By Aira Mae Olivar, AUN Intern
As the world slowly transitions to the post-pandemic “new normal,” policies on economic and socio-cultural development of the ASEAN region are necessary for the whole population of Southeast Asia to adjust to a pandemic-ridden world.
According to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the ASEAN Member States had approximately 13 million COVID-19 cases at its conception. The severe devastation on the economic and social front of the region will manifest in the near future. The pandemic response of the ASEAN developing countries has led to the loss of employment, inability to travel and attend school, and higher prices of essential commodities, to name a few, have been observed to be the cause of uncertain policy interventions from the government. Researchers varying from scientists, health practitioners, and educators believe that it is necessary to look at details and backtrack why the COVID-19 virus widely devastated the region, hence collaborative research across universities to enable regional policy frameworks that will work for the future.
Assoc. Prof. Josip Carl of Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University notes that it is a public health measure to provide trustworthy evidence-based information for a nation to unite and collectively achieve societal good. Here is a list of some of the ASEAN University Network Member Universities efforts on collaborative research for a sustainable future for the next generation:
The Member States shared their nation’s collective experience handling the COVID-19 pandemic in the recently held 11th Informal ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Science, Technology, and Innovation (IAMMSTI-11). Amidst the brainstorming and ideas for regional cooperation, Singapore initiated two research collaboration proposals on ASEAN’s regional response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Philippines and Singapore will co-lead a regional study about the effectiveness of seroconversion, the time between exposure to a virus and antibodies, as a result of either COVID-19 infection or vaccination. The collaboration will serve as the first multi-country regional study with regards to serology vaccination.
The study will be led by the Philippines’ RITM and Singapore’s Duke-NUS Medical School and Diagnostics Development Hub. The confirmed participants of this proposal are Indonesia’s Ejikman Institute of Molecular Biology, Malaysia’s University of Malaya Faculty of Medicine, Thailand’s King Chulalongkorn Memorial Hospital Bangkok, and Vietnam’s Oxford University Clinical Research Unit—two of which are members of the ASEAN University Network (Agency for Science, Technology, and Research, 2021).
Universitas Indonesia collaborates with the Asian University Alliance (AUA), a university alliance across Asia, in an academic conference that aims to encourage researchers to share their research concerning strategic global and sustainable development studies that are necessary in the development of a post-pandemic world. The program serves as a platform for intellectual dialogue on the theme “Global Strategies for a Resilient Sustainable Post Pandemic World Towards a Better Future for All.”
The main organizer of 2021 AUA is Indonesia’s Universitas Indonesia and is jointly organized by Japan’s University of Tokyo and Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology, Malaysia’s University of Malaya, and UCSI University. Out of all the organizers, both Universitas Indonesia and the University of Malaya are the ASEAN University Network members.
The academic conference is also being participated by other ASEAN University Network Members, specifically the National University of Singapore, Chulalongkorn University of Thailand, and the University of Yangon, Myanmar (Asian Universities Alliance, 2021).
The Azman Hashim International Business School will be spearheading a research project under the supervision of Professor Dr. Asan Ali Golan Hassan, who got a research grant from the World Health Organization (WHO). The project aims to provide technical support on the planning and implementation process of a nationwide survey that will serve as a means for a nationwide post-pandemic recovery that includes indigenous and remote-living people in Malaysia. The research will also tackle the magnitude and nature of the impact of the virus’ spread on Malaysia. Another objective of the project is to assess the present condition and possible solutions for the minorities to adjust to a post-pandemic world.
The project will take place between August 2021 until November 2021. Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, where Professor Dr. Asan Ali Golan Hassan belongs, is part of the AUN. The other collaborators for the project are the Institute of Teachers Education Tengku Ampuan Afzan in Kuala Lipis, the National Health Institute of Malaysia, the Ministry of Health Malaysia, and the Ministry of Rural Development (Akmar, 2021).
The inter-institutional to government research collaboration projects of ASEAN University Network Members are only some of the efforts to have a regional framework in combating what this pandemic brought to the whole world. With the community immersed, information-based, well researched suggested policies, a regional framework which the ASEAN Member States can follow will immensely help the ASEAN society to adapt to a post-pandemic world inclusively.