Saturday, December 31, 2016

2017: A Gloomy Outlook

In about a few more minutes, we will be in 2017. While others may want to celebrate, I have often find myself being depressed, thinking about the very many things I have yet to accomplish.

These are not the only things I am concerned with. All of us, I believe (possibly apart from the filthy rich), are affected by economic hard times; rising cost of living, not offset by any increase of means of living. Small business owners had to make difficult decisions which includes my other half. Imagine trying to run a clinic whose responsibility is to keep stock of (relevant) medicine to treat patients, which at best is given one month credit, while the medical assistance boards/corporations that help pay patients for their medical needs can delay their payments even beyond six months.

Let us return to the university. We have seen our annual budget being cut for a few years now (see here). Earlier cut had seen our library and contract staff suffer. We lost subscriptions to good journals by professional physical and mathematical societies simply because they serve only a few disciplines in comparison to the commercial publishers. We had also lost our research fellows. I can't imagine what further cuts could mean. Universities are essentially running on shoe string budget if not deficit. It is amazing that despite our improved performance in research and teaching (not claimed by us but by other parties), budgetwise, the progress made seems unrewarded. Instead of retaining good academics, we may now see our academics leaving (I know personally at least one and verbally a few considering). In the name of increasing standards, we are also seeing promotions are getting more difficult. Even going abroad for conferences seems to be more difficult where permissions are needed not only from the universities themselves but from the ministry. I have no idea what is the rationale for this (perhaps controlling expenditure?) but it will make academic life more difficult and hence more push factor for people to leave.

The only thing in 2017 for now that I'm looking forward to is our group's trip to the conference on 90 Years of Quantum Mechanics. Note that I have applied for the permission of going abroad and leave. We will be going there on our own expenses (not funded by our grants) with some support from the organizers to which we are grateful. With the exchange rate of 1 SGD to RM3, we will not have much to spend while we are there but the academic environment that we will experience there is worth the trip.

To end, hoping for a miraculous year.

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