The issue of funding remains a barrier in the effort to push for quality research in Indonesia. Therefore, organising a sustainable, autonomous and independent research funding is critical to address this issue.
This was the key message at an online discussion event as part of a book launch entitled “Developing the Organisation of Sustainable and Independent Research Funding: A Policy Study”, Thursday (14/5) in Jakarta. This event was organised by the Indonesian Young Academy of Sciences (ALMI), the Indonesian Academy of Sciences (AIPI), and The Conversation Indonesia, with the support of the Knowledge Sector Initiative. Speakers at this event were Minister of Research and Technology/Head of National Research and Innovation Agency (BRIN) Bambang Brodjonegoro, AIPI President Satryo Brodjonegoro, ALMI Secretary General Berry Juliandi and ALMI Communication Director Inaya Rakhmani. The Conversation Indonesia Executive Editor Prodita Sabarini acted as moderator.
During his presentation of the book, which was produced by ALMI, Berry Juliandi said that aside from the issue of low budget in research and development (R&D), there are six other problems related to Indonesia’s research funding. They include the disorganisation of data regarding national gross expenditure on R&D; the absence of clear mechanisms to measure the performance of research organisations; research funding mechanisms that follow the goods and services procurement system; the absence of an independent agency that focuses on funding R&D activities; as well as the low contribution of industries and the private sector in research funding. “To know how to solve these six problems, we studied the actual global practices and took examples from several developed countries,” he explained.
The study’s results about the organisation of research funding in several countries served as one of the bases to formulate the recommendations in this book. Two sources of research funding were discussed, namely, the endowment fund and sovereign wealth fund (SWF), or special investment funds controlled by the government or an agency for the medium and long-term asset management. “Sovereign wealth fund and endowment fund have different investment and different benefits. Which one to choose, that would depend on our nation’s characteristics,” added Berry.
Inaya Rakhmani continued the elaboration by explaining the recommendations related to the management of research funding. Among them is the need to separate the organisation which manages investment and disburses benefits. Other than that, recommendations for the organisational scheme and structure of endowment fund and SWF were given.
Minister of Research and Technology/Head of National Research and Innovation Agency (BRIN) Bambang Brodjonegoro appreciated the study. He thinks that research funding is a very important but often ignored topic as it is assumed to already be funded by the state. Whereas in fact, in advanced economies that have benefitted from science, technology and innovation, the capacity to fund research does not only depend on state allocation, but also the capacity to downstream research findings by involving the private sector.
He emphasised the importance of research for the economy. In that, there needs to be efforts to push for research with actual societal impact, including appropriate-use technologies and innovation, creation of the highest possible added value, as well as import substitution and increasing local content with local innovations. “With these three objectives, research and innovation activities in Indonesia requires serious funding,” he said.
He explained, the percentage of Indonesia’s research funding per gross domestic product (GDP) today is still low, at around 0,25 percent, and 80 percent of this is government funding. Therefore, it is also important to push the role of the private sector.
Regarding endowment fund for research budgeted for 2019, the emergency situation of Covid-19 has resulted in budget cuts, which could also mean cuts in the endowment funding. As for its management, the endowment fund is currently managed by the Indonesia Endowment Fund for Education (LPDP) under the auspices of the Ministry of Finance. Should endowment funding be secured, the plan is to manage the funding through a Public Service Agency (BLU) under the Ministry of Research and Technology. The purpose is to support the operation of the Indonesian Science Fund (DIPI) as an independent research funding agency, as well as to invest in research downstreaming. Such investments are expected to stimulate the private sector to be involved in research downstreaming.
AIPI President Satryo Bordjonegoro said that coming up with a funding scheme that is able to address research needs as well as align with the state’s finance management format is no easy task. One of the reasons is that the current working finance system does not align with research characteristics that requires flexibility. As such, the recommendations proposed in the book are the best scheme for now. “What is delivered in the book is optimal, so I hope it can be implemented swiftly,” he said.
Regarding the need to have a research funding management agency, he emphasised the principle of independence. Independence is the departure point in pursuing good research. To ensure that, research funding must be independent and must come from an independent agency. “Advanced research is one that puts independence ahead of vested interests,” he asserted.
KSI Support for Sustainable Research Funding
In the last five years, KSI partnered with AIPI and ALMI to support the realisation of a better research ecosystem. Aligning with this vision, KSI provides technical support for this policy study which was completed early 2020. Although it is not the only enabling factor for good research, sustainable and independent funding is one of the keys to improve the research ecosystem.
Furthermore, KSI has similar hopes with AIPI and ALMI, namely to realise better lives for Indonesians through research and science-based policies.
Looking forward, research is not only used to answer current challenges but also to anticipate future issues. Good research requires human resource that is able to think critically.
Indonesia’s aspirations to achieve scientific excellence will only happen if scientists are able to create and invent outside of the norm which needs to be supported with more flexible research funding that prioritises impact and utility.