Vol 3 N° 4 [October–December 2005]



p 2 - The miracle of light

p 8 - Ten years to develop centres of excellence in Africa
p 8- Time to regulate deep-sea gold rush, experts say
p 9 - