Honourable Dr Mahendra Reddy, Fiji’s Minister for Education, Heritage and Arts and National Archives launches the SRT project.
Fiji’s Minister for Education, Heritage and Arts and National Archives of Fiji Honourable Dr Mahendra Reddy officially launched The University of the South Pacific’s (USP) 2016 Strategic Research Themes project at the Laucala campus on 29 August 2016.
The launch was attended by the Permanent Secretary for Fisheries Samuela Lagataki and senior Fiji Government officials, USP’s Senior Management Team, local and overseas researchers, staff, students and members of the public.
In his keynote address, Dr Reddy commended USP for undertaking research as one of its major priorities.
“Research is an aspect of education which is critical for the growth and development of any society. Countries that do not engage in research will remain stagnant as it is research that expands one’s knowledge in a whole range of areas,” he said.
Professor Rajesh Chandra, Vice-Chancellor and President of USP hands over the Hammerhead Sharks Report to Mr Samuela Lagataki, Permanent Secretary for Fisheries.
“Other countries and small island states in particular, that do no invest in research, are really lagging behind. When it comes to education, we need to have that cadre of people who are thinkers and can contribute to research - pushing the frontier and expanding boundaries,” he noted.
Dr Reddy mentioned that USP has identified themes which are apt to the present day demands and they are:
• Economic Growth, Regional Cooperation & Integration for Sustainable Pacific Economies;
• Environment, Sustainable Development & Climate Change;
• Government, Public Policy & Social Cohesion;
• Human Capacity Building & Leadership;
• ICT & Knowledge Economy;
• Pacific Cultures & Societies; and
• Pacific Ocean & Natural Resources.
“These Strategic Research Themes are important to the region now and more importantly, for the future,” Dr Reddy noted.
He highlighted that in the past year, USP had approved a total of 30 SRT projects worth $1.5m and 51 per cent of these projects are in collaboration with Government, NGOs, institutions and other organisations.
“This is a very important strategy because research needs to be relevant to what is happening in the local industry. A very important aspect of universities is to try and establish this connection,” he stated.
He noted that research should not be biased or focused on to undermining the system with ones preconceived ideas but be objective, rely on actual findings and contribute to positive use.
“This is an area in which we are undertaking reforms in all aspects of public sector governance and service delivery,” he added.
Dr Reddy also suggested that the University consider having quarterly meetings with Government to bridge research and policy where Directors, Permanent Secretaries and other senior Government officials could listen to presentation of findings and brief Government later.
“We in Government do not have the capacity to do research and we rely on researchers for information,” he added.
Professor Rajesh Chandra, Vice-Chancellor and President said the fact that the Minister for Education is a researcher himself, is an opportunity for USP to develop a very strong partnership with the Government and the national system.
He confirmed that the projects are being funded at $1.5million.
“The success of the SRTs is that we have required our research leaders to engage with the Government, funding agencies and some of the best researchers in the world so that we can gauge what their priorities are. This is the age of engagement, partnership and network,” he noted.
According to Professor Chandra, the Pacific, and in particular Fiji is setting high ambitions for itself and this requires good research and development, active dissemination and the conversion of knowledge into goods and services that can propel the economy to be productive.
“That is a very important part of why we are prioritising research. It is a natural progression for USP to be a teaching University and as we go on, we want to see a significant amount of research,” Professor Chandra said.
A highlight of the event was the official handing over of a Hammerhead Sharks Report to the Ministry of Fisheries and Forests, which features the Rewa Delta as the largest scalloped hammerhead shark nursery area ever documented on earth.
The report, which was compiled by the team of researchers led by Head of the School of Marine Studies Professor Ciro Rico, offers a number of recommendations to the Ministry of Fisheries and Forests in order to protect this ecologically important area for scalloped hammerhead sharks.
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