Funding for academic research critical for the nation

By SHAHEERA AZNAM SHAH / Pic By MUHD AMIN NAHARUL

Continuous funding support for local academic research that contributes to the country’s productivity is key to preserve Malaysia as a global player, said the Sultan of Perak Sultan Dr Nazrin Muizzuddin Shah.

“Passing the torch to the next generation is the only way to sustain Malaysia’s success as a dynamic and competitive global player in sectors ranging from science and technology, to the arts and humanities,” he said after gracing the 2017 Merdeka Award Grant for International Attachment (MA Grant) in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

With a total of 11 recipients since it was launched in 2012, he said the grant aims to foster a culture of excellence to promote thought leadership and innovation among the youth community.

“The grant offers the candidates a tailored financial support to realise their study, research or residency project abroad. These projects can be in education and community, environment and health, as well as science and technology,” he said.

Sultan Nazrin said for this year’s grant, researches in the palm oil industry, heart diseases and indigenous culture have taken the centre stage.

Conducting a research in sustaining the production of palm oil, grant recipient Universiti Putra Malaysia senior lecturer Dr Zetty Norhana Balia Yusof said her study will focus on establishing a plantbased method in controlling the main disease in oil palm plantation, which significantly reduces more than half of the production yearly.

“The oil palm is the most profitable oil-bearing crop which yields an approximate 3.5 tonnes of oil per ha.

“But the production has been long confronted with a serious disease of fungus, which reduces the production up to 55%,” she told The Malaysian Reserve.

As Malaysia is battling the threat of export bans by certain countries, she said the productivity issue is cause for alarm.

“Before we talk about the current issue in the industry, we have to consider another side of the sustainable production.

Fungicide and chemicals have been used, which are harmful to humans and the environment.

“Malaysia could be importing these chemicals. An alternative that utilises natural resources should be explored,” she said.

Another grant recipient, Dr Sophia Rasheeqa Ismail, said a more accurate study on heart disease — especially the medicine to be prescribed — could help locals.

“The knowledge in the modern healthcare industry, particularly for cardiovascular diseases, is based on the Western population. The Malaysian population is distinct and unique from the complicated dynamics of the disease,” she said.

A research medical officer at the Kuala Lumpur Institute for Medical Research, she said her research aims to understand the differences between the country’s major ethnic groups, which potentially enhance the treatment strategies for the debilitating disease.

The MA Grant is an extension to the Merdeka Award — spearheaded by oil and gas giants Petroliam Nasional Bhd, Exxonmobil Exploration and Product ion Malaysia Inc and Shell Malaysia — which was established in 2007.

Launched in 2012, the MA Grant allows recipients to participate in collaborative projects or programmes at selected international institution and corporations within the network of the grant’s founding partners.