BRIN and the Future of Religious Research in Indonesia

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By: Prof. Dr. Muhamad Murtadlo
(Principal Expert Researcher of the Ministry of Religious Affairs)

Early in 2022 (03/01/2022) the world of research in Indonesia was marked by a major event, namely the merger of all researchers in one institution called the National Research and Innovation Agency (BRIN).

Almost all researchers who have been spread across 33 ministry institutions have been sworn into BRIN researchers.

With the swearing-in ceremony from a number of researchers from 33 Ministries signaled a new chapter that the incorporation of researchers in BRIN containers has gone several stages. Because previously in 2021 only limited researchers in the environment of non-Ministerial Government Institutions (LPNK), consisting of LIPI, Batan, Lapan and BPPT.

In early 2022, researchers from 33 Ministries and institutions have joined BRIN. And, then will soon follow joined, namely researchers from 6 ministries including the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources, the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, and the Ministry of Industry.

The event of combining all researchers in one institution called BRIN is said to be the largest unifying event of the research profession in the world. Some countries, including China and others, are doing the same.

The merger of researchers in Indonesia is reportedly intended to increase or boost the progress of the research and science and technology world produced in Indonesia.

Pros cons

The event of merging researchers is not quiet from the pros and cons. Many speculations that arise color this merger effort such as the assumption of the politicization of the research profession, academic freedom that wants to be controlled which is feared will actually hinder the progress of science and technology itself.

BRIN itself is a new institution that is the realization of the implementation of Law No. 11 of 2019 on the National System of Science and Technology (Sisnas Iptek). Brin Institution today was formed based on Presidential Decree No. 78 of 2021.
Thus, BRIN is a government agency that is under and responsible to the president to carry out the functions of research, development, assessment, and application, as well as integrated invention and innovation.

The Fate of Religious Research

What was the fate of religious research after religious researchers joined BRIN? Will progress or will religious studies be unclear?

So far by being in the Ministry of Religious Affairs, researchers have discretion in managing budgets to carry out religious research.

In the Ministry of Religious Affairs there are 143 religious researchers who claimed to join BRIN.

It’s just that the perosesnya gradual, the first stage of 124 researchers with the rank of researchers Madya down joined first, and the second stage 19 Main Expert researchers following awaiting approval from the Secretariat of State.

During this time, religious research within the scope of the Ministry of Religious Affairs was supported by at least three types of institutions.

First, research conducted by the R&D Agency of the Ministry of Religious Affairs, where religious research is used to strengthen policy formulation in the field of religious development which is the duty and function of the Ministry of Religious Affairs.

Second, research conducted by religious college community, in this case conducted by lecturers and students.

Third, religious research conducted by independent research institutions whether it is around campus or off campus such as the Center for Islamic and Community Studies (PPIM) UIN Jakarta, Lakspesdam NU, Maarif Institut and so on.

Especially in the bureaucratic environment of the Ministry of Religious Affairs, religious research has been carried out by religious researchers who are in the R&D and Training Agency unit of the Ministry of Religious Affairs.

The embryonic presence of this institution began in the 1970s which included three focus studies, namely:

  1. Religious services and harmony by the government such as marriage services, religious-related legal services, Umrah hajj services, services related to the construction of houses of worship, zakat administrasti services, waqf and social worship and now develop also to halal product assurance services;
  2. Religious and religious education services that include educational services administered by the Ministry of Religious Affairs such as religious education services in schools, madrasah education services, religious education services and religious education services in universities and religious higher education services;
  3. Conservation and development of religious literature and treasures covering several focuses of study and development: starting from the study of religious scriptures, the study of classical religious literature, the study of contemporary religious literature, the study of houses of worship, the study of religious social history, the study of religious floklore, religious manuscripts.

Various research results produced by religious researchers have provided a strong foundation of development policies related to religion such as overseeing the implementation of PNPS Law 1 of 1965 on the Prevention of Blasphemy.

The Supervision of the Joint Decree (SKB) of three Ministers in 1975, namely the Minister of Religion, the Minister of Education and the Minister of Home Affairs on improving the Quality of Madrasah Education.

Regulation of the Joint Minister (PBM) between the Minister of Religious Affairs and the Minister of Home Affairs in 2006 on the Maintenance of Religious Harmony, Empowerment of religious harmony forum and establishment of houses of worship; the construction of a house of worship; Supervision of the implementation of Sisdiknas Law No. 20 of 2003 related to the equality of the status of educational institutions managed by the Ministry of Religious Affairs and other legal products.

In addition, various services of special study such as the qur’anic administration, religious books that disturb the public, religious education books, religious related academic texts, legal products related to religious functions.

Several developments have also resulted in such translations of scriptures, especially the Quran, in various regional languages, Digital Religious manuscripts (Thesaurus), dictionaries of religious terms, encyclopedias of Nusantara Religious figures, various religious journals, books of religious studies and various proceedings of religious studies.

Religious Research Product Dilemma

Currently when religious researchers are incorporated into BRIN, there are actually various research and development products running such as 12 religious research journals with mostly Sinta 2 accreditation, annual international proceedings publications, namely the Proceedings of the International Conference on Religion and Education (INCRE) and the Proceedings of the International Symposium of Religious Life (ISRL) and the assessment of religious books.

These three special services, so far not brought to BRIN and it certainly raises its own questions in terms of continuity and quality of this particular service.

Because the three programs are attached as property of the Ministry of Religious Affairs and it is not yet clear whether or not it can be brought by Religious Researchers to BRIN.
The idea of integration of researchers into BRIN is driven by the want to boost the progress of science and technology in Indonesia.

Science and Technology Progress Indicators

Some indicators are often referred to as a nation’s science and technology progress such as the number of researcher ratios per million population, the number of publications of research results, the number of international publications, the number of patents from innovation. From some data mentioned that currently the ratio of Indonesian researchers is only 90 people / million population.

By comparison, India has 140 researchers per million inhabitants; Japan has 5000 researchers per million inhabitants; South Korea has 6500 researchers per million inhabitants.

From the number of research publications, per year Indonesia only reached 40,000. This number when compared to neighboring Malaysia is still losing. For 4 years from 2016-2020 the number of Indonesian research publications reached 161,000; Malaysia has 173,000. If divided on average per year 40,000 research publications in Indonesia, while Malaysia has reached 44,000 per year ( 1/27/2021).

In terms of patents. The participation of Indonesian researchers to obtain patents is still low. In some developed countries such as Japan and South Korea between the number of journal publications and the number of patents, it is even higher the number of patents. In 2020, indonesian researchers who received grants recorded 3,546 patents. ( 5/11/2020)

Going back to religious research, not all religious research can be measured by the size as above.

For example related to patents, referring to patent law No. 13 of 2016 mentioned that in Article 9 letter c of the Patent Law stipulated that inventions that cannot be granted a patent one of which is theory and method in the field of science and mathematics.

Religious science is more dominant as understanding or science. Therefore, formulating religious issues in the context of patents seems far more baked than fire.

What may be done may be related to the increase in the number of religious researchers and religious research publications.

Related to religious researchers, the presence of various religious universities from each religion in Indonesia directly or indirectly will increase the number of religious researchers, as well as religious research publications.

No Longer a Seed

With the integration of religious research into BRIN, indeed religious research can still run with the existence of Religious Colleges and independent research institutions that focus on religious research.

While in terms of religious research initiated by the state bureaucracy, by joining BRIN today, religious research still has great concerns will narrow.

As a result, the state seems less considering religious research as a superior commodity as the nation’s more value. Whereas as a nation that is known and religious and has religious diversity, one of the things that can be expected is the birth of the advancement of religious science of each religion.

In time Indonesia can become a country as a reference center for religions. Not only is it a particular religion, in this case Islam, but it also applies to all. Imagine if Christians, Catholics, Hindus, Buddhists and Muslims from various nations flocked to Indonesia.

The integration of religious researchers into BRIN without the existence of an independent religious Research Organization (OR), causing religious research is only functional.

Religious research is no longer a formal object and religious research becomes minimally initiated by the state bureaucracy, in this case BRIN, directly.

Because the existence of RELIGIOUS OR means not having a Program House that can determine and finance certain types of research proposals, causing religious research cannot be a priority for research that can be done. Hopefully, this impression is wrong and in the future there is a good opportunity to advance religious research through BRIN, hopefully.

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