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Dr Zainal Ariffin Ahmad FASc conducted a Fellows’ Lecture titled Malaysian Nobelist Mindset 2030: Challenges and Opportunities on 18 October 2018 at ASM.
The lecture reflected upon how the Nobelist Mindset can be institutionalised to build capacity and nurture current and future researchers, scientists, engineers (RSE) and technologists for Malaysia 2030.
In his lecture, Dr Zainal asked the audience to ponder upon three reflections: “Who We Are”, “Where We Have Been”, and “What Do We Need To Do”.
In “Who We Are”, he presented the people analytics of the Nobel Laureates, providing statistical information about the Nobel Prize recipients since its inception.
From an overview of the overall prize winners, Dr Zainal went in-depth by providing more facts and figures based on each field that the Nobel Prize: Physics, Chemistry, Physiology/Medicine, as well as Economics and Literature and Peace.
The second reflection “Where We Have Been” highlighted the past achievements that Malaysia has in terms of institutionalising the Nobelist Mindset, through several programmes that reached various levels of the community.
The Academy helmed the National Nobel Laureate Programme, which features various programmes designed to propagate the Nobelist Mindset among Malaysians.
Among the programmes include public lectures, scientific discourses and science motivation sessions by Nobel Laureates, as well as facilitation of collaboration in research and STI human capital development with renowned centres of excellence and STI instituions worldwide.
The third reflection posed to the audience was “What Do We Need to Do”. Dr Zainal explained that despite being naturally gifted scientists, Nobel Laureates are mainly driven by a specific mindset with characteristic in three main areas: persistence in the face of scepticism, seeing connections between ideas that others don’t recognise and creativity.
Many of these skills can be taught in a way that shifts the way a scientist thinks about their work, organise their research and plan their career to put them in the Nobelist Mindset.
He mentioned current on-going initiatives by ASM, such as the annual National Science Challenge and the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting, which foster excellence in secondary school students and young scientists, respectively.
To pave the way forward, Dr Zainal proposed a few suggestions on how the Nobelist Mindset can be institutionalised in the country, with the cooperation and contribution of all stakeholders.
Individual researchers, scientists & academics should actively seek ways on how the Nobelist Mindset could assist them in their scientific endeavours.
The wisdom and knowledge of ASM Fellows can be tapped to make the Nobelist Mindset commonplace in our institutions.
National policies can be formulated to empower scientific pursuits – policies and/or tax incentives can be set up to increase number of researchers, as well as encouraging the amount of researchers working in business enterprises.
Business enterprises should not shy away from hiring scientists and researchers to develop their businesses – businesses stand to gain profit and drive innovation from this. More than 50% of researchers in top innovative economies work for the industry; Malaysia should seek to match or even surpass this figure to drive the nation’s economic expansion.
For government research institutions, more efforts should be directed towards R&D. An internal study by EPU in 2017 on the National Public Research Institutes, researchers in government research institutions are more focused on administrative tasks rather than research. Setting the right KPI to ensure 70% of a researcher’s time is utilised on research should be the way forward.