Science and Technology
"Science education, in the broad sense
a fundamental prerequisite for democracy and for
ensuring sustainable development."
Declaration on Science and the Use of Scientific
World Conference on Science, Budapest, 2 July 1999
A Worldwide Issue
Science and technology advances are transforming the world at an
astonishing rate. Developments in computing and communications,
in particular, are helping to accelerate these changes. Organizations
in even the most advanced economies struggle to keep up, while developing
countries face serious threats, as well as some new opportunities.
The recent World Conference on Science the first such conference
in 20 years took place as the Task Force was drafting this
report. The Task Force warmly welcomes both the Declaration and
the accompanying Framework for Action, which reflects and deepens
many of the themes outlined below. In particular, we embrace the
Frameworks clear and unambiguous call that governments
should accord the highest priority to improving science education
at all levels and should work closely in this endeavor alongside
the private sector and civil society.
Our emphasis is narrower than the Conferences: higher education
is, we believe, an absolute and irreducible prerequisite to developing
a strong science and technology base. We balance this interest in
science with a call for increased priority for general education
(Chapter 6). Tomorrows world will demand highly qualified
specialists and increasingly flexible generalists. Higher education
needs to be ready to meet both these demands.
The NorthSouth scientific gap is large and growing
in part due to the very nature of scientific and technological advances
in the computing age. This requires further research to quantify
the extent of the gap, but there is enough evidence to show that
it is huge.
For example, on a per capita basis developed countries have nearly
10 times as many research and development scientists and technicians
as developing countries (3.8 versus 0.4 per 1000). They have a much
higher share of their populations studying science at the tertiary
level, principally due to substantially greater enrollment rates.
Further, they are spending some 2 per cent of GDP on R&D compared
to a rate of 0.5 per cent or less in most developing countries.
Western Europe, North America, Japan, and the newly industrialized
East Asian countries account for 84 per cent of scientific articles
published. These regions also provide more than 97 per cent of all
new patents registered in Europe and the USA.
Science and technology have direct impacts on society (Box 5)
and such impacts can translate directly into economic growth. A
well-developed higher education sector is fundamental here: it allows
countries to generate new scientific knowledge, to wisely select
and implement existing technologies, and to effectively adapt them
to local circumstances. To fulfil these roles, higher education
science and technology badly needs more investment and more efficient
allocation of existing resources. Achieving this is a formidable
The NorthSouth scientific gap is characterized by stark differences
· access to high-quality laboratory facilities, equipment,
· the availability of well trained teachers.
· the proportion of well prepared and motivated students.
· links with the international scientific community.
· access to the global stock of up-to-date knowledge.
Science and technology has, to some extent, the character of a
public good and market forces often provide less demand for
scientific research than is socially desirable. National governments
(both singly and in concert) must therefore act to counter this
market failure. International organizations must play a vital role,
recognizing the global public benefits of scientific inquiry and
education. National and international organizations have the ability
to finance large investments in the development and maintenance
of scientific capacity and to support long-term efforts in
science when exact benefits are often difficult to predict. National
and international organizations also have a duty to increase the
public understanding of science, encouraging public support for
the values embodied in scientific inquiry.
The Task Force recommends the following five areas for specific
· physical and technical resources.
· human resources.
· local, regional and international cooperation.
· strategies for scientific development.
· universityindustry cooperation.
A double-edged sword
Science and technology has a good track record in generating
and applying new knowledge to improve the human condition.
It can justly claim to have made a positive difference to
the lives of billions. High-yielding varieties of rice, sulfa
drugs, powerful antibiotics, oral contraceptives, electricity,
and cheap and durable plastics are just a few examples of
scientific advances that have had an enormous, direct and
positive impact on living standards across the world.
Not only is the practice of science and technology important
to development, but so are its intrinsic values. These values
generate, in turn, positive spillovers for the wider task
of modernization and social transformation as the creativity,
objectivity, and healthy skepticism about both old and new
claims that are important to science find a wider application.
And it is in higher education institutions that many of these
values are championed. However, scientific and technological
progress can also threaten the public interest.
