The Tempinis diaries

December 5, 2007

The Brain Gain’s Poster Boy Wants Out

Filed under: education, malaysia — Tags: , , , , — toru @ 1:47 pm

A very interesting article  from the Chronicle of Higher Education dated 11/11/2005 that I found here.   It seems that the person mentioned in the story Rajah Rasiah has moved back to Europe.


The Brain Gain’s Poster Boy Wants Out


Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Rajah Rasiah once considered himself a fortunate man. At the age of 45 he was a full professor at United Nations University, in Maastricht, the Netherlands, earning more than $150,000 a year, tax-free.  


December 3, 2007

Dr Tan Hock Lim appointed at UKM

Filed under: malaysia — Tags: , , — toru @ 3:21 pm

In my previous post on the brain drain from Malaysia, I mentioned Dr. Tan Hock Lim.  There have been a couple of visits to this blog searching for his name.  Intrigued, I did a google search.  I was delighted to find out that Dr. Tan Hock Lim was appointed a professor at UKM by UKM Vice-Chancellor Professor Sharifah Hapsah.  This is certainly good news and a big catch for UKM.  However, there is currently a furor about the fact that Dr. Tan Hock Lim is allegedly paid RM 168,000 a month.  That seems pretty high to me even for Singapore standards.   But I can’t really comment on this issue with any authority because I don’t know what the market rate is for superstar doctors and what kind of superstar Dr. Tan Hock Lim is.   I am sure Singapore pays Edison Liu much more.  If this indeed the market rate for such distinguished doctors, then my take on the salary issue is that you would have to pay such salaries to employ these people. 

November 29, 2007

Attracting Global Talent: The Soft Factors

Filed under: education — Tags: , , , — toru @ 12:40 pm

One of Singapore’s star hires leading the island State’s ambition to be a biomedical hub is Edison Liu who was lured from his position as director of the American National Cancer Institute.  Besides the issue of generous research funding and internationally competitive pay, it seems to me after reading the Times of London article that a lot of ‘soft factors’ are very important in attracting a global talent like Dr. Liu.   What I mean by ‘soft factors’ are things like modern and new buildings for research purposes, building research hubs in centralised locations, good living conditions for the scientists and ensuring that the foreign spouse can find a good job locally.  The Times of London story specifically mentioned that the scientists found that the downside of living in Singapore is the lack of culture such as good theater etc which is another soft factor.  Singapore seems to be pulling out all the stops to recruit the top scientific talent – in the Times story it was reported that there was a rumour that Edison Liu was staying in a suite at the Four Seasons Hotel!  

If Malaysia intends to compete in recruiting talented individuals, it needs to start thinking of these soft factors and how to overcome the systemic problems faced by Malaysian universities.  An example of how Malaysia is really amateurish in dealing with these soft factors is the failed  Biovalley experiment.  Biovalley was supposed to be built in Dengkil.  Now, who the hell even know where Dengkil is?  And even if you could find it, which world class scientist would want to relocate to Dengkil?  Quite apart from foreigners, I doubt any self-respecting KL person would want to work in Dengkil.  In contrast, Singapore has learnt that a successful research hub must be centrally located.  The Nanyang Technological University suffers, in my humble opinion, because of its out of the way location in Jurong.  Hence, Biopolis, the science hub, is located conveniently in Buona Vista, a stone’s throw from NUS and the hip and happening Holland Village.   In fact, there are free buses during lunch time bringing the scientists from Biopolis to Holland Village so that they can have a good meal. 

But of course merely ‘buying’ global talent is not the solution.  The important thing is to ensure that these talented foreign individuals will help the local talent raise their game.  More on this in posts to come.   

November 28, 2007

Reversing the Brain Drain: The Case of President Shih

Filed under: education — Tags: , — toru @ 4:36 am

The problem of a brain drain is a universal problem that is not confined to a country like Malaysia.   Lest people think that I regard Singapore as paradise, I readily concede that Singapore has its fair share of problems.  Many people do migrate due to the stressful environment, lack of physical and political space and the cut-throat education system.   Although in some of my previous postings I have praised the Singapore education system, I do acknowledge that the education system here is flawed in that some talented people will fall through the cracks.  Shih Choong Fong, the President of NUS, appears to be such a case.  In his own words, when he was a student his grades were so bad that he couldn’t make it to the University of Singapore.  Shih went abroad, did well and became a faculty member at Brown University.  He returned to Singapore and became the President of NUS when he was in his 50s.  A translated story of an interview with President Shih in the Lianhe Zhaobao can be found here.

I guess the whole point of this blog posting is this: Malaysia should find a way to reverse the brain drain and tap into the Malaysian academic diaspora to help improve the standard of Malaysian institutions of higher learning.  I will blog more on this issue in future posts.

November 27, 2007

Malaysian Born Talent: Part II

Filed under: education — Tags: , , — toru @ 2:50 pm

This is a follow up on my previous post on the brain drain from Malaysia.  I discovered more talented individuals from reading Tony and Kian Ming’s excellent Education in Malaysia blog.  The people mentioned are former NUS Medicine Dean, Lee Eng Hin  mentioned in this post. From this other informative post, I also discovered that Harvard anthropologist Engseng Ho and Stanford scientist Mah Wan Tan are Malaysians.

November 26, 2007

Malaysian Born Talent: The Brain Drain in Perspective

Filed under: malaysia — Tags: , , , — toru @ 3:55 pm

We talk constantly about the brain drain from Malaysia in the abstract.  In my previous post, I mentioned Wang GungwuDanny Quah and Lai Choy Heng as examples of eminent Malaysian born academics who are based at universities abroad.   I decided to do a google search using the key words “Malaysian born” and “academic” and another search using “born in Malaysia” and “faculty” to try to have a more complete picture.  What I found was mind boggling.  An array of extremely eminent doctors, scientists, a lawyer, a performing artiste, a social scientist – all Malaysian born and all plying their trade elsewhere. 

The list includes the very prolific (he has published in Nature!), Dr. CC Liew (Chong-Chin Liew), Chief Scientist of Genenews, Dr. Hock Lim Tan, world renowned paediatric, expert in infectious disease, Dr. Lim Seng Gee,  Dr. Cheong Choong Kong, former academic and the iconic former head of SIA, acclaimed writer, Shirley Lim from the University of California at Santa Barbara,  Professor Christine Chin, a sociologist from American University, international legal expert on the law of evidence, Professor Andrew Choo from Warwick University, award winning education Professor, Dr. Swee Hin Toh of University of Alberta and performing artiste, Su Lian Tan of Middlebury College.  This list is most certainly an incomplete list of Malaysian born talent who are working as academics abroad.  Feel free to add in the comments section below if you know of any other eminent academics who are based overseas. 

My simple google search confirms that Malaysians are indeed a talented lot.  Why then are our national policies driving these talented individuals abroad?  It is also very telling that from the list above some of the Malaysian born talent who were based in Australia (Dr. Lim Seng Gee and Dr. Tan Hock Lim) have been lured back to Asia.  Yes – you guessed it – they are now based in Singapore. 

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