CVs are uplifted, but with little impact on the masses.”

The Deputy Director-Research, UB, Dr. Jose Jackson- Malete said there was a problem of UB funding whose ceiling is P200, 000-a very small amount for national researches meant to address such issues as food security.

Mmolotsi Pule, a local inventor, bemoaned the fact that funds from initiatives like alcohol levy are denied private companies who have the expertise to bring about solutions. This shortfall, he said, has cost government.

“When we first, proposed the government was paying P70m as compensation, but the government is paying out P104m as compensation,” he said.

The workshop decided that such shortfalls should be used as challenges that the envisaged fund is expected to help address. The plight of special education students should be taken on board with view to reduce the current vast amounts of money used to sponsor such students when they are sent abroad.

It was evident that each of these cost government four times the amount of one student not under special education. It was imperative that the fund helps ensure special students are educated home.
For dissemination of information the fund was envisaged to sponsor journals as the country does not have scientific publications. Giving incentives to achievers for their efforts was proposed to ensure motivation. Consideration of assessment, evaluation and accountability on use of funds were mentioned as integral parts of utilizing the Fund. Regular meetings would be held for interaction by stakeholders.

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