Sun | Feb 18, 2018

Letter of the Day | Poor scientific research culture hurting Jamaica

Published:Thursday | November 24, 2016 | 12:00 AM


I write this letter with immense concern, as one of many Jamaicans with a scientific background who have left Jamaica to pursue scientific opportunities overseas.

Jamaica is the place to be for tourism, business prospects, magnificent food and culture. However, it is far from the place to be for scientific research opportunities. The statement made by the Minister Dr Andrew Wheatley that "Jamaica is not lagging behind in science research" in the Gleaner November 7, 2016 issue, is debatable. The large scale investment in scientific research locally is lacking. Jamaica has a poor scientific research culture.

The evidence that scientific research and research culture is a dismal reality in Jamaica, is the mass migration of Jamaicans of scientific backgrounds to first world countries. We encourage our students in high school to do science, but where are the research opportunities in Jamaica when they grow up? Let us not lie anymore to our students! Do we even remember how many students graduate from the high school or university with a scientific background alone? All these brilliant minds with immense potential eventually wake up from this illusion. They switch focus and pursue non-scientific fields. Can you blame them?

We should know that scientists from different universities and agencies need funding to keep their research facilities running. Our Jamaican scientists are passionate about science but become very discouraged. Without funding, they can't do research or publish. Jamaicans are known for ingenuity and creativity. So, innovative minds are in abundance in Jamaica. There is not enough funding, or specialised equipment for these innovative minds to do impacting research.


Something for something


Some businesses from the private sector will not invest in scientific research, unless they are certain of a good return. When it comes to technological advances, in the area of information technology, Jamaicans are quite technologically savvy, and this has been invested in. Pharmaceutical research is one of many research areas that is currently being looked on. The field of agriculture has yet to meet its potential. Do we remember about other applied areas of research? We have a lot more to do in medical research, environmental studies, biotechnology as well as the chemical sciences. And not to be forgotten, forensic science; a field that Jamaica want to capitalise on. We can even do wonders in the field of nanotechnology, as that is a hot area of research worldwide. Jamaica can capitalise on these potential areas.

We also claim to be the best in any field we pursue, but we have a far way to go to even do scientific research on a first world level in Jamaica.

I am glad that Dr Wheatley is aware that we cannot have national development without scientific research. But he is only one man. Let us hope that the private sector, and other sectors will assist with him in his pursuits. Investing in scientific research can promote economic growth and job creation. If there is more investment in research locally that would make scientific research be more attractive and businesses and agencies from different areas of the world would want to come to Jamaica just for research. A lot more collaborations with universities at the local level can be done, and also with Jamaican universities being linked to more universities around the world.

It is time for Jamaicans of various scientific backgrounds, both locally and abroad, to break the silence after being ignored for so long. There is a lot more that can be done in scientific research in Jamaica, and the scientific research culture needs to change.

Ainsely Lewis

Graduate student

Trent School of the Environment

Trent University