Science a key foundation for international development

26 October 2012

The developing world needs to have the capacity to find their own solutions to their own problems and this requires them to develop home grown scientists and technology, according to a report by MPs on the Science and Technology Committee.

Chairman of the Science and Technology Committee, Andrew Miller MP, said:

"We all want to be able to solve our own problems and in the modern world that means having the science and technology necessary to do so.

Africa is a huge continent with a wealth of natural resources and that includes people. It is a bigger tragedy to squander or lose that human resource than the gold and diamonds the continent is famous for."

The Committee was keen to see the idea of chief scientific advisors promoted in developing countries. The UK has benefitted from having strong scientific advice available to Ministers: developing nations would see a huge benefit from being able to draw on strong home-grown institutions to inform policy decisions.

A previous report by the Science and Technology Committee had criticised the Government for not paying enough attention to building the science base of developing nations. While concerns remain, MPs considered that the Department for International Development had made improvements in using a more robust evidence base and developing its own in-house expertise.

An important feature raised in the report by the Select Committee was that there had to be more attention paid to ensuring that scientists, especially those trained through UK support, were facilitated in staying in their home country and utilising the skills they had acquired. More support was needed to permit scientists from developing nations to build and develop their early career within in their native country. Only then could programmes to build scientific capacity eventually become self-sustaining.

Andrew Miller MP, added:

"There are some fantastic institutions doing great work in the developing world. We need to ensure that these institutions grow and that our scientists are encouraged to expand their horizons and get involved in science that is making a critical difference to people lives."

UK science benefits from collaborations in developing nations and through building connections with growing economies of the world but the MPs found that current funding streams actively discourage the participation of UK scientists. The MPs recommended that exercises such as the Research Excellence Framework recognise the contribution made by these scientists beyond their publication record.

Image: iStockphoto

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