Nuclear missiles posed an extreme threat to world security
for decades, but with the cold war over, developing countries
are now diverting scarce resources into developing their own
nuclear capacity. Advances in genetics bring a host of moral
and practical problems. Private industry is currently patenting
new ways of producing food at an astonishing rate. Terminator
genes, which are used solely for the purpose of rendering
new, high-yielding seeds sterile, are one example of a technology
that appears to be in the interest of industry rather than
farmers. Monsantos recent announcement that it would
not pursue their commercial use was a response to both US
farmers' concerns and a campaign by, and on behalf of, developing-world
But even these problems are exacerbated by a lack of indigenous
science capacity in developing countries. Foreign experts
can catalyze and contribute to various initiatives, but they
cannot provide the sustained input that is needed to help
developing countries use science as a tool for development
rather than destruction.
Physical and Technical Resources
By their very nature, science and technology have always demanded
significant, ongoing investment to establish, maintain, and expand
the engine of physical infrastructure including
laboratories, libraries, and classrooms. They also need a rich (and
expensive) fuel of textbooks, computers, equipment, and other supplies.
Investment in physical capital is often prohibitively expensive,
with tariffs on imported goods, particularly computer hardware and
software, contributing to the problem. Indias formidable software
industry, for example, did not develop until the removal of high
tariffs on imported computers. Had these barriers fallen sooner,
India might well have enjoyed the economic benefits of this rapidly
growing sector much earlier. The Task Force believes it to be especially
important that governments should consider tariff exemptions for
scientific and technical equipment imported by educational institutions.
Developing countries could also benefit to a much greater extent
from the second-hand, but essentially state-of-the-art, research
instrumentation that can be purchased on the world market if countries
are aware of it. Donor institutions should consider establishing
a not-for-profit global clearing house for this equipment. It would
be useful in higher education, but also in many developing-country
industries. But scientific equipment shortages are unlikely to be
totally solved by these measures alone. Within limits, greater government
initiatives either to purchase such equipment or to engage donors
in providing it would be worthwhile.
The price of appropriate textbooks is also a problem. Books are
often extremely expensive in developing countries, even relative
to the incomes of upper-middle-class students, and without sufficient
books the access of university teachers and students to the world
stock of knowledge is limited. International agencies already buy
(or subsidize) and distribute textbooks, but they should also consider
alternative solutions. In many fields, it should be possible for
instructors at different institutions to achieve some degree of
coordination in their adoption of a relatively small set of textbooks.
Such coordination narrows the range of perspectives to which students
are exposed, but it allows bulk buying of books that greatly reduces
costs. This policy could be combined with the relocating of production
to developing countries. With regional cooperation, the production
of a single Asian edition of a key textbook would be possible, for
example using lower-cost local publishing houses. Successful examples
of this policy already exist in other fields, for instance in health
where the bulk purchase of pharmaceuticals is common. Higher education
institutions should also make more extensive use of editions of
books published in the past year or so, which are often available
at significant discounts.
Computer-based technologies have the potential dramatically to
transform higher education in developing countries, and are clearly
applicable to science education. Networks and new forms of teaching
media have already influenced training and research in industrial
countries. They reduce intellectual isolation while providing increased
(and ever-faster) access to the very latest scientific information
serving as a learning commons (see Chapter 3).
The research capabilities of the Internet, combined with basic word-processing
software, can increase the ability of researchers to contribute
to mainstream scientific publications. Intelligent tutoring systems
and instructional software offer uniformly high-quality training
on complex topics. Some of this technology is supplied in novel
and flexible ways. Internet cafés are springing up in all
corners of the world, providing reliable and relatively low-cost
access to the Internet. Others must be provided centrally
and require substantial ongoing investment.
Another sector experiencing technology-driven change is distance
learning (see Chapter 1), which will continue to grow as education
reinvents itself in the digital age. However, science and technology
education frequently depends on direct, hands-on experience of complex
experimental techniques and technologies. As yet these are difficult
to deliver via the Internet. Further, it is through a period of
time spent in tertiary education institutions that almost all seriously
able scientists and technicians enter the market place. And while
corporate education initiatives continue to develop, more traditional
modes of higher education will continue to have a vital role to
play in skillfully developing the interest, initiative and knowledge
base of science and technology students at a critical stage in their
Computers and Internet connections are available in nearly all
developing countries, and access will increase sharply as computer
costs continue to decline, and wireless communications systems and
solar-powered electric generators proliferate in remote locations.
