I was not blogging for a while because I was/am basking in stardust for a while now, so to speak. Never in my wildest dream had I thought I will go viral on social media. After all, who even takes a second look at someone who is involved in science? But things took a complete twist when the news broke that I am listed by Scientific American Worldview as one of the 100 most influential people on biotech in the world.
Although I knew about this about three months ago, it did not occur to me that it will make news outside the scientific community.
While waiting to collect my bags at the airport, I was approached by a young man who showed the news from his mobile phone and congratulated me.
The week that followed was completely out of my control. A number of journalists from print, television and on line media wanted an interview with me. It wasn’t in my wildest dream that I will get that much attention being in the scientific field. While it was quite daunting and stressful, I was advised by some close friends to make use of this situation to inspire young people to excel.
Then I realised that I did not only make news among the media and public but also those in the corridors of power. Deputy Minister for Education II, P. Kamalanathan called to congratulate and even tweeted about me. Then the Special Advisor to Prime Minister on Women Entrepreneurs and Professional Development, Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil sent a congratulatory letter.
I know my celebrity life will not last as the news has its life-span but my aspiration to communicate biotech around the world and to create an enabling ecosystem is now further boosted.
While all this is flattering (and exhausting), what is it that will really make me happy? Here is a list:
1. A clear research direction for our country, with long-term goals and thorough follow ups till we achieve the goals. And the goals must be market-driven to solve our local problems in agriculture, medical and public health (i.e. dengue), and environmental issues etc. No more megaprojects, please.
2. Strong focus and emphasis on basis research. Does this contradict my first point? Not at all. Without basic research, we can never get into commercialisation, unless we want to keep borrowing technology from outside. Every product we use today stems out from basic research. Looks like we are losing our appetite for basic research and keen to make some quick buck.
3. Elevating our education system, quality of our teachers and pedagogy. Instilling critical thinking instead of rote learning in our schools.
4. Putting the right persons to helm major institutions and agencies, truly based on merit.
5. Divorce science from politics. These should no political appointments. Projects should be approved based on need and not to gain political mileage.
If I can be a change agent for the above and successfully influence the government, then I declare myself as the most influential person in SCIENCE in Malaysia. I pray for patience in my endeavours…
By Dr Mahaletchumy Arujanan