The government has faced criticism from some scientists and lawmakers for a major restructuring plan that would combine several science and technology institutes into a single institution. This step is considered to be detrimental to research activities.
The policy will integrate dozens of science, technology and research institutions into the National Agency for Research and Innovation (BRIN). With this integration, the government hopes to increase its competitiveness as well as increase access to resources and finance.
“It is clear that Indonesian research is still far from the level reached even by neighboring countries,” said BRIN President Laksana Tri Handoko. Reuters.
“So now it’s very appropriate to take real action and change the situation.”
But some scientists and lawmakers warn that the change could increase bureaucracy, lead to potential layoffs of dozens of young scientists, and leave oversight of the institution in the hands of politicians.
The BRIN executive committee will be chaired by former president Megawati Sukarnoputri.
The restructuring also means that one of Indonesia’s leading scientific research organisations, namely the Eijkman Institute, will be merged into BRIN.
“Only a few are happy, most (Eijkman’s staff) are suffering,” said DPR member Gandung Pardiman.
Founded in 1882 by Dutch pathologist Christiaan Eijkman, who later won the Nobel Prize, the institute had been closed for decades. However, the institute reopened in the early 1990s.
“You can’t improve Indonesia’s scientific performance under a single superbody,” said Professor Sangkot Marzuki, who has led the institute for more than two decades.
“There is no other way because it will add to the bureaucracy, harming the work ecosystem and scientific work culture that has flourished at various institutions for decades,” he said.
Professor Amin Soebandrio, who chaired the institute until last year, said other concerns raised about restructuring include the risk of delays in vaccine development and genome sequencing, and the future of scientific independence.
“All scientists fear that scientific freedom will decline,” he said. [ah/ft]