Parliament must pass the National Research Fund bill to help fund local researchers adequately and reduce dependence on foreign donations and grants, Professor Gordon Awandare, the Director of West Africa Centre for Cell Biology and Infectious Pathogens (WACCBIP) – a research-based institution, has said.
In calling on Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and the media to push Parliament into passing the bill into law, Professor Awandare noted that funding for research activities in the country has been a challenge over the years; thus leaving institutions and individuals venturing into research with no option other than resorting to foreign donors and competing for grants on the international stage.
“That is how we have survived in the past years, but a lot of the research funding agencies want to match the amount of money committed by government because they want to see commitment by African governments to research; and that has always been a challenge, a reason why we call on media and CSOs to put pressure on Parliament to pass the bill,” he stated.
He added that what the bill will do is to put money aside, just like the NHIS and GETFund, which will be committed to science and research to support work of research institutions in order that they be well-equipped with a wealth of knowledge and data to address any crisis or pandemic like the COVID-19.
“The establishment of a Research and Innovation Fund has been talked about for about 20 years now, and governments over the years has failed to deliver; but this COVID-19 crisis is a wake-up call to us that we need to move forward with strengthening science and supporting research on a more consistent basis.
“Science is a rapidly moving field, the equipment we have today has to be changed in the next five years so we cannot have funding in bits and pieces. It has to be sustained so that we can stay abreast with the rest of the scientific world.
“We need to set the stage for consistent funding of research so that the country can have a more predictable schedule of work, because we will then know how much we will be getting in a year and use that for our planning to support health and other sectors of the country,” he said.
Speaking of Ghana’s potential in science and research, and how to sustain the gains made with the recent support to research during this COVID-19 period, he said: “We are very much interested in this bill being passed, because as a country how do you sustain your research and innovation; how do you build capacity on a sustainable basis if you do not invest in it?” he quizzed.
The Ghana Research Fund bill, 2019 has been laid and read for the first time on the floor of Parliament. The purpose of the bill is to establish a fund that will provide financial support to national research in tertiary and research institutions, and provide for management of the fund and related matters.
The explanatory memorandum on the bill indicated that the fund’s objective is providing financial resources to support, promote and publicise research, technology generation and innovation in the country’s tertiary and research institutions.
The stipulated sources of money for the fund as indicated in the bill include seed money from government; monies derived from investments made by the fund; one percent of the Gross Domestic Production (GDP) approved by Parliament; donations, grants, gifts and other voluntary contributions to the fund; and monies that accrue from the endowment fund created by the fund.