Pro Vice Chancellor and Dean of Graduate Studies and Research at the University of the West Indies (UWI) Mona, Professor Errol Morrison has said that a research consortium, consisting of four major tertiary institutions and one research institution, aimed at prioritizing the research portfolio mainly in the areas of health, culture and the environment, was recently established in Jamaica. The institutions include, the University of Technology (Utech), the Northern Caribbean University (NCU), the UWI, Mona, the Institute of Management Studies and Production (IMS/P) and the Scientific Research Council (SRC).
“The consortium have been looking at how we can prioritize the research portfolio, and have identified the areas of health, the environment and culture as some main areas of thrust, notwithstanding the support for individual curiosity driven research, needs related research and sponsored research,” he said.
He also stated that given the limitation of money and the lack of critical mass of research-minded persons to carry the whole portfolio forward, the need for prioritization was key.
Professor Morrison was speaking at the University of Technology’s (UTech) inaugural Research and Technology Day at the institution on Tuesday, March 18. The UWI Professor also told the gathering that a Caribbean Regional Research Funding Agency has been developed to provide funding to drive research projects within the region.
“My colleague at the UWI, Professor Wayne Hunte, has been mandated to develop a Caribbean Regional Research Funding Agency whose development would be to provide funding that can drive research project that may emanate from any organization within the Caribbean,” he said, adding that the Agency had already received an initial seed money from the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) in the amount of US$1 million to get it going. The agency, he noted, has also received the blessings of CARICOM.
This agency, he continued, would begin the process of helping to solve the problems of funding constraints, which limit our research endeavour. Citing the lack of personnel as another factor limiting research, Professor Morrison stated “we need to recognize the importance of alliances, collaboration and networking within our national boundaries; within the region and networking with centers of excellence.” In reflecting on his years of research, he observed that during the early days the focus was on unearthing natural products with pharmaceutical potential.
Professor Morrison however, lamented the lack of extensive research into “our sports and popular music.” pointing out that the most sophisticated graduate programmes and research in our reggae music today, were to be found in Japan. “When you look at the potential of sports and the business of sports, we have yet to tap that potential and we are in the position where per capita, we in Jamaica can boast some of the greatest successes in athletics, netball, cricket, basket ball and to a lesser extent soccer. Yet it took an American-based university to start a cricket academy in Grenada,” he said.
“It also took us four years to establish a meaningful relationship between the University of the West Indies and the G. C. Foster College of Physical Education and Sports, meanwhile our talents continue to migrate,” he noted.
The Professor charged that, “we are not only failing our region but we are failing our young people and the potential that we could harness for the development within our country.” Turning to tourism and hospitality, Professor Morrison said these areas had been touted as having the greatest potential for short-term returns on investment, yet the country’s tertiary institutions, universities and research institutions “have been backward in coming forward, with good graduate programmes and research initiatives which can inform policy and promote the progress that we need in those areas”. He congratulated President Davis and UTech, stating that “because in his guidance and focus on culture, with all his inherent spin-offs for the sports the tourism the environment, it is clear that here is a Caribbean man with his pulse on the needs of the nation and of the region.”