In the meantime, many countries use outdated computers that cannot
run the latest versions of many programs. Unless computer equipment
can be updated frequently, both students and scientists will be
frustrated in their efforts to keep pace with scientific developments
in the industrial world. The pace of technological change in the
industrial countries is so fast that some such frustration is almost
inevitable but for countries and institutions where computers
are still extremely scarce, older computers, available at low cost,
will be quite valuable. The key to this is to understand the limits
of older software and hardware. Older technology is never a panacea
when the pace of change is so rapid. If educational institutions
can familiarize people (and local small businesses in particular)
with the fact that older computers are often perfectly adequate
for many tasks, they will be better placed to sell off such equipment
in order to invest in newer models. Further, the notion of global
clearing houses for research instrumentation outlined above is equally
applicable to computing technology. Similarly, the many imaginative
schemes developed by several sectors to provide, for example, agricultural
tools, spectacles, pharmaceuticals, and books for the developing
world, could also be extended to computing power.
Scientists working in developing countries have certainly made
contributions to the worlds stock of scientific knowledge
and technological know-how. The contribution made by Chinese traditional
medicines to healthcare has been significant, spanning from acupuncture
to treatments for a form of leukemia. However a far greater number
of developing-country scientists have contributed only minimally,
often from want of adequate training, facilities, supplies, access
to scientific literature, and interaction with knowledgeable and
The lack of well-qualified science and technology teachers and
researchers is a widespread problem in developing countries, particularly
in Africa with its very small base of individuals who can create
a science-oriented culture (although see Box 7, below).
Faculty salaries and benefits therefore need urgent attention.
It is also clear that industry has a significant role to play in
the area of science and technology. The knowledge society is encouraging
a much closer relationship between governments, researchers, and
commercial interests, with new alliances increasingly recognized.
Governments are frequently directing research aims towards the good
of the national economy, while industry looks for quick commercial
development of academic research. Within this context, industry
can play a key role in revamping incentive structures for educational
institutions, imposing specific hiring standards, and establishing
competitive scholarships, loans, work-study, internship, and research
grant programs. Such arrangements can benefit all concerned: business,
educational institutions, and students.
Outstanding scientists are often peripatetic they seek imaginative
colleagues, excellent facilities and, increasingly, financial rewards.
This is a problem that applies to all countries, but with developing
countries having so few scientists, the impact of such migration
can be enormous. Estimates indicate that about one-third of foreign
students studying in the USA do not return to their home countries.
Those who do return frequently bring considerable knowledge and
skills back with them. There is a drawback, however, since their
new expertise may well be skewed towards the research agenda of
industrialized countries rather than their own.
Another, less widely noted aspect of the brain drain is known as
the camp-follower phenomenon. Scientists and other academics
in developing countries often orient their efforts toward those
that are taking place in industrial countries, for example choosing
topics and methods that mimic academics in other regions in order
to become (or remain) part of mainstream research. When the focus
abroad changes, local researchers also change their focus. The goal
is often to win a temporary or permanent position abroad or to secure
international funding for in-country work. The intermediate result
is that, effectively, brain drain can take place in the absence
of actual emigration.
The widespread outflow of qualified individuals stems from dissatisfaction
with local conditions and inadequate scientific support and
from greater intellectual and earning opportunities abroad. Although
the new information technologies may dampen scientists and
engineers incentives to emigrate, the brain drain phenomenon
is likely to continue in the absence of specific countervailing
actions. The retention of top-level talent in developing countries
requires improved governance in higher education institutions, greater
intellectual opportunities, higher professional salaries, and better
working conditions. Countries must also develop further incentives
such as academic freedom, support for international collaboration,
and enhanced job security, in order to lure back and retain their
most talented scientists and engineers. Sustained imaginative efforts
to attract and host international academic and research conferences,
for example, would help contribute to the cultural revaluation of
science and technology. Exchange schemes, mentor programs and other
innovative approaches could be developed to inwardly attract higher
caliber researchers. Scholarship and loan opportunities, targeting
students who prove that they will return home following studies
abroad, may also be a feasible and economically appropriate way
to reduce brain drain.
