Research with real-life impact: Faisal Abbas

Faisal Abbas finished his PhD at ZEF in 2010. He returned to Germany with an Alexander von Humboldt Fellowship, and, later on, an SDG Fellowship. He has a permanent position at the National University of Science and Technology (NUST) in Islamabad, Pakistan.

“I learned at ZEF that doing scientific research should aim at having an impact on real life and bring something for the people of this world”.

Fact sheet

Brief portrait

Faisal Abbas tells about his journey from research to policy advocacy, underscoring the practical application of academic knowledge in influencing governmental decisions for societal betterment.

In his doctoral research at ZEF (graduation in 2010), Dr. Abbas analyzed government allocations in Pakistan’s health sector and their impact on national development. Approaching the topic from an economic perspective, his research aimed to determine the viability of government investment in healthcare and its subsequent effects on the populace’s well-being. The main conclusion drawn was that increased investment in health by the Pakistani government would yield positive economic outcomes.

Subsequently, Faisal succeeded in transitioning his research into policy advocacy: “Following up on the work I did during my doctoral research I have kept telling the government of Pakistan that we have to spend more on health and that it would pay off. So with the passage of time, and as a result of continuous efforts of like-minded colleagues and myself, our government has started to increase health allocation“, tells Faisal. Until today, Faisal remains engaged with governmental advisory bodies concerning health-related policies.

Reflecting on his doctoral education at ZEF, Faisal highlights three key lessons he has learned: firstly, the disparity in development perspectives between Western nations and non-industrialized countries like Pakistan. Secondly, the importance of conducting research with real-world impact, a concept instilled by ZEF professors who had experience in international organizations and policy-making. Lastly, the responsibility of researchers to contribute positively to society through their work.

He relates: “As a scientific-community person, you can have an impact on policy and people’s lives through the words that you write. You are responsible for what your writings that might have a long-lasting impact, be it adverse or positive, on people’s well-being“.

Faisal has been active in teaching throughout his career since receiving his doctoral degree. In this way he can convey the lessons he learned to his students, emphasizing the significance of utilizing available resources effectively and advocating for critical thinking. He has been observing that platforms like social media can play a positive role in empowering students in expressing their opinions and fighting for rights such as establishing student unions.

Maybe we are lacking resources like countries in the West, but we have the ability to do something with the given resources. Things are different in our part of the world compared to the West, as we are starting from a different point . On the other side, students are now asking explanations about things that we normally were hesitant to do. So that’s one of the assets of social media or the other kinds of media for the developing world and in particular in Pakistan”.

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