Former Head of the Department of Mathematics, University of Ibadan, Professor Ezekiel Ayoola has refuted the claim made by the Executive Secretary of Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund), Prof Suleiman Elias Bogoro who stated that 80% of Nigerian Professors cannot write fundable research proposals, saying that such submission needs further scrutiny and analysis.
Bogoro had earlier expressed dismay over the inability of most Nigerian professors, saying N10million has been set aside to train them on proposal writing.
He further explained that the N10 million will be made available to vice-chancellors and provosts to create a week-long training to improve the capacities of researchers in proposal writing.
Bogoro also lamented that the senior acdemics can’t access global grants for impactful research due to poor quality of research proposal, adding that in spite of the growing number of Nigerian professors to about 8000, he is worried that many have low capacity to write a fundable research proposal.
Ayoola, who reacted in a statement made available to NEWSBREAKNG during the weekend, argued that “the claim may not be true in general”.
Giving reasons, Ayoola asserted that there are many professors in Nigeria that are competent on proposal writing, save for bad policies and corruption inherent in the administration of research funds in Nigeria when compared with what is obtainable in other civilized nations.
While explaining that it’s a sad development, he maintained that “Many of our colleagues upon leaving the country for advanced nations are able to win research grants almost immediately because of transparent system in place and abundant opportunities in those lands.
According to him: “I can give dozen of examples of such people and former students from my department here in University of Ibadan. We are definitely in a terrible mess in every area of our life in this country. Over centralisation of policy and decision making are really killing us in Nigeria. When some political appointees take upon themselves the wisdom to bash all professors without exception and without looking at the shortcomings in the system, it’s only God that can rescue us.
“I dont know the type of contributions or reactions by those that attended the meeting where the TETFund Director made his sweeping claims about majority of Nigerian professors.
“All over the world, research administration is decentralised into units according to professions and areas of specializations and further subdivided again into smaller units for effective and efficient management and assessment of proposals.
“It’s only here that you will find social scientists and people in humanities that will sit on assessment panels for sciences and applied sciences and vice versa because of their connections with the powers that be and conclude that many proposals are not viable, a kind of predetermined decisions due to some political and selfish considerations”.
While emphasising that round pegs should not be put into square holes, he said: “Non experts in a certain field cannot understand research proposals and potentials in areas alien to their specialization, and it’s often a gimmick to continue to hold the Tetfund funds in bondage for whatever reasons”.
Ayoola however called on Academic Staff Union of Universities ASUU to take serious interest in the disbursement of the funds for research and development, adding that the template of the US science research foundation which are of diverse areas, be it applied or basic sciences or medicine, should be embraced.
“There should also be Allocation of research funds to each area of specialization, but this is not known to the best of my knowledge in Nigeria”, he said.
Adding, He said: “Whatever is given out as research funds comes from a common pool, the total amount is kept secret. They only talk about percentages of failures and successes of proposals as if we are all robots. This is a primitive practice alien to modern world. We should be able to have information about Tetfund budget and allocations to diverse areas in a transparent manner and the basis for such allocations should be open to all. This way, some basic sciences and hardship areas that may not be in application immediately will also be funded”.
He concluded that: “This will be good for the overall development of the body of knowledge which is one. Afterall global ranking of our universities is independent of any particular research area. For example pure Mathematics areas that will not attract any funding from Tetfund here in Nigeria are regularly funded in the US. Policies of insisting on some thematic areas that exclude other researchers are also problems. And more often than not, these are areas where there are off the shelf results that are not new but need committed people to apply”. We should be able to compete with the rest of the world in research and shaming our racist detractors.
Continuing, Professor Ayoola opined that it’s an insult to say that majority of Nigerian professors cannot write meaningful proposal, adding that “this insult must stop”.
In the same development, He argued that at the present level of our national experience, we should by now have research agenda and plans that do not exclude any discipline, especially in the sciences, engineering and medicine, indeed in all STEM subjects as serious nations do all over the world.
He however tasked the Tetfund and the Ministry of Education to put in place mechanism by which any submitted proposal are further analysed by experts and match relevant ones together, improve upon them for further deliberations and considerations even after the calls are over.
Ayoola identified the need to encourage researchers through openness and accountability in research fund management, recommending that thematic areas must stop.
He also advised that researchers should be free to submit proposal in any area of research in line with our much cherished academic freedom, saying: “that’s how the nation can make progress and attract international recognition”.