University Roles and Research for the Nation

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If you pay a close attention to the smartphone, you will realize that there is hundreds of research work behind this innovation. User-friendly design, product appearance, hardware, touch screen, and operation system are constantly developed. If you look at the car closely, you will realize that there is hundreds of research work behind this innovation. We use research work to find the proper material for the car, the right ratio for flexibility and durability, shapes and lines of the car. Therefore, research work is part of our lives and the foundation of economy and development of nation.

Prof.Dr. Siriwan Seubnukarn, Vice Rector of Research and Innovation, Thammasat University, says that the utmost benefit of research work is solving the nation’s problems, including immediate problem like PM 2.5 and complex problem that needed integrated knowledge. When we think of research, people will have high expectation on the university where is the concentration of reseachers and academics work. Therefore, every university plays an important role to solve nationa’s problems. “Some research work is seen as useless, but they are like a jigsaw to complete a big picture to solve nation’s problems” Prof.Dr. Siriwan says. TU’s Vice President identifies a research work that can help solve the problem. The research work is from Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities. Three researchers from this work were awarded as a good national researcher last year. The research work is about inequality in society, so the government can study this research and apply it to create a policy to cope with the problem.

Prof.Dr. Siriwan explains that we need cooperation from 4 sections in order to create research work. First, university is the center of human resources and knowledge. Second, the government is a problem indicator and gives funds to do the research. Third, the private sector supports research work with its innovation. Lastly, community is a reflection of the real problem. “To illustrate, professor of TU’s social work department went to research in the community and created a model for the problem. Later, community adopted the model and became an example to other communities. This shows the use of applying university’s knowledge to community” Prof.Dr. Siriwan states.

In order to create quality research, we need both human resources and budget. However, Thailand has limited research budget as the government gives money to other things that they think they are more important than research work. Nevertheless, the university does not stop researching because of this reason because there are other ways to find research funding. The university will cooperate with private sectors as a co-funding manner to produce research work.

“Thammasat is interested in sustainability in terms of environment and energy. We have the biggest solar rooftop in Southeast Asia. It is one of our strengths, so we develop it with the private sector. In the near future, we will work with PTT in Smart City project in a co-funding manner”

Vice Rector of Research and Innovation gives an example.

Apart from cooperation with the private sector, international funding is also another interesting option for us. The current situation in Southeast Asia attracts many international agencies. Newton Fund from the United Kingdom wants researcher from England to work with foreign researchers. Thammasat’s researcher also got the chance to work with many famous researchers from all over the world under Bualuang ASEAN Chair Professorship scholarship sponsored by Bangkok Bang in a co-funding manner. Prof.Dr. Siriwan explains that this scholarship allows foreign researchers to work with our researcher. Last year, there were 30 scholarships and 1.5 million Baht per each scholarship. This implies that Thailand has more than 30 foreign researchers working with our researchers to solve problems in the nation and the region.

“Bualuang ASEAN Chair Professorship scholarship does not limit the research topic option. Researchers can do according to their profession. However, there are other scholarships that specify research topic for researchers. Therefore, it is a good opportunity for us as we have researchers and many scholarships offered in Thailand. I think it is a good chance for every university to take it” Prof.Dr. Siriwan identifies.

Research work and other contributions to solve the problem is regarded as an academic service. It is another mission for professor apart from teaching. For Thammasat, we encourage and support professor to research as it benefits university as well. Professors will advance their capability and kowledge about technology and society. They will give back to students and create a quality gradates followed by quality nation.

“Thammasat University will continue developing research quality and quantity. We will support professors to create and publish more research work. The research work will be in an international level. The research topics that we will focus on are social problems, including inequality, senior citizens, medical profession, herbs, engineering, transportation, agriculture and food” Prof.Dr. Siriwan says. Prof.Dr. Siriwan also states that people have a picture of Thammasat University as its social role. Therefore, we will develop research that reflects the problems in society.