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Scientific research: a university function to be considered in the Ecuadorian context

INTRODUCTION

It is evident that in the 21st century there will be more problems to be solved by universities, but in the midst of the difficulties there are challenges and opportunities. Nunez et al. referenced by Rivera García et al. 1points out that the university is the most appropriate place to promote scientific activity, since it allows the faculty to stay in contact with the international flow of knowledge, through internationalization processes. The university of this century must be dominated by science and technology with the participation of all its researchers. To face the challenges today it is necessary to assign new objectives to education, a broader conception of it should lead to discover, awaken and increase the creative possibilities of people and enter more and more in the field of scientific research. two

At the world conference on higher education held in Paris in 2009, it was stated: “The quality of higher education is a multidimensional concept that should encompass all its functions and activities: teaching and academic programs, research and scholarship, staffing, students , infrastructure and academic environment. Particular attention should be paid to advancing knowledge through research.” 3

Currently, in the university educational policy, pedagogical and didactic practices have been reconsidered, as well as research practices to improve them based on the preparation of their teachers and graduates, according to the challenges they must assume in the 21st century. 1 Higher education institutions in all regions are required to undergo transparent internal and external evaluations, carried out openly by independent experts. However, due attention must be paid to the particularities of institutional, national and regional contexts, in order to take into account diversity and avoid uniformity.

The need for a new vision and a new model of higher education is perceived, which should be focused on promoting student research, so that from undergraduate training students acquire the necessary skills in this area. However, to achieve this goal, it is necessary to reformulate the study plans, not be satisfied with the mere cognitive mastery of the disciplines and include the acquisition of investigative and practical knowledge, skills and abilities for communication, creative and critical analysis, Independent reflection and teamwork in multicultural contexts. 3

In the quality of higher education, research plays a fundamental role due to its strategic nature given its importance in the search for answers and solutions established by science and society; It is recognized as the basis for the progress and improvement of health services, and is related to the economic and social development of a country.

The university, through its investigative processes, undoubtedly has a responsibility to society as a whole, since this requires it to produce, among other things, socially valid scientific knowledge capable of generating creative solutions in the multiple areas of its development. 4

What was expressed motivated the authors to reflect on the research situation in the Ecuadorian university context, through a bibliographic review on the subject.

DEVELOPING

University-research-society relationship

The university is an institution in which teaching and research cannot be separated, even more so if one takes into account that the knowledge offered to students arises from the very work of science when trying to provide answers to social problems. 5

Research offers answers from a scientific, technological, social, educational and humanistic point of view, since thanks to it it is possible to have a multidisciplinary vision of difficulties of any kind. 6 Together with teaching and university extension, they are the fundamental pillars in all contexts. An institution of higher education cannot be conceived without the management of these three elementary processes that guide the construction of knowledge and social change. Universities constitute the central nucleus that guarantees the scientific and technological development of a country, they are the main generators of knowledge.

Scientific productivity and medical education in Latin America

One of the fundamental aspects to measure the scientific development of the university is scientific production, which is determined by the number of publications in scientific journals by its researchers and constitutes an indicator that allows evaluating the scope of its contributions to the development of knowledge. 3

Research management is a concern for universities worldwide, so much so that in Latin America the country with the highest scientific production is Brazil (fifteenth place worldwide), followed by Mexico, Argentina and Chile; medicine is the largest area with publications, followed by agriculture. Despite this, the indicators that express scientific development in these countries are not enough. 6.7

Specifically in the field of medical education, Latin American countries have low scientific production, which prevents having a vision of this panorama that makes it difficult to design and implement interventions in this regard. 4 This can be attributed to a lack of funding, or lack of incentives and training programs in this field. On the other hand, public universities in Latin America are subject to the allocation of budgets by the State, which can negatively influence these rates. It is not surprising then that medical education has begun to be subject to the demand for results that also imply a final reflection on the responsibility in the use of university autonomy, a concept so precious to teachers and students. 3

Researchers, in Corona’s opinion, 8 have a great responsibility to society: that of training future researchers who will go out to provide services in the communities. In order for research to have an “awakening” in the medical university, it is necessary to take into account that the characteristics of the students in this area; physicians, health systems and communities may differ from country to country. This forces each country to conduct research that allows the design and evaluation of quality strategies and methodologies for medical education in each particular context.

