Sunday, December 19, 2010

On the Distinguished Professors

1. Last week for the first time in Malaysian educational history the Ministry of Higher Education launched and awarded the Distinguished Professors to three eminent scholars in the field of Humanities, Social Science and Medicine. In today's NST these three personalities were highlighted. Prof. Tan Sri Dr. Mohd. Kamal Hassan (UIA) is no stranger to all of us as he is ex-UKM and a Muslim scholar and philosopher as well as ex-UIA Rector. Prof. Datuk Dr. Shamsul Amri Baharuddin is an icon at UKM, an eminent socio-anthropologist, Deputy Chairman of National Professors Council and Director of Institute of Ethnic Studies at UKM; and Prof. Dr. Looi Lai-Meng is a medical pathologist from UM and a Senior Fellow of Academy of Sciences Malaysia.

2. It is in fact a promotion for these VK5 professors as they are now on Staff 3 and with a $300K research grant, this award augurs very well for the under-rated intellectuals. After all there are just over 1500 professors in Malaysia and only 3 are promoted to staff 3. If one think of the other civil servants in the government sectors there are dozens of staff 3 to staff 1 officers.

3. These professors are entrusted to teach students so that they become civil servants; supervise post-graduate students so that they possess MS and PhD key criteria for their promotions; carry out research in their fields of choice though the civil servants again decide on their research grants; publish articles in peer-reviewed journals locally and internationally; and they also served the communities at large in their own ways. These are intellectual ironies and great illusions!

4. However, when I read the NST today I sensed something different. The Minister and Ministry of Higher Education are looking for professors who don't do the basic teaching, supervising, researching and publishing anymore but they are looking for professors who are able to translate their past glories into government policies and direct and indirect community intellectual benefits (e.g. Sarong Index). And very few could fit into that. That reminds me of the awarding of research grants that promises products that benefits the foreign exchange in the shortest possible time.

5. I wish the Distinguished Professors many congratulations and the aspiring ones good luch for 2011.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Imbak Canyon Scientific Expedition 2010

1. This year the Academy of Sciences Malaysia (ASM) jointly with Sabah Foundation (YS) organised a 11-day expedition to yet another pristine conservation area of Sabah Foundation at Imbak Canyon. With the supports of more tha 100 reseachers from various institutions such as USM, UM, UiTM, UPM, UNIMAS, UMS and UKM; PERHILITAN, Sabah Parks, Forestry Department Sabah, Sabah Wildlife Department etc etc.

2. The activity started off with a cocktail reception at Yayasan Sabah library on the evening of 25th November, followed by signing of MoU between ASM (reprented by YBhg Dato Zaidee Laidin & Dr. Shukri) and YS (represented by YBhg Tan Sri Khalil & Dr. Waidi), launching of Maliau book and a flag-off of the expedition by YB Datuk Marsidi, the Minister of Environment and Tourism Sabah.

3. We spent the night of 26th at Camp Tampoi and managed to watch the end events of Asian Games. On the morning of 27th the participants walked from the send-off point to Camp Kuli, the expedition base camp. The time taken by them varies from ca. 1 hr by Prof. Emer. Dato' Ikram to 4 hrs by Prof. Dato' Laily. Of course the young porters ran in with heavy luggage on their backs.

4. From the afternoon of 27th till the evening of 5th December the participants walked the trails, observed and captured all kinds of flora and fauna. The expedition is divided into (a) Physical landscape & Geology, (b) Water quality and aquatic life, (c) Flora, (d) Fauna, (e) Tourism and (f) Local communities., aspects hoping to cover every disciplines that are significant to conservation of Imbak Canyon.

5. Many new discoveries and plenty of new knowledge had been generated over the periods that will be discussed in February 2011, possibly at Kota Kinabalu. To recap a few reports; a total of 31 species of odonates, 27 species of freshwater fishes, many collections of mosses, ferns and higher plants were made; many collections of beetles, birds, small mammals etc were made. The geological aspects were mapped, water quality is Class 1. Don't let me preempt the findings!