Research Investment in Republic of Indonesia (RIRI) – What can Indonesia learn from Australia when it comes to research

Blog post prepared by Sitti Rahma Ma’Mun

I have been asking myself for quite some time, “what will happen to my research after I finish my PhD?” I may publish articles out of it but then what? Can it inform policy discussion in the sector that I am working in? Can it bring change to the community whom I worked with? Can I meet the expectations of one of the government officials from one of my many interviews? Or my own expectation of what the outcome should be? Or will it be just another ‘research for the sake of research’? And end up in a small corner of the library?

With those questions in mind, I attended the Research Investment Republic of Indonesia (RIRI) workshop. The workshop was organised by the On-Award Enrichment Program, Australia Awards Indonesia. It was held in Canberra from 24 to 25 October 2018. Twenty-five research students from universities in Australia were chosen to participate in the workshop on merit basis. All participants were Australia Awards awardees who came from different backgrounds; public and private universities and government research institutes.

Introduction to RIRI by Dr. Stephen Sherlock (Credit: RIRI organiser)

The main topic of the workshop was ‘knowledge to policy’, how research can inform better government policy. The workshop was opened with an introduction to RIRI by Dr. Stephen Sherlock. It was followed by brainstorming and discussion on the objectives and problems facing researchers and research institutions in Indonesia.

Two representatives from the Research Funding and Policy Branch of Department of Education and Training discussed the role of Australian government in research in the first session. From this presentation, we learnt about Australia’s approach to research and development. The next presentation provided us with insights from the government-funded research agencies, i.e. Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR). The first day of the workshop was concluded with a presentation by Universities Australia, and a short tour to Canberra’s public landmarks.

Presentation by Mr. Duncan Byrne from CSIRO (Credit: RIRI organiser)

The second day of the workshop begun with a presentation by Mr. Justin Withers from Australian Research Council (ARC). This presentation provided us with an understanding of how the Australian Government’s research investment is funded and managed. Dr. Arianto Patunru from Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University (ANU) narrated an experience from private sector in the next presentation, which gave new perspectives on how to bring knowledge to policy. In addition, also highlighted that to do so one of the skills required for a researcher is by being more creative in communicating outcomes of the research.

The last part of the workshop was another round of brainstorming. Here, we reflected on what we had learnt from Australia’s approach on research and development, and compared it with Indonesian’s approach from different research institutions’ perspectives and experiences. One of the key learning was that institutional reform is needed to create enabling environment for more evidence-based policy in Indonesia.  Networking, collaboration, multidisciplinary research, and engagement with community and industry are among other things that need to be improved. A researcher is required to be more creative in communicating research and deliver the message across various audiences, including the industry, policy makers and public at large.

RIRI’s participants (Credit: RIRI organiser)

One inspiring statement that I noted down from the workshop was from the presentation of Ms. Hawari Badri, Partner of Deloitte Risk Forensic.  “Research can provide clients (government or industry) two things: what they want to know, and what they need to know but they don’t know that they need to know.”

My participation in RIRI, as well as the experience as a research student at GFAR, has inspired me largely.  Few ideas have emerged on what to bring and share with my colleagues in my home institution in Indonesia. And the foundations of networking and collaboration will start here, with RIRI’s alumni and my peers at GFAR.

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