When students study overseas
In many countries, both developing and developed, significant
numbers of students study at overseas institutions. (The appendix
to this report gives UNESCO's figures on this phenomenon.)
The benefits from this practice can be substantial as students
are exposed to ideas, techniques, and entire fields of study
that differ from what is on offer at home. And in many instances
the quality of the education they receive is better than what
is available in their own country. Not only students, but
countries as a whole, can benefit from such study.
Nevertheless, a country whose students go abroad for higher
education faces some disturbing consequences. First, the cost
of overseas instruction, particularly if it takes place in
a developed country, is generally extremely high. If the student's
home country pays for this education for a large number of
students, this can represent a significant fiscal drain. Even
if an outside donor is paying for the student's education,
study abroad means that funds from donor agencies are being
used to pay for a very expensive type of higher education.
Such funds could, in principle, be used more effectively to
promote quality higher education in the developing country
Second, study abroad is often a student's first step toward
resettling abroad. A country may invest large amounts of money
in training students abroad only to find that they very often
do not come back. Thus even if a student's family is paying
directly for the overseas education, there is a potential
negative consequence for the sending country. Various schemes
have been employed to encourage students to return, but in
the end they have met with only partial success. It is apparent
that the benefits of this accrue with donor countries, not
The status that accompanies overseas study, along with the
skills that students learn abroad, mean that this practice
will undoubtedly continue to play a prominent role in providing
tertiary education to a substantial number of students from
developing countries. However, given the consequences of an
indefinite continuation of this tradition, countries would
benefit by improving their higher education systems sufficiently
to attract a greater portion of their students to study in-country.
India is a country that has had some success in reducing brain
drain. The near-universal emigration of their computer science graduates
a decade ago has now declined to 70 per cent. This has largely been
due to the growing number of highly paid jobs with national and
multinational corporations that were established following market
liberalization. Growing demand for skilled graduates in fields such
as software engineering, financial services, and telecommunications
has also provided some impetus for improved training in these fields.
There are complex relationships at work here, with government,
industry and academia all having a role to play. Fragmented effort
will not suffice. Environment, tourism, and business development
are all areas where governments have begun to recognize a need to
think and act strategically across departmental interests. Science
and technology increasingly defines our future. It is therefore
vital to the future of developing countries that they turn to the
task of systematically nurturing and retaining their
science and technology talent.
Women in science and technology
Although there has been measurable progress over the past 30 years,
a global pattern whereby women are under-represented in all sectors
of education persists, although this pattern does mask important
regional and local variations. The widest gap by gender is seen
in South Asia, the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa, but women
are increasingly well represented in Latin America.
The gender imbalance is particularly strong in the areas of mathematics,
the physical sciences, and engineering, but in many developing countries,
this imbalance is notably smaller in the medical sciences. Women
are also disproportionately enrolled in alternative forms of higher
education, such as distance education, teacher training colleges,
nursing schools, and non-university, tertiary level institutions.
There are also clearly social pressures on women to pursue traditionally
female subjects in the humanities, education, and nursing
at the expense of science and technology disciplines.
As noted, this problem is by no means confined to developing countries.
Approximately 2 per cent of the people on the UK Engineering Council
database, for example, are female. There are also many social constraints
to female participation in higher education in general, with higher
education perceived as a predominantly male environment. The lack
of female participation in mainstream higher education and science
and technology disciplines means that many countries currently realize
only a portion of their potential in these areas.
Developing countries should therefore urgently explore ways to
promote the participation of women in the sciences. The international
development community has come to recognize the great social benefits
of educating girls at the primary and secondary levels. Now it must
recognize the value of educating women at the tertiary level, including
in scientific fields. Once initiated, the process will gain momentum
as successful female professionals including scientists
provide positive role models. A positive result would be a narrowing
of the gender gap in science and technology and a simultaneous enhancing
of national scientific achievement. In addition, since professional
women tend to be less internationally mobile than men, increasing
the share of investment in science education directed toward women
will presumably help to reduce brain drain.
