ASK AND YOU SHALL ADVANCE




By Akin Ojumu

All human advancements start with a thought. The road to a better society begins with a mustard seed of idea that, when properly watered and nurtured, grows to become a forest of innovation. Ideas become life transforming innovations when people are free to ask questions and bold enough to challenge assumptions. No one ever moves forward by standing on the same spot. Inventions don’t happen until the status quo is made subject to thoughtful examination and critical investigation. The people that make discoveries are the ones who ask questions and make inquiries.

This process of probing realities and questioning certainties is what is called research.

In broad terms, research is, according to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, investigation or experimentation aimed at the discovery and interpretation of facts, revision of accepted theories or laws in the light of new facts, or practical application of such new or revised theories or laws.”

There is no facet of human existence that cannot be improved upon when creative people think through issues critically, ask probing questions limitlessly, and offer creative solutions effortlessly. Life-saving discoveries such as penicillin and Vitamin C have prolonged lives and improved quality of lives for many people. Improved processes and procedures, achieved through research, have resulted in better banking experience. The nightmare of road congestions and road accidents have been cut down precipitously in societies where concerned citizens have put on their thinking caps and found creative solutions through research. Many more productive lives can be added to a society’s workforce, when improvements are made to the work environment. The GDP of developed nations is directly linked to the vibrancy of the nations’ research engine.

Biomedical research, for instance, is nothing more than seeking a fundamental knowledge about the nature and behavior of living systems and the application of that knowledge to extend healthy lives and to reduce the burdens of illness and disability. The world is a much older place, with much longer life expectancy, all because of biomedical research.

Nigeria is an untapped goldmine of research questions and research data.

Rigorous, sound, and ethical scientific research is critical to improving the quality of lives of Nigerians. Unfortunately, very few Nigerian scientific/medical professionals are engaged in research. The excuse, people throw at you, is the lack of research funds. This, to me, is a bogus argument. The problem, as I see it, is that Nigerians don’t realize that there cannot be any advancement without research. This ignorance has perpetuated an academic environment devoid of a culture of research. The lack of research culture has translated into dearth of research infrastructure.

In order to address this, the following are some of the things that MUST happen:

Acknowledge
o   The Nigerian medical/scientific professionals must acknowledge that research is important and vital to human existence
o   The Nigerian Government must understand that nations only develop on the backbone of rigorous and vibrant research and a rich culture of research fundamental to national interest
o   Both the government and medical/scientific community must accept that the culture of research is lacking in the country

Educate
o   Incorporate research training into the academic curriculum at all levels of education (primary, secondary, and tertiary)
o   Incentivize active research and publications in quality relevant journals by academicians
o   De-emphasize academic instructions that are based rote learning from outdated textbooks and emphasize the teaching of original ideas and concepts that are output of research activities
o   Partner with international research institutions and organizations to acquire the necessary skills and expertise, and also for exchange and transfer of knowledge

Think
o   The Nigerian medical/scientific professionals must learn to develop and design innovative and novel research ideas and questions
o   They must write up the research ideas and questions and submit such as research concepts and research proposals
o   The Nigerian research professionals must publish research data and results in reputable journals and present at scientific fora

Commit
o   The Nigerian medical/scientific professionals must learn to seek research funds from sources within and outside the country
o   The Nigerian government, private organizations, etc. must show their commitment to scientific research by providing the necessary funds and the infrastructures to conduct the research
o   Academic institutions must be willing to fund participation of their staff at the research conferences
o   Relevant public and institutions e.g. think-tanks, institutes, centers, must be established to foster innovate and creative thinking and deliberations

Research is an ever-continuous endeavor, without a beginning or an ending. If Nigeria must advance, we must continuously think, ask and act. If we don’t, the rest of the world will leave us behind.

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