The members of the National Assembly and the officials of the Royal University of Bhutan (RUB) on April 29 in Thimphu underscored the need to establish an apex research body with a mandate to provide approval for research activities in Bhutan.

RUB’s Vice Chancellor, Nidup Dorji, said that there was a need to invest in research projects, as government decisions must be taken based on evidence.

He suggested basic research training for research assistants of the Parliament. Training research assistants, he said, would help MPs get better and clearer data for deliberations and decision-making.

“Countries and companies that have done well have always given priority to research, not only to establish evidence, but also to push boundaries further to bring about progress,” Nidup Dorji said.

He said that it was time for the RUB to think how it could do things differently to fulfill its responsibility with renewed purpose as a university.

“We need to get the support of organisations and decision-makers to move forward,” Nidup Dorji said.  “For historical reasons and because of the ways in which we have evolved, we have been a teaching and learning university with very little research and innovation.”

In the last few years, RUB has tried to institute a vibrant research culture in the university, he added. “However, we have realised that we alone cannot undertake research projects.”

Researcher with RUB, Dr Phangchung, shared with the MPs the issues facing research initiatives in the country.

He said that although research activities were being taken by various agencies, data were not used adequately in the legislative process and decision-making process and that research and development division in the agencies was encouraging development, however.

But then, he questioned:  “Who gives us the ethical clearance? When we don’t have a national research authority, we could be losing national priorities along the way.”

Dr Phangchung also said that most of the research projects were duplication of the work already done and suggested legislation to encourage research culture in the country.

Financial support for research, or the lack of it, was the problem, he added. He said that countries like Thailand and South Korea kept aside between 2 and 4 percent of their GDP as research fund.

The meeting was organised upon National Assembly’s initiative. The MP also interacted with representatives of Civil Society Organisations.

MB Subba