President elect Joko Widodo recently spoke to the media about his plan to merge Research and Development (R&D) agencies in differing ministries into a new Ministry of Research and Higher Education (Link: Vivanews 16 September 2014).
His reason is clear- that is to improve efficiency, transparency and research impacts’ ‘measurability’.
He explained that at the moment each of these current R&D agencies have their own budgets but unfortunately their research findings have not been integrated and made transparent to public.
Jokowi therefore viewed that it is important to set up a new Ministry of Research and Higher Education which will not only improve the cost-effectiveness of research budgets but also make research more transparent and credible.
He emphasised that research impacts must be ‘measurable’.
This plan signals some challenges as well as opportunities. Whilst mergers will help Indonesia achieve economies of scale in R&D, the newly set-up Ministry is challenged to perform efficiently managing concentrated-budget and define and develop relationships with other stakeholders including universities and the existing Indonesian Institute of Science (LIPI) as well as wider research communities.
Also important is to make the research projects being conducted transparent and credible. This is a very positive initiative and crucial but the devil is in the detail. What would be the criteria of transparency and quality of research?; who would assess the criteria?; do we have a strategic pathway which consists of short-term as well as long-term programs and objectives so that we achieve our goals; what is our goal?; etc.
To address those issues, mergers might be one of the starting points but longer-term planning and capacity building programs should remain two of the focus programs.