Research in Ecuadorian universities

In Ecuadorian universities, according to Ayala, 9 until the 1970s, the fundamental objective was teaching, with very small numbers in the research component, bibliographies, and publications. Research was not part of the study programs, the few that were carried out responded to the scientific concerns of professors and generally became degree or doctoral theses.

In the eighties, the National Council of Universities and Polytechnic Schools was created, a more popular conception of such institutions was generated, and a special percentage (1%) dedicated to research was established in the general budget of the State. They were the first steps for it to be conceived as part of the academic management in the higher education centers of the country, a situation that required above all a change of mentality in the teachers and in the academic authorities. 1

Already in the 1990s, research continues to be promoted in universities with a greater participation of management bodies and, in 2000, the Law on Higher Education and the National Council for Higher Education are created; Since 2008, a reform has been initiated in the field of higher education, with a rapprochement between the government and the main actors in higher education. A series of actions were proposed by the State, which led to the design of comprehensive ambitious projects to strengthen research, technology and innovation. 1

Currently in Ecuador, the quality assurance system requires higher education institutions as a government policy that the aspect related to scientific research must be considered as a necessary element in their curricular structures. 10,11 For this reason, for some years now, efforts have been made to increase scientific production and cultivate a culture of research in undergraduate students. Research is currently assumed as a dynamic and versatile activity and is interpreted as a substantive process of university work that has generated positive impacts on scientific production, on the institutional evaluation process and on the academic level of the faculty.

However, despite the achievements made, the overall development is still not enough. It is necessary to sensitize university teachers so that they see research as a daily activity that is part of their professional role.

In Wong Laborde’s doctoral thesis, 12carried out at the Universidad Católica Santiago de Guayaquil (UCSG) of Ecuador, framed within the interpretive paradigm of educational research, the author set herself the following objectives: to know the motivations of the university professor about research as an area of ​​their professional development, their levels of research training, to inquire about the influence that certain elements of the organizational system of the UCSG exert on the development of a research culture among its teachers and to identify aspects of the professional development of the teacher and the organizational conditions of the institution that require change. and innovation to promote a research culture. Three data collection techniques were used: a questionnaire,

The results obtained revealed that the teachers showed little interest in developing the research. Some careers did not even include them in their professional profile nor did they have an academic structure that established their priority. The data show that at UCSG the benefits that the development of the research capacity of the faculty has for the quality of the teaching-learning process were generally unknown. Despite this, it can be affirmed that changes were taking place aimed at creating a research culture based on the manifest interest of teachers.

The authors of this work have verified that the scientific production of the Faculty of Medical Sciences of the University of Guayaquil until 2015 was 2%, there was insufficient knowledge of research methodology and the number of projects that entered the study was minimal. competitive research fund. The Faculty of Medical Sciences was in last place, which showed that they did not meet the requirements for accreditation.

The Faculty of Medical Sciences of the University of Guayaquil has a high level of relevance and its contributions are relevant, as they induce new views and institutional efforts, basically in what has to do with its management processes, the tendency to become a faculty enterprising and innovative; but in a special way, it must look for specific mechanisms and experiences that help them improve their management processes based on the contribution to society.

For this reason, what Parodi expressed in the special blog “Let’s do something for education” makes sense here, the text of which can be consulted at: http://laescuelacolaborativa.com/2016/07/25/la-escuela-como-principal-protagonista -of-educational-change/ “The school as an organization and educational change represent two areas called to be duly related, carefully analyzed and strategically planned and encouraged for their joint development. It is necessary to take the initiative and generate actions that favor change that the educational system needs, and they must prioritize the universities.