Because of numerous social and cultural barriers, including falling
behind their male peers when they have children, special measures
may be required to help women achieve leadership roles in science.
Mentoring programs for women in mathematics and science have had
a positive effect on retention rates. Increasing scholarship assistance
and loans to women would undoubtedly help. Actively recruiting women
for graduate study and developing supportive networks (see Box 8)
will also help promote a culture of female participation in science
Improving primary and secondary preparation
Recent international evidence reveals considerable cross-country
variation in mathematics and scientific achievement at primary and
secondary levels, both among developing and industrial countries.
Science and mathematics are both building block subjects
in that progress is particularly reliant on what has already been
learned. Country authorities therefore need to improve primary and
secondary institutions curriculum development, teachers
qualifications, teaching techniques, and access to key inputs such
as textbooks, laboratory facilities, and information technology.
Further, systematic attention at primary and secondary levels to
many of the cultural issues around gender would also facilitate
an enhanced flow of womens participation.
African science moves forward
African science recently received a boost when a particularly
imaginative proposal to explore how resources freed
by debt relief can be committed to science and technology
was offered by 50 African ministers who met at the
World Science Conference in Budapest. This was the largest
meeting of African science ministers in over 20 years. Cameroons
science and technology minister (and mathematician) Henri
Hogbe Nlend said the conference has given us an opportunity
to relaunch inter-African cooperation in science.
The African ministers will follow the conference with another
meeting, held by the Organization of African States, to discuss
a pan-African scientific collaboration protocol. They hope
such a protocol will be signed by heads of state. In particular,
they want to explore building links between richer and poorer
African countries as well as between industrialized and developing
The Task Force hopes these initiatives will build on existing
ones, such as The University Science, Humanities & Engineering
Partnerships in Africa (USHEPiA). This is a collaborative
program, launched in 1994, building on existing potential
to develop a network of African researchers capable of addressing
the developmental requirements of sub-Saharan Africa. Involving
universities in Botswana, Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda,
Zambia, and Zimbabwe, USHEPiA initiates fruitful educational
exchanges involving masters and doctoral students, lecturers,
and post-doctoral fellows. USHEPiA also promotes productive,
collaborative research on problems challenging Africa.
The Task Force applauds these initiatives and hopes they
will be fully developed over the coming years.
Womens role in science has come under increased scrutiny
of late, and this was formalized when the final documentation
emerging from the World Science Conference in Budapest systematically
acknowledged gender issues. Sjamsiah Achmad of the Indonesian
Institute of Technology in Jakarta, who chaired the gender
issues session, noted Its the first time the issue
has entered the world science agenda.
Another Indonesian delegate, Wati Hermawati, welcomed the
call to develop gender indicators. She will work at the National
Focal Point for Gender, Science and Technology (part of Achmads
Institute) to develop gender indicators on, for example, participation,
education, and career structures. Until now weve
had no indicators, she pointed out. OECD (Organization
for Economic Cooperation and Development) members have carried
out comparative studies of scientific efforts, but hitherto
have not collected gender data. Meanwhile, UNESCO recently
announced its intention to fund a science and technology network
for Arab women. Another group is currently negotiating a support
network in Jakarta to serve the Indonesian and Pacific region.
Local, Regional, and International
Higher education institutions benefit greatly from connections
with similar institutions. For scientists in the developing world,
the paucity of such contacts is often an impediment to their creativity
and productivity. They lack a direct pipeline into current scientific
awareness, lack opportunities for mainstream publication, and are
part of few professional partnerships or networks. (Few things are
more disconcerting to researchers than to be informed that their
new discoveries were already known to others.) Unlike
colleagues in the humanities or social sciences, much of their subject
matter is almost totally incomprehensible to the wider population
and it is thus even more important that developing-world scientists
be able to plug into those sources of support and inspiration that
do exist. Ways to overcome isolation include organizing conferences,
providing travel grants allowing researchers to reach more distant
venues, and ensuring access to telephones and computer-mediated
communication. All of these actions would help promote interaction
among a corps of geographically dispersed scientists. Links could
also be promoted, for example, by the formation of an international
volunteer corps of scientists (some of whom might be retired) who
could offer their services by teaching or consulting in specific
fields or on particular projects. Such pro bono cooperation, for
which successful examples exist in fields such as financial service,
has to be handled with care (for example, would-be helpers sometimes
arrive unprepared), but the potential benefits are enormous. The
Financial Services Volunteer Corps draws on working professionals
in the banking and corporate sector and since 1990 has sent over
1000 volunteers to former communist countries. They have completed
over US$100 million in pro bono work, in countries as diverse as
Russia, Hungary and Moldova (see www.fsvc.org).
