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Sunday, 12 March 2017

Speech for PG orientation week

Students, Guests, Professors, Lecturers and Staff of the PNGUoT, Ladies and Gentlemen

It is a real pleasure for me to share a few thoughts with you today on research for the PG orientation week.

First, I will speak about the role of European funding in enhancing our Universities PG program and research. Secondly about the importance of research for this university and society. Thirdly, I will speak about the role of research in my personal life, and what doors it may open for you.

I realized that funding originating from Europe has been key over the past years. First and foremost I must acknowledge my wife Paulina for being at the start of the creation of the Master's Scholarship of the the Association of Commonwealth Universities. When we were at the ACU AGM in Stellenbosch, it was her advocacy for the PNGUoT's graduate programs that convinced the then President of ACU, John Wood and Vice President John Kirkland to create this scholarship. Today we are glad to host our Master student from Botswana, Puso, at our Development Studies department.

The funding from the European Commission's life long learning program, Erasmus Mundus and Erasmus plus, has also been key to send several support staff members abroad for study trips, as well as sponsoring two of our PhD candidates one in Guyana and another one in Fiji.

In the coming year, we hope to access funding from the European Commission's Horizon 2020 program too, and this year we will submit again a proposal with the University of New Caledonia.

Secondly, what role can a true university play in society? The PNGUoT decided to become a good university, or as we like to say to make UNITECH fly. It takes a bold vision to transform this university: "The Papua New Guinea University of Technology will be the leading innovative, entrepreneurial, and student-centred University, contributing to a knowledge based society in Papua New Guinea and the South Pacific.

The role of research and a PG program is key to achieving our vision. Without a PG program, there is no research, without research (and partnership with industry) there is no innovation and without innovation there is no development or nation building.

Research has been embedded in the DNA of this university since its inception. For this reason, faculty can only be promoted to senior lecturer rank and higher with a doctorate or PhD. Only an academic with a doctorate can be considered an independent researcher and be eligible for research grants.

We have formalized our commitment to become a good university. by being signatories of the Magna Charta Universitatum, a club of over 800 universities. The charter states that research and teaching are inseparable.

Thirdly, what role can research play in your life? Only when exposed to latest knowledge and efforts to move the frontiers of knowledge, will real critical thinking skills develop. Critical thinkers question the status quo, and can cause some discomfort among defenders of the status quo. Without them, however, democracy and free markets stand no chance of surviving.

Personally, I was lucky that both my parents were also my mentors in my research journey. Very young I started to go through library catalogues for my mother. My father taught me the importance of precise and logical thinking. For those of you who do not have those mentors, please look around and your will find them on our campus.

One of the greatest thinkers and writers of the 20th century, Eleanor Roosevelt, once said:

"The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams."

Today, you dream that your research will make a difference. Believe in that dream and you can achieve it.  Stick with that dream, persist, and you will make a difference for others creating a better society.

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