After attending the 3rd Namibia-South Africa Joint Researchers’ Workshop, I remained in Windhoek for a further two days. I was attending the National Research Symposium, which was also successfully hosted by the National Commission on Research Science and Technology (NCRST) at Hilton Hotel from 23rd to 25th September, 2015.
I made two presentations at the Symposium. Their titles were as follows: Comparative Evaluation of reactive and proactive routing protocols for Tsumeb East Smart Water Metering and Determining the feasibility of Free Space Optical Communication (FSOC) in Namibia. Both presentations came under the ICT thematic area.
In total, there were more than 100 presentations, including plenary sessions. The Symposium well organised and the attendance was good. The NCRST must be commended for a job well done. The money has really been put to good use.
This was probably the first ever national research symposium in Namibia. Therefore, there are a number of issues that can be improved. I will comment mainly from the technical aspect. The presentations were based on abstracts which were submitted to NCRST a couple of weeks ago and were not subjected to a peer review process.
As a result, some presentations were not good enough. They couldn’t generate any constructive scientific debate. They just attracted lots of basic research questions from the audience, which the presenters were failing to answer. Many people were in stitches due to funny nature of these kind of presentations.
An example of such presentations was titled Crude Oil Reserves Deposits Economical Viability Potential. There was no problem statement. The methodology was also missing. All that the presenter showed us were a few satellite images on which she was showing locations containing crude oil deposits by merely considering the color on the images. The same presenter had two other similar presentations, which I did not attend.
She even bragged that she has special eyes, which enable her to see what others can’t see. What she presented was actually very different from her title. One Geology lecturer from the University of Namibia was extremely disappointed. He told me that he found the title of presentation so exciting such that he had to cancel his activities in order to listen to this presentation, only to find that it was a joke of a presentation.
The ICT thematic area was also filled with presentations that did not address the underlying mathematical and/or algorithmic frameworks of ICT applications. Many of them were based on questionnaires and interviews. Namibia aims to become a prosperous and industrialized nation by 2030. For this to be realized, local ICT researchers are supposed to making determined efforts on the cutting edge of ICT research and development (R&D).
Questionnaires and Interviews should only be used as tools for defining and localizing the problem. Once that stage is passed, researchers should be doing extensive literature to find out the state of the art in terms of related research. Real research must only start after this stage. By so doing, it will be easy for us to start getting world class research outputs thereby intermingling with the big boys in advanced research and development.
For the next national symposia, I have the following suggestions for NCRST:
- Calls for full papers of at most 6 pages, in stead of abstracts, must be made.
- The received papers must be peer reviewed. Comments from the reviewers, whether negative or positive, will help to improve the quality of the ongoing research efforts
- Only those papers which are of good quality must be accepted for presentation at the symposium
- To incorporate the review process in the pre-symposium activities, the call for papers must be sent out early.
- A dedicated web page has to be maintained for the National Symposium. Among other things, this website will contain information about the venue, the plenary speakers, key dates, sponsors etc. Interested readers are encouraged to look at the 2016 IEEE World Congress on Computational Intelligence to have an idea of what I am saying.
- For easy facilitation of the review process, program committees must be set up for the various thematic areas. So far, I have identified the following thematic areas: ICT, Agriculture, Water, Energy, Space Science, Environment and Tourism, Fisheries, Mining, Biotechnology, Health, Social Science and Humanities, and Indigenous Knowledge Systems.
- Every program committee must have a chairman who will be given the responsibility to facilitate the review process for that area.
- If there are few professionals in some thematic areas, the chairmen must be allowed to include experts from other countries.
- Opportunity must be given to other organizations and companies to sponsor the symposium. By so doing NCRST will reduce the amount of money that they will spend on future symposia. That money can be used to support other activities of NCRST.
- Prizes must be introduced for the best presentations in the different thematic areas.