Cooperation is especially important at the regional level, helping
individual countries to achieve a critical mass in scientific subjects.
Fellowship programs to train energy analysts in developing countries
have been established in prestigious universities in several countries
in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, for example. The University
Science, Humanities and Engineering Partnerships in Africa (USHEPiA)
is also doing groundbreaking work in Africa (see Box 7).
International networks, meanwhile, provide promising opportunities
for promoting scientific innovation appropriate to the needs of
developing countries. The Consultative Group on International Agricultural
Research (CGIAR) is an example of a global program of research on
agricultural issues of direct relevance to developing countries,
such as rice production, food policy, agroforestry, and irrigation.
The World Bank and three other United Nations agencies established
the CGIAR in 1971. The network owes its existence and continuation
to the financial support of multilateral donors, amounting to some
US$300 million per year. Many of its achievements, ranging from
the development of new rice varieties that sparked the Green Revolution
to appropriate methods of soil and water conservation, represent
international public goods that are unlikely to have evolved without
International research centers such as those in the CGIAR network
are sometimes criticized for failing to build scientific capacity
within their host countries. The Task Force does not believe this
is a valid observation. CGIAR centers, for example, have helped
train over 50 000 scientists in developing countries. But we
believe more can be done to ensure that any investment in scientific
capacity reinforces, rather than competes with, ongoing national
efforts an approach that will be further enhanced as national
responses become more focused and coordinated. Local counterpart
institutions, working in conjunction with internationally funded
centers, can greatly enhance the value of international networks.
Such cooperation gives local institutions an entrée into
the global research world and greatly spurs local efforts.
The Indian Institutes of Technology provide one example of beneficial
crossovers from the international to a national science community.
Five institutes were established in the early 1950s as institutions
of national importance, modeled explicitly after the best
examples of technical higher education from Germany, Russia, the
UK, and the USA. Throughout the 1960s each of the institutes was
heavily funded by a different country, and staffed by top-ranking
faculty from both India and the funding country. Today the Indian
Institutes of Technology enjoy not only national, but also international
prominence in several technical fields, operating successfully as
Indian rather than as international institutions.
Reform of the international intellectual
property rights regime
As more countries participate in the global economy, protection
for the results of investment in knowledge creation has become increasingly
important. Currently, however, most patents protect advances made
in industrial countries, and licensing fees for product development
based on new inventions are often prohibitively high. Universities
and research institutes in developing countries therefore face significant
financial barriers to research and, in the future, whole regions
may find themselves cut off from participation in the global network
Although this problem is not yet serious, there is growing recognition
that it is likely to become so as the international intellectual
property regime becomes more formalized. (The World Science Conference
in Budapest, for example, was dominated by intellectual property
issues.) Wider use of a sliding scale for licensing agreements,
taking into account a countrys level of development, would
be helpful. Alternatively, these countries could purchase, perhaps
with a subsidy from an international organization, a countrywide
site license for access to software and particular research techniques.
Another possibility would be to promote NorthSouth joint ventures
in which developed- and developing-country participants earn and
share intellectual property rights. Advances in this area will need
to be carefully thought through from the point of view of both the
developing country and the intellectual property holder. Arrangements
that do not give the property holder clear protection regarding
the resale of technology are unlikely to be sustainable.
In this area, in particular, developing countries need to adopt
emerging best practice from the industrialized world. The UKs
National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA),
for example, has explicitly committed itself to exploring creative
partnerships with innovators, where in exchange for bearing some
of the risk and providing financial support NESTA obtains a percentage
of the intellectual property rights. Profits are fed back into the
funding loop. Where models do not exist, however, developing countries
should be prepared to innovate. The knowledge economy will demand
new and quite different institutions and these may come more
quickly in emergent rather than mature economies.
