Saturday, 10 March 2007

Search Malaysia

Having had to do economic research on matters pertaining to Malaysia, I often get frustrated and disappointed by the lack of good academic papers on Malaysia. It makes understanding on any particular issue difficult and investigation tedious – to have a progressive and fruitful search for knowledge, we are suppose to stand on shoulders of giants. This is made worse by the fact there are very few avenues for papers to be published and disseminated (try to find a well-maintained, properly peer-reviewed Malaysia specific working paper series) and the fact that the paternalistic Government, despite all the grand master plans to have a knowledge economy, human capital development and yada yada, seems to be doing very little to encourage people to actually investigate on issues pertaining to economic and public policies. In fact, the opposite seems to be truer.

Try finding an article that systematically and objectively investigate the extent of market failure and the cost of inefficiency imposed by a grossly protective national automotive policy; or the success (or lack thereof) of the Bumiputera policies in achieving its dual objectives of poverty eradication and elimination of economic identification based on ethnicity; or the impact of the AP system; or the fiscal cost of having the automatic pricing mechanism in determining petrol prices; or the effects of toll roads on congestions, cost of driving and how they interface with existing roads and public transportation system; or the evolution of return to education through the decades of changes in the national education system; or the effect of mega-public sector investment projects on private sector investments; or … well, you get the point.

How is it possible to have good and honest debates on public policies when there are really no concrete studies to base your debates on? How do we know a policy works or not? How is a society going to progress if there are really no open, mature and sophisticated inquiries on issues that matter?

Anyway, I did a wholly unscientific, lazy and probably biased investigation into how we compare with others in terms of depth of academic maturity. This is what I did – I chose few countries and searched them on Google Scholar, and jotted down the number of hits (every hit should represent some form of academic work related to the search country) for each, using this variable as a proxy for academic maturity. This is what I found:

Regionally, I chose Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia as comparators. And surprise surprise, we have the lowest hits, at 379 thousand. Singapore has more than twice that. Thailand and Indonesia have 64% and 44% more hits.

Then, I chose the United States, United Kingdom and Europe, which should represent regions in which the frontier of knowledge is. Understandably, the results are vastly different. The States has more than 10.8 million hits, Europe 3.4 million and UK 1.6 million.

Then there are China and India, the hottest two countries in town for economists. Not adjusted to population, China has 4.5 million hits while India has 2.2 million. Commendable.

So why is this so? Why are we lacking in this area?

I offer two interrelated reasons, based on the core ingredients of a vibrant academic society, as a partial explanation:

1. Academicians

Malaysia is not lacking in intelligent citizens. What Malaysia lacks, however, is an incentive system that could turn talents into productive academicians. How are professors valued in our country in teaching and producing academic work? In universities, are academicians encouraged to have honest pursuits of knowledge, or are the existing incentives such that it is more advantageous to pursue other lesser objectives?

2. Universities

Universities are beacons of a knowledge-based society. How conducive are Malaysian universities in allowing freedom for academician in doing research? In turn, how independent are universities from politics pressure and propaganda? Are academicians restrained from actively pursuing research on wide-ranging, important but potentially sensitive issues? If they continue to do so, how severely are they punished? How are universities linked with the private sector in collaborations for research and development? How adequate are the infrastructures, from libraries (both virtual and physical) to reliable broad-band access, and funding? Are important statistics and information publicly (and easily) available?

Hmmm. Back to work.



zcer said...

Depending on how you searched, wouldnt results include both articles from and about those particular countries? China's academics is formidable, but there is plenty of incentive for other countries to study China. They are so big, they affect everybody. Which would also increase the hits it gets on search results.

You can link directly to your search results you know? Just copy the URL on the address bar when you are on the search results page.

Elanor said...

Wholly unscientific, lazy and probably biased. I, um, wasn't really doing a serious investigation.

The search words are the names of the countries. Most of the time, they are studies about the country, and not necessarily from the country. Which in fine for anyone wanting to do research on the country.

Despite being a lame investigation, I did however, separate comparing Malaysia with US and China due to the obvious bias - hence the three clusters. I would think it is reasonable to compare Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia though.

A huge proportion of good studies done on China are not done by Chinese, I know that very well. I grouped China and India together because they are the two hot topics for researchers now, hence should show higher hits. I didn't say the hits are representing studies done by Chinese.

Was just trying to compare the different scales of the results.

And why do I need to link the URL of my search results to the entry? I tabulated the results for ease of exposition - search words are listed as they are. They are easily reproduced, although I won't know why people would want to do that...

Perhaps I shouldn't have put that in the post - somewhat distract the entry from the core message.

zcer said...

i was just thinking that you were complaining about how malaysia doesnt support academic research enough.
i guess you just want more research papers from anywhere.

zcer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

My question would be as usual, totally unrelated : do you both even sleep normally like normal humans do?

Elanor, you've been spoilt by Cam :D. We here in Malaysia have no University culture like in Cambridge. University here is without capital letters. You cannot expect a similar academic culture in Malaysia. Really.

Academicians are not as respected as those with big $$$ (I think those in Academia are hardly ever recognized by our society). It's even reflected in our society that doesn't give a flicker of an eyelash to intellectual property.

The Malaysian govt's idea of k-economy is well... a joke at best (I doubt if the ministers even know what K-Economy actually stands for. To them, knowledge probably starts with the letter N). I think most of the people know this well, but we keep our mouths shut.

Bumiputera papers? Don't hope for it. The latest you can find in Google Scholar that is of any relevance would be from 1988. Er.. that's 20 years ago. In Econpaper, there are a number of economics papers regarding Malaysia, but most are about the Asian Financial Crisis, and none, if I recall correctly, are about race.

Either Malaysian academics are too afraid of ISA to sit and research (Hey, look what happened to ASLI), or we seriously lack such people.

And don't mind zcer too much. He's more of a contrarian. And a picky one too. lol.


Anonymous said...

well analysed case from few angles.


wanna TQ Elanor and her 2 readers for their views :)


Jeffrey, HL said...

Academia are an unwanted group of people in countries run by people who want to stay in power at whatever costs. Myanmar shut down their universities. Kampuchea killed off their academicians. China sent them off to the farms to till the land.

Here, they are deemed as trouble makers. They are not pared off with superior intellect in discussions but bullied into submission. If you dont like it, shut up or leave. That has always been the silent code.

To expect quality research you need base building. Research
built upon reliable work by predecessors. If you do not have the ground work what can you hope for. The powers that be today, do not see the value in it. Hence the maliase.

You ask questions to which you already know thier answers. We all know the answer. Why is there mass migration of people from a country that solely needs their expertise? Are they unloyal? Have they no love for their motherland? Recognition. There is no recognition for research here.

shag said...

The problem is the culture of paranoia & secrecy. Trying to get any information out of government data sources is like drawing blood from leather.

For example, most of the US census data is available for download but you'd have to fill many forms & write many letters, then wait for the relevant office to return from holidays, conference, etc before you get an official reply on your request.