Role of HEC in COVID-19 research

Higher Education Commission (HEC) has asked for proposals from universities, institutes, and individual researchers on “novel corona crisis.” The Commission intends to provide funds for quality research on the mutated virus under the World Bank Research and Innovative Fund (RRIF) Programme. It aims to mobalise research capabilities of universities in support of national efforts to address COVID-19 crisis. The kind of research that HEC apparently wants to be done requires rich knowledge and expertise of prolific researchers in Biochemistry and Microbiology whose research works have been published by topnotch international research journals such as ‘Nature’, Nature Medical and JAMA. On the contrary ground reality is very grim. None of the public sector and private universities have full-fledged Biochemistry and Microbiology Departments and labs equipped with state-of-the-art equipment. If for argument sake these facilities are established overnight then who will push the professorial lot to utilize them in order to keep such facilities sustainable in the long run. Ironically, the talented researchers, having a number of publications in topnotch international journals, have fled the county because of rampant nepotism in the corridors of universities. Alas! They were treated as social pariahs and discarded by so-called authentic syndicates of public sector universities during selection board for faculty positions. Moreover, inner-house politics amongst the faculty members have added insult to the injury. After the 18th Amendment to 1973 Constitution the monitoring role of HEC became from non-existent to null and void so far the utilisation of funds for research activities is concerned. As all public sector and private sector universities don’t have researchers of such caliber who are professionally competent enough to conduct quality research on COVID-19 and have access to high impact factor research journals for its publication. It is pertinent to mention that it was the same HEC which fixed the criteria of 10 category-Z research articles published in Pakistani journals of very low impact factor for appointment on faculty positions instead of 8 category-A research works which international journals had published. Instead of throwing once again money to the ocean by HEC, it is worthwhile to establish international level Virology Research labs in the country to bring back the researchers into the country that left for abroad being disillusioned by the culture of nepotism and lack of research infrastructure in government institutions.