Strategies for Scientific Development
The capacity to carry out scientific research is extremely limited
in many developing countries. While not every country needs to conduct
basic research in a variety of fields, each country must consider
the types of scientific and technological research that can directly
contribute to its development. In view of the costs and other difficulties,
perhaps the right question to ask is: what is the minimum level
of scientific and technological capacity necessary to achieve national
At the very least, every country needs to be able to turn to a
small corps of its own citizens for informed guidance and expert
advice about scientific and technological developments. As well
as people who can choose wisely among technologies, there is a need
to support and promote people who can begin to build scientific
self-reliance. International collaboration is important in achieving
this with regional cooperation essential for those smaller
countries in which a research university is not practical (see Box
2, Chapter 1). Selective excellence is also an important strategy,
where countries focus on building strength in a few selected scientific
disciplines which should correspond closely with a countrys
needs and its comparative research advantage. For example, a country
with a long coastline might naturally gravitate towards marine biology,
while countries subject to volcanic eruptions and earthquakes would
want experts in soil mechanics and construction engineers skilled
in designing earthquake-resistant structures.
On a global level, market forces are a crucial determinant of the
allocation of scientific effort among competing substantive issues.
AIDS and malaria claim roughly as many lives a year, but AIDS is
far more prevalent in richer countries than malaria, and receives
far more research funding. The lack of effective demand also explains
the paucity of research in other areas with great potential for
improving the living standards of the worlds poor. Examples
include research into chimney and other ventilation systems that
protect household members (mainly women and young children) from
respiratory ailments and eye problems caused by indoor pollution;
and the development of non-sterile varieties of hybrid corn and
of wheat, rice, and corn varieties that can better fix nitrogen
in the soil and thereby reduce the use of chemical fertilizers.
Achieving a tighter focus on national, regional, and even global
research priorities will inevitably involve multiple sets of stakeholders.
While the World Health Organization has a global role, so too does
the wider international donor community who usually have
access to substantial high-quality science and technology expertise
and resources. The more coordinated response recently outlined by
African science ministers (see Box 7) also offers a greatly extended
opportunity to focus efforts, as do initiatives such as those of
the William H. and Melinda Gates Foundation, which recently donated
US$50 million for work on a malaria vaccine. National governments,
too, can play a role. For example, the science and technology community
in the UK has seen a shift, in barely a decade, from a research
agenda entirely defined by scientists and researchers to one driven
more by the outputs that the government, as the client, wants to
Scientists and researchers themselves can also help drive the research
agenda on global priorities. This century has seen many examples
of moral leadership by scientists, most recently from Nobel prizewinner
Joseph Rotblat of Pugwash (who recently argued that scientists should
take the equivalent of a Hippocratic oath). Within higher education
institutions especially research universities scientists
have a great deal of academic freedom and insulation from commercial
pressures. Scientists from all countries have a responsibility to
use this privilege, which is heavily funded by society, for societys
good. The work of scientists constantly challenges us, with its
potential to benefit humanity, or to harm it. Nuclear technology
can be simultaneously seen as a curse or a blessing, offering a
formidable weapon but also a treatment for cancer and a provider
of plentiful electricity. The work of scientists in the field of
genetics holds before us the opportunity to tackle age-old diseases,
while it also augurs the specter of genetic selection. Each advance
gives humanity choices that require a special responsibility from
Finally there is the public. There is a strong case for extensive
and effective public communication about science, thereby enhancing
cultural support for science and technology, and about its content
for example, safer sex campaigns based on scientific understanding
of sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV. Public involvement
in science must go further than this. If science is in part a public
good that needs to be at least partly publicly funded, then the
public has a clear interest in scientific objectives, processes
and outcomes. Strategies to support scientific development will
need to encourage the creation of an open and accountable scientific
community and recognize the importance of public support for continued
There is great potential in developing countries to strengthen
science and technology links between higher education institutions
and industry. Universities are predominantly non-proprietary settings,
and because they bring together representatives of all disciplines
into a single place, they provide fertile grounds for cross-pollination.
Commercial, specialized research centers also produce top-notch
research, but their capacity is sometimes limited by the narrowness
of their focus. The development of new technologies consists of
three types of interconnected activities: (i) research, (ii) technology
development and adaptation, and (iii) production and marketing.
The largest role for universities is in carrying out the initial
research, but subsequent product development and distribution often
result in a fruitful interplay between universities and industry.
In many developed countries an increasing number of companies are
spinning off from universities, a process that happens when researchers
are encouraged to look for commercial applications of their work.
Insofar as some technical expertise can be acquired only through
learning-by-doing, industrial apprenticeships are also an effective
means of training new cadres of highly skilled workers. In fact,
the very nature of the knowledge revolution, and the intimate links
of, for example, academia with the Internet or biotechnology, have
helped shape a different set of cultural values around such collaboration.
Where industrys relationship with universities was once based
on geographical links or the interests of alumni, todays collaborators
are seeing a death of distance as technology enables
collaborations to work at huge distances. This culture can, in due
course, extend benefits to developing countries.
Many countries Argentina, Brazil, Chile, China, Colombia,
Egypt, India, Kenya, Malaysia, and Nigeria, among others
have taken active steps to forge stronger links between their academic
and industrial sectors. In Brazil, this interaction resulted in
the development of an alternative fuel that replaced half the country's
use of gasoline automobiles with renewable, domestic sources of
energy. As another example, high rates of maternal mortality in
rural areas in India caused by lack of access to blood transfusions
inspired the development, in one medical research center, of low-cost
plastics that could resist the inherent corrosiveness of blood and
be used for storing blood. The international marketing of this product
has been handled in a completely commercial manner, with some of
the proceeds being used to subsidize local use of the product.
The problem of insufficient scientific capacity in developing countries
is acute, but it is not insurmountable. Higher education has played
a leading role in bringing about impressive scientific achievements
under difficult circumstances in various parts of the developing
world. Generally, these achievements have arisen as a result of
an early, deep, and sustained commitment to particular areas of
science or technology.
Notwithstanding the success stories, developing countries are falling
further behind industrial countries in terms of their science and
technology capacities and achievements. Perhaps the most disturbing
aspect of this trend is that many areas of scientific inquiry that
hold great promise for the development of international public goods
are receiving inadequate attention. These problems bode ill for
social and economic development, and suggest a further widening
of global inequality in standards of living. Many very useful discoveries
end up sidelined because of a lack of support either from business
or government, not because they are inherently inapplicable. In
the case of the Baylis wind-up radio that requires neither outside
sources of electricity or batteries a very popular product
manufactured in South Africa that has brought news and information
to many poor families the inventor spent long, frustrating
years trying to raise the interest of manufacturers. This useful
invention would have still remain unknown if it was not for some
seed money from the British government.
Inadequate resources (both physical and human) for science education,
and the absence of key values and traditions that promote effective
scientific inquiry and training, are among the main causes of the
deteriorating position of developing countries in the sciences.
We have suggested some means by which higher education institutions
and governments can address these problems. Strong international
leadership that provides sustained intellectual and financial support
for strengthening the scientific capacity of developing countries
is also urgently needed. Equally important are efforts to strengthen
scientific links between institutions of higher education in developing
countries and centers of scientific excellence worldwide.
The key question that will exercise policy-makers in developing
countries is where should promoting science and technology
higher education rank in the long list of priorities for resources?
The answer will vary from country to country. Science and technology
is moving with extraordinary speed. Countries such as India and
many of the South-East Asian economies now play a strong role in
the development of software and hardware. With the many incalculable
spin-off benefits yielded by technologies such as the Internet,
the world is entering the future before our eyes. Playing a role
in that future requires every developing country to think strategically
about how their inevitably limited resources for science and technology
higher education might best be deployed to the advantage of future
1997 World Development Indicators report, World Bank, p. 73
This is well documented in the Third International Math and Science
Study (TIMSS) by the US Department of Education. Please read Pursuing
Excellence: A Study of US Twelfth-Grade Mathematics and Science
Achievement in International Context. More information can be found
on the following websites: www.nces.ed.gov/timss/twelfth/index.html
or www.ed.gov/inits/timss or www.nces.ed.gov/timss-r/.