Vol 2 N° 1 [January–March 2004]

 

CONTENTS

IN FOCUS
p 2 - Measuring progress towards knowledge societies

NEWS
p 7 - Keeping tabs on human genetic data
p 8 - Africa vows to step up investment in R&D
p 9 - Rebuilding Iraq’s universities
p 9 - Mondialogo challenges students to engineer a better world
p 10 - Islam and Science author among UNESCO laureates

INTERVIEW
p 10 - Lídia Brito on NEPAD in general and Mozambique in particular

HORIZONS
p 13 - The floating university
p 17 - Margaret’s story

IN BRIEF
p 19 - Governing bodies
p 20 - Diary
p 20 - New releases

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EDITORIAL

'The quiet revolution'

Science is not a global endeavour, alas. Just as the world has its info-rich and info-poor, so too it has its research-rich and research-poor. The digital divide is but a symptom of the scientific divide.

But after the economy and communication, could science, in turn, be globalizing? Caroline Wagner thinks so. A Research Fellow at RAND, a non-profit think tank, she is convinced that ‘science is becoming a world system’. Wagner notes a 50% increase (to 15% of the total) in the number of articles being internationally co-authored in the ten years to 1997 – still the early days of Internet – and calculates that the global network of scientific collaboration consisted of 128 core countries in 2000.

One of the motors of broader international collaboration has been the development of ties between the diaspora and scientists at home, a process facilitated by the Web. Ana María Cetto wrote in UNESCO’s World Science Report 1998 that an estimated 40–60% of all Argentinian, Chilean, Colombian and Peruvian researchers were working in industrialized countries ‘where their work is recognized and valued’. In Africa, Bience Gawanas has just deplored, at the First NEPAD Ministerial Conference on Science and Technology (S&T), the haemorrhage of highly trained experts lost to the continent on account of poor working conditions.

Decent working conditions demand sustained investment. It is thus gratifying that the NEPAD meeting should have vowed to raise spending on research and development to 1% of GDP – at least – by 2008, a level which would place Africa, in percentage terms, on a par with Central and Eastern Europe. A quantum leap, in sum, if the promise can be realized; most of the world’s least developed nations are Sub-Saharan.

There does seem to be a growing awareness of the importance of S&T for development. A study by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) in this issue reveals that the gap between developed and developing countries is gradually shrinking, albeit at a pedestrian pace with the notable exception of China and the Asian ‘dragons’.

Any global survey of S&T today is hampered by imprecise data for many countries. The UIS and UNESCO’s science policy analysts are currently preparing a review of progress worldwide in developing-relevant S&T statistics and the difficulties countries encounter in collecting and interpreting such data.

The ultimate goal is to build national statistical systems which are highly responsive to policy and information needs, with UNESCO facilitating this process through standardsetting and the gathering of cross-nationally harmonized data, in particular.

W. Erdelen
Assistant Director-General for Natural Sciences

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