The Theme for The Mico University College Research Day March 20, 2013, is “Institution Building through Research: Responses in a Time of Crisis”. One variation on the Theme is that building institutional research capacity is one of the most appropriate responses in times of crisis. However, a very common response in times of crisis is to raid what research that exists to seek to find possible answers concerning both pressing problems and possible directions. However, if there were no previous investment and support for research that anticipated the issues related to the crisis prior to the occurrence of crisis, then there will be little or no relevant and appropriate research to provide answers or to give guidance with respect to possible directions.
The genesis of all research is the curious or contrarian impetus of some individual who is not satisfied with conventional explanations or is attracted by unusual occurrences, and wonder why? A very common stimulus for such impetus is an academic necessity in the form of requirements for the award of some degree. It is these reasons that the basic elements of research is most often found in colleges and universities offering graduate degrees.
Building research capacity, however, means going beyond research that can be done by students or the isolated individual efforts of some academic staff within the academy. Elements of research capacity consist of facilities, conditions of employment that mandates research, allocation of resources including time to carry out research and working relationships with colleague researchers.
Research is about knowledge generation. All knowledge is generated in a particular context and therefore carries with it at least trimmings and trappings of the culture of that context and the angle of the researchers who generated it. Jamaica and the Caribbean have a long history of adopting and adapting knowledge generated from research done elsewhere. The first semblance of any institutional capacity to do research in the Caribbean was the West Indian Agricultural College founded by the British Government in Trinidad in 1921. However, the game changer in establishing indigenous research capacity in the Caribbean was in 1948 with the founding of the University College of the West Indies.
In the second decade of the twenty-first century, the challenge for the Mico University College, and like tertiary institutions in Jamaica and across the region, is how to build research capacity within the context of scarce resources, expanding enrolments and the imperative to generate knowledge critical to our survival and prosperity in the emerging global knowledge economy.
I wish the participants in Research Day this year every success in grappling with the challenges of the Theme
Professor Emeritus the Honourable Errol Miller