27 Jul 2006

Singapore's Reputation Frightens Academics Away

[Cartoon from the very impressive Sketchbook]
So it's an issue of reputation on the international stage - again. Attracting top notch academics to Singapore was also an issue raised by Warwick University when it pulled out of a deal in 2005. The worry then was that the campus could not attract academics of a high nature to live in a country were academics had to live and work in conditions...

[where The University of NSW's] [...] management has conceded it cannot guarantee protection of its academic staff in Singapore, given the city-state's harsh laws governing public comment and defamation.

And a situation where
[The University of NSW] would be powerless to protect its academics should they fall foul of the Government over issues of public comment.

It is yet again the case of an old formula losing impact in a new world. How long will these experiments of trying to attract top notch academics while at the same time threatening them with sanctions if they discuss certain topics last?

This issue has been going on since July 2004 and beyond. The People's Action Party must realise that their policies are keeping academics away, their empty promises of 'opening up', out-of-bound markers and dare I say it - nepotism - are what is frightening top notch academics away.

"Peter Sever of Imperial College London said the UK Royal College of Physicians "should consider advising its members of the potential dangers of accepting future posts in Singapore" because of a "lack of fairness" that "can impact upon an individual's professional reputation". The case of Simon Shorvon, who served as director of Singapore's National Neuroscience Institute

Research agency refutes accusations that it failed to meet goals
Singapore - Singapore's Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star) refuted accusations by a prestigious US university that it failed to meet its side of the bargain in supporting Johns Hopkins University's research arm, news reports said on Tuesday.

The decision to wind down the facility after eight years in Singapore was 'not taken hastily and was based on nearly three years of monitoring and scrutiny,' The Straits Times quoted Dr Andre Wan, director of A*Star's biomedical research council, as saying.

The research facility failed to attract top scientists and had not met eight out of 13 performance benchmarks with the 83 million Singapore dollars (53 million US dollars) in funding, A*Star said.

The Division of Johns Hopkins Singapore (DJHS) is to be closed within 12 months.

The Baltimore, Maryland-based university was quoted as saying that A*Star had not met its 'financial and educational obligations.'

The closure was expected to leave dozens and faculty and staff without jobs and disrupt the education of four graduate students who had been offered places.

The university said this was a 'reputational issue' for Singapore and A*Star.

The city-state has been aiming to achieve the status of a major research centre and has attracted many well known specialists from abroad.

Dr Edison Liu, chairman of the scientific advisory committee appointed by DJHS, said he hoped that 'cooler heads would prevail' so that two great institutions would not fight each other.

© 2006 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur


Anonymous said...


johns hopkins singapore research centre
The news item appearing in July 2006 that Singapore's Agency for Science, Technology and Research will cut off funding for the Johns Hopkins Singapore medical research centre caught everyone by surprise, since there have been no public reports of any problems earlier, and the clinical service operated by Johns Hopkins at Singapore General Hospital has enjoyed considerable commercial success (I hear by attracting high paying, foreign, especially middle east, customers). The matter would probably have passed quietly if not for a quoted statement from the JHU side that it fulfilled its obligations but the Singapore side failed to do so. This led to the publication of an extended statement from ASTAR detailing its reasons for terminating its financial subsidy ($25M per year) after May 2007, that the JHU centre has consistently failed to meet a number of Key Performance Indicators agreed upon during the establishment of the centre.

Here we have a classic case of academic judgement clashing with bureaucratic resource management. The JHU side argued that by recruiting a number of junior faculty members (at the assistant professor, i.e., PhD/postdoc level staff) and publishing papers (whose number met the agreed target), the Centre has achieve enough to promise future performance and so deserves continued existence. It probably also thought that the drastic move to close it down would not actually be carried out because of the negative publicity, the ill will produced among the medical research circles by the spectacle of the soon to be unemployed staff and the impact this might have on the ongoing clinical collaborative programme, and had not anticipated the bureaucratic necessity of the outcome nor devised strategem for a possible compromise or at least soft landing.

My own guess is that if the Centre had attracted one or two big name medical researchers to come to Singapore to head a couple of projects, even if only present for part of each year, or produced some commercializable results, all the other issues could have been considered unimportant (such as whether those awarded PhD scholarships are obligated to return to Singapore afterwards, which ASTAR could have settled individually with the students concerned before giving out scholarship money). The PR, commercial, even diplomatic, values of research programmes obviously count a great deal in bureaucratic thinking, much more than academics who do research to publish papers would realize. The well known researchers who sat on the centre's international review board would have been left with much disappointment that their advice and guidance had been to no avail.

Only a few days ago there was an announcement that an MIT research centre is soon to be set up in Singapore. By opening up so fully on the JHU episode, the bureaucratic system may be deliberately revealing its hand to allow people involved in the new operation to have the right expectations.

Index sections 分类

1 Post 80s New Chinese Literature 80后新文学 http://blog.360.yahoo.com/blog-XIIfDzQobqO5oCYM9UTvZzgKHH4Org--?cq=1&p=137 2 ancient history 古史http://blog.360.yahoo.com/blog-XIIfDzQobqO5oCYM9UTvZzgKHH4Org--?cq=1&p=136 3 Singapore Politics & Society 新加坡政治和社会 http://blog.360.yahoo.com/blog-XIIfDzQobqO5oCYM9UTvZzgKHH4Org--?cq=1&p=135 4 Social Issues 探讨社会 http://blog.360.yahoo.com/blog-XIIfDzQobqO5oCYM9UTvZzgKHH4Org--?cq=1&p=140

Matilah_Singapura said...

Is there cause for alarm?

No. What is happening ought to be happening. No academic, or anyone for that matter, should enslaved by the state apparatus.

But it is not so bad. This can change—when the govt finally gets the message and keep it meddling paws off private individual business—i.e. the contents of peoples' minds, and how and what it is used for by THE OWNERS.

What is worse is if the S'pore state apparatus chases away CAPITAL...

...then there'll be real problems...

clyde said...

Hi again professor. You seem quite a regular commentor on political issues. Have you ever considered contributing to SBP?

Anonymous said...

anytime; my material is freely available for reuse on any blogs that might be interested

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

In a nutshell the PAP regime's continue poor records in human rights and clamp down on dissent and free speech is dragging Sg down into the mud. Sgians and Sg will pay the price for PAP's doings.

lee hsien tau said...

Risking Death and Dismemberment: Court Date with Destiny

Summons to an accused person

Dated this 4th day of July, 2006 (funny it wasn't stuck on the door until more than 2 weeks later)

Case ID: SC-019929-06
Charge No: TC-007025-2006

Criminal Procedure Code (Cap 68) Section 158-160


You, KOH CHONG KIANG (NRIC No S1471858C), the leesee of Apartment Block 536 Upper Cross Street #11-245 Singapore 050536, are charged that you have failed to pay the outstanding conservancy and service charges for the months of December 2003 to September 2005 (actually, Dec 2003 to date) of $529.00 (actually, the number seemed to have gone up and down) due and owing to the Town Council of Jalan Besar within 14 days from the date of service on you of a written demand dated 10 March 2006 and that you have thereby committed an offence under Section 39(7) of the Town Councils Act (Cap 329A) and punishable under the said Section thereof.

You are hereby required to appear on the 3rd day of August, 2006 at 6.00pm in person before the Subordinate Court No. CT 26N at Singapore and you are hereby warned that if you shall, without just excuse, neglect or refuse to appear on the said date, a Warrant may be issued to compel your attendance.

1) There's only enough balance in my CPF to service the mortgage for 2 more months.
2) The utilities bill has been outstanding for more than 6 months.
3) Not taking into account other non-recoverable debt owing to Singtel, Starhub and M1.
4) Telling the MP Low Meng See in 3 visits but seeing his face only once, just before the election - so I was surprised to learn that somebody was privileged to sock MP Seng Hang Thong in the face - but not getting the message through, only to find him off the radar screen after the election.
5) Is it an offence to be poor and jobless?

At the time I'm due to appear in court, Dr Chee Soon Juan and Ms Chee Siok Chin's application
to challenge the constitutionality of the summary judgment for the very simple reason that it does not allow for a trial to take place, the Courts scheduled the application to be heard not only on the same day but at the same time as the summary judgment - 3 August 2006 at 10 am, would be known.

clyde said...

Do you have an email, professor? Alternatively, drop Steve an email: stevenmcdermott@gmail.com.

Anonymous said...

my writings are all available from the various 360.yahoo.com indexes listed; but I can be contacted at
yuenchungkwong@yahoo.com if you want material on some other topics that I might be able to write about

Anonymous said...

Singapore have only used Johns Hopkins in an attempt to secure "a brand" backed by the name of JH they can tout around the world.

It is evident the university were unable discover the acacdemic talent to produce the PHD's and did not bother to send senior professors to the island to each also rans.

one day singxapore will learn, do not use and boast. Then the country will take off and be able to match the best in the world.

This is another example of how the user has fallen by the wayside. tragic.

Matilah_Singapura said...

Johns Hopkins is a private institution — started by one man, with a vision. And he made it happen.

Collectivist and Statist Singapore is run like one big communist/fascsit COMMUNE — where the ruling elite ram their morals and methods down the throats of "lesser mortals".

As we have seen, and undoubtedly continue to see, not everyone will put up with that shit. :-)

Except for the initiation of force and violence, private enterprise — ising private property and voluntary association does it better, faster, "cheaper" and more enduringly that state enterprise, any time, in any situation under any circumstances!