In many ways, what some of these foreign medical experts observed in Indonesia and their subsequent suggestions may hold some truth. Indonesia may need to objectively evaluate many medical treatments and procedures which have been based mainly on research on western population. Differences in Indonesian population genetic make up, life style, and environment to name a few, may be responsible for the observed different responds to a set of medical treatments hailed from western population clinical trials.
The problem now is, whether Indonesian medical experts have the capacity and necessary infrastructures, as well as fund to evaluate many medical treatments and then come up with their own population-tailored medical treatments. In the area of human resource, I think we still have lack of medical professionals who have been trained to do clinical trial, clinical research, as well as basic medical science. This may be reflected in part by minimal publications of research written by indonesian medical scientist in their field. However, we can not underestimate their motivation and eagerness to be involved in research. Many medical scientist especially the young generation is eager to learn and work hard to refine their skill in research, at least the colleagues I know of. We only need to open the door for them, give them incentives and opportunity to explore the research field, and if possible to let them experience the research atmosphere in developed countries. This is one way to have a sound capacity building of future medical research in indonesia. That is way I really laud the program of the Indonesian Ministry of Education and Culture which send many young lecturers abroad for their post graduate study through the Dikti Scholarship program. If they are trained properly, then in not too distant future we will be able to reap the benefits i.e higly skilled and dedicated researchers in their field as long as they are supported by necessary infrastructure and fund.
In my perspective, this research capacity building will be more fruitful if we have some kind of blueprints of what we want to achieve in the medical research in the future. There should be priorities. Based on that priorities, we can pull our acts together and set out programs. Say for example, if we want to have high quality medical researchers in clinical trial and research, then we must send our aspiring young medical lecturers to pursue their post graduate study abroad in that areas as priorities. This kind of blueprint, however may be appropriate only at university and institution level. Broader and national blueprints certainly will take more stakeholders to come in to decide. However hard, it is achievable if we have the will.
This capacity building will be further enhanced if we also build and maintain a good network of national and international research institutions to strengthen research collaboration. In my opinion, at the moment many of these networking program only stop at making MOUs. Making MOU is one thing, but to create concrete results is harder. Making MOU is largely ceremonial, but to get things done, it needs resourceful and pragmatic vision and persons. One area where we can have pragmatic approach which may be highly beneficial for research institutional capacity building is to invite, hire, or whatever… highly well known professors and researchers as visiting scholars for certain period of time to supervise and be involved in our research institutions. These visiting researchers may lay down the foundation of institution work ethos. This might sound hard to do, but again, if we have the will, nothing is impossible.
Last but not the least, this capacity building in the medical research is only possible if we have sufficient fund. We need plenty of money to buy up-to date research instruments, devices, and other resources. We need money to support full time researchers in order for them to have a decent life.
In summary, we need vision, fund, high quality medical research institutions and researchers to have better and productive medical research. Long way to go, but at least we need to make one step at a time.