Funds crunch hits Pakistan’s surge in nanotech research
[KARACHI] Nanotechnology research in Pakistan, which had shown a trend of higher publication numbers over the last decade, has suffered from the country’s present financial crisis, a study said.
In 2008 the government did not extend the term of the National Commission for Nanoscience and Technology, initially set up in 2003 for three years and later extended for two more years.
The study, published online on 29 March in Scientometrics, said research publications in the field had grown from seven in 2000 to an impressive 542 papers in 2011, registering a 29 per cent annual growth rate.
This is higher than the average annual growth rate of 23 per cent registered globally, said Rizwan Sarwar Bajwa, research associate at the Preston Institute of Nanoscience and Technology in Islamabad who, together with his colleague Khwaja Yaldram, had carried out the study.
Much of the contribution came from 13 universities while only two state-owned research and development institutions in the country participated in nanoscience and nanotechnology research.
The study attributed the spurt in research and publications to heavy government spending on manpower training and procuring the latest equipment for laboratories working in the field.
"Unfortunately, the present financial crunch faced by the country could have a negative impact on the progress achieved so far," the study concluded.
"The publication shows that despite availability of funding, the research and development institutes contributed very little in the field of nanoscience and nanotechnology," Bajwa, lead author of the study, told SciDev.Net.
If developing countries such as Pakistan do not engage in basic research in nanoscience, they will end up as consumers of hi-tech products from other countries, he said.
Pervez Hoodbhoy, professor of physics at Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad, observed that higher publication numbers are not a true indicator of progress in a field.
"A better indicator is citations. But, if self-citations are removed the numbers will collapse," Hoodbhoy said.
"Another metric of progress could be the creation of nanodevices and their commercial production. In the absence of such steps, it is not clear what is being achieved by the mass production of papers," added Hoodbhoy.
Bajwa attributed the country’s few patents in the field to a dearth of funds for research, due to which many scientists confine themselves to teaching.