In the opinion of the authors, and in correspondence with the bibliographic review carried out, in the case of Ecuador the main problems related to the low scientific production are:

  • Low number of research projects.
  • Non-existence of research groups.
  • Little participation in teaching innovation activities.
  • Few research funds in national and regional calls.
  • Inexistence of current scholarships and research contracts.
  • Little promotion from scientific societies.
  • Insufficient number of publications in regional and high-impact databases.
  • Little motivation on the part of teachers to publish scientific articles.
  • Insufficient training in research methodology and scientific writing.
  • Lack of knowledge of teachers of magazines where to publish.
  • Non-existence or little collaboration between national and/or international inter-institutional networks.

This problem is similar to that of other countries: in a study carried out at the San Luis Gonzaga National University of Ica, Peru 13 on research in students, insufficient or no participation in self-improvement activities is considered as one of the causes. in this area. Likewise, in the Faculty of Medical Sciences of the University of San Carlos de Guatemala, despite all efforts, only 11 articles were published in 2015, one of the causes that influences this problem is the lack of incentive for teachers and students for scientific research.

If this problem is not addressed in time, it can have a negative influence on university development and prevents a research culture in this area. The authors of this article consider that it is a situation that must be addressed with priority and constitute an essential objective within the management of university processes in their strategic plans.

The authors refer to the imminence of developing methodologies, models or strategies that enhance scientific production in the university framework; thus, the scientific development of a country is strengthened. It is necessary to promote multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary research projects, for professional training from the career and the articulation of the undergraduate with the postgraduate, and the scientific-technological and humanistic domains of the university. Interdisciplinary research must be structured in relation to other areas of knowledge for sustainable development oriented to the application of knowledge in solving problems presented by the community and the environment.

During the training process of health sciences students, the development of their scientific skills is as important as their clinical skills, since knowledge of the scientific method and its application during research actions is essential in the care work , 14 so it is necessary to make higher education institutions promote research in their teachers and students, and generate research processes attending to the dynamics established by regulations and statutes for research groups and scientific production. Lago de Vergara et al., 15state that in the face of this requirement, it can be seen that a limitation for higher education institutions to be of an investigative nature is the scarce economic resources they have to develop these processes.

The activities related to research are very important for the advancement of knowledge, the new society is supported by the permanent and sustained development of Information and Knowledge Technologies (ICT), which prints substantial changes to the entities that integrate them. . Consequently, they have social relevance to the extent that they use knowledge to generate other knowledge, through innovations, modifications and diffusion, promoting well-being, socioeconomic development and changes within science and technology. In such a way, that research activities must be oriented, as already mentioned, by a defined purpose within the framework of national policy guidelines and in accordance with a strategic plan for the development of national, regional and local actions.

Rojas 16 states that in management by university processes, research plays a fundamental role if one takes into account that the humanistic and scientific progress of society depends on it. It must be a permanent policy of the universities to develop an optimal investigative process based on the principles of ethics and humanism, and that results in proposals that generate solutions to the social problems present in each context.

The need to maintain formative research in all undergraduate programs is essential and even more so is its assessment and encouragement, it should not be just a degree option. 17 For this, special attention must be paid to the comprehensive training of students, which guarantees the development of investigative skills, at the same time preparing them for their performance as a competent professional; but this entails the active participation of university faculty, who must plan, advise and control student scientific activity. It is necessary to raise the quality of the research preparation of medical science graduates, especially those graduates with the responsibility of assuming work in the community. 18

The essence of science is to create or produce, to search for new knowledge and put it at the service of the scientific community and society. This is why the authors consider that it is necessary to increase the scientific production in Ecuador of both professors and university students and raise its impact factor.

CONCLUSIONS

Research opens up a new and interesting world in which continuous personal and professional improvement can be experienced, and it is a guarantee of quality for higher education institutions. It is necessary to promote a research culture from the undergraduate level in the universities of the Latin American region in general, and particularly in Ecuador, which trains and develops these skills in order to enhance scientific production in connection with the solution of social problems.

declaration of interests

The authors declare not to have any interest conflicts

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