Benjamin Franklin once said “An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest” which was later reinforced by Peter Druker who said, “Knowledge has to be improved, challenged and increased constantly, or it vanishes”.
I was with ISET-Nepal when it received the Think Tank Initiative (TTI) grant. Along the eight years of support, TTI provided ISET-Nepal a scope of beginning new initiatives as well as ensuring quality research and producing research products that match the international standard. Some of the innovative programs such as Master’s thesis support, Abiskhar Fellowship to bachelor’s level student, immersion course on climate change to school-level science teachers, collecting, writing and publishing story of change, exposing school students’ to climate change and disaster risk reduction challenges through art competition, civic science initiative and Himalayan Knowledge Conclave (HKC) were conceptualized and implemented during the TTI-supported period. These initiatives recognize the multiple layers in developing a partnership to generate as well as share knowledge.
Conceptualizing and holding the HKC was the major step taken by ISET-Nepal and other consortium partners to consolidate and improve research carried out in Nepali universities and colleges. The other partners are the Central Department of Environment Science (CDES) under the umbrella of the Institute of Science and Technology of Tribhuvan University (IoST-TU) and the Resources Himalaya Foundation (RHF). The idea behind conceptualizing the HKC was to improve the quality of research in education in Nepal. The conference brings together graduates from Nepali universities in one platform to share their research work, get feedback from their peer and improve their research. The Ph.D., Masters and bachelor-level students from across the country are invited to participate, discuss and share their research findings. The Masters and Ph.D. students share their research conference whereas bachelor-level students participate, understand research and learn to present in a public platform. Knowledge will not be enhanced without sharing, contesting and challenging. HKC helps participants engage in all these. The students present findings of their thesis and engage other participants to comment on it. They share concepts and methodologies while at the same time participants seek clarification and make suggestions. HKC is the first of its kinds in Nepal. This annual event is held in the first week of April.
Though HKC started with three research based-organizations, we hope to bring in more organizations to this consortium. Many have joined as an advisory committee and a peer review committee members. The advisory committee provides overall directions while the peer review committee reviews abstracts provide editorial support and help in short listing of papers and posters for the presentation.
Before each conference, selected presenters are provided with an orientation to present well. We provide them with this orientation training a few days ahead of the conference to build the capacity of students to present their findings to a larger audience and showcase their research. We provide them with tips on designing slides and the use of verbal/ non-verbal techniques for effective communication. It has helped them prepare to get on the presentation platform, and professionally present their research findings in front of more than 300 participants. The students have found the orientation sessions handy which have also helped them in their thesis defense. The orientation has helped them get their slides organized, manage time and make the overall presentation.
Since 2015, four conferences have been held on different themes. In each HKC, a two-day event, about 50 papers, and 25 posters are presented. Each HKC has around 300 participants. The fifth is being organized on April 5th and 6th 2019. RHF hosted the secretariat of the first conference and is hosting this year and ISET-Nepal functioned as the secretariat for 2nd 3rd and 4th conference.
Support from MoEST
Nepal’s Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology, MoEST (then Ministry of Science and Technology, MoST) has recognized the work of the consortium partners. In 2018, the ministry organized a press conference at the Ministry building as well as extended its support and committed to allocating an annual budget to hold the HKC. The ministry is also providing financial support this year. That the government is willing to spend resources on knowledge sharing at the university level has been a source of encouragement. This support is expected to bring more and more students together along with other educational institutions becoming dedicated partners in this endeavor. Kathmandu University is hosting the HKC-2019 at its own premise at Dhulikhel, this is one of the biggest milestones for the organizers.
The sustainability of HKC is yet a challenge. However, ISET-Nepal and other consortium partners are committed to the process and seek new opportunities for its continuation.
Kanchan Mani Dixit is a Deputy Director at ISET-Nepal