Being recognized internationally as an excellent university is a tremendous achievement for Universitas Bangka Belitung (UBB). Through participation in the Center for Development of Sustainable Region (CDSR), UBB has had the opportunity to improve its capacity and broaden its networks internationally. One of the excellent achievements is when UBB hosted an international conference for the first time in 2019. CDSR is one of SHERA’s five Centers for Collaborative Research (CCRs), which focuses on multidisciplinary collaboration in conducting research to promote energy efficiency and independence in Indonesia.
Established in 2006, UBB is considered a new university in Indonesia. As a new higher education institution (HEI), it was not easy for UBB to gain recognition amongst its stakeholders and peers. “We [UBB] are still young compared to Universitas Indonesia, Universitas Padjadjaran, or any other state-owned university in Indonesia. Not many people know where UBB is,” said Wahri Sunanda, S.T., M. Eng., Dean of the Faculty of Engineering UBB.
It was a challenge for UBB to improve its capacity in the first years of its establishment. Few UBB researchers had academic papers published in the Scopus index journal at that time. According to the 2017 university ranking issued by the Ministry of Research, Technology and Higher Education (Kemristekdikti), UBB ranked only 370 out of 2,500 HEIs in Indonesia.
Despite these challenges, UBB never stopped seeking opportunities to collaborate with other Indonesian HEIs, as it knew that broadening its networks was vital for improving its research and management capacity. In 2017, Universitas Gadjah Mada (UGM), the lead university of CDSR, asked UBB to join the consortia as an affiliate. “It was an honour for us [UBB] to be trusted to join in international collaboration. We had heard that this collaboration [CDSR] will involve U.S. institutions so that we will be able to learn from U.S. scholars as well,” Wahri added.
Since joining CDSR, UBB has participated in many activities, such as a workshop on writing academic papers, site visits to Semujur Island to conduct research on microalgae, and presenting at international conferences. Through these activities, UBB’s researchers and lecturers have also had the opportunity to build networks with other Indonesian scholars and researchers.
However, UBB’s greatest achievement since joining CDSR was hosting the International Conference on Green Energy and the Environment in September 2019. This was the first international event ever hosted by UBB. “We were very honoured yet challenged. We had never hosted any international events before, but we tried our best to make the event successful,” said Wahri, who acted as as the Chairman of the event.
The first challenge UBB faced in hosting the conference was convincing participants to submit academic papers. UBB was less popular compared to other large universities in Indonesia to host an international conference; subsequently, the first two months of open registration saw paper submission far below the target. “Participants maybe didn’t know us and didn’t trust us. Then, we decided to extend the submission deadline while also convincing participants that the conference is trustworthy” Wahri said.
Another challenge UBB faced was inviting international speakers. With its lack of experience in hosting international events, UBB was not sure who would speak at the conference. Fortunately, Wahri knew some international scholars from when he attended a conference in Thailand in 2018 and he invited them to become speakers. CDSR also helped him to invite other international scholars to attend the conference and all Wahri’s colleagues in the UBB Faculty of Engineering helped prepare for the event. “We’re so glad that the conference finally went very well and smoothly, although it was our first time hosting an international conference,” Wahri shared. In the end, the conference boasted 4,766 participants, 46.8% of which were women.
Many lecturers and researchers from UBB submitted and presented their academic papers at the conference, in addition to scholars from across Indonesia. This then increased the number of UBB Scopus-indexed academic papers. Since joining CDSR in 2017, UBB has published academic papers. This increase in publications has directly contributed to the university’s accreditation by the Government of Indonesia. “We used to be [ranked] 370, but in 2019 we were in 191. This is a very big achievement for us,” remarked Wahri.
Since joining CDSR, UBB has encouraged its researchers to produce more publications and increase submissions to international conferences. These activities have positively impacted UBB’s accreditation process. Additionally, through collaboration with CDSR, UBB is currently seeking sustainability support from the local government and private sectors to develop further research on microalgae as an alternative renewable energy source. Researchers from UBB and CDSR have presented the research to the local government are currently waiting to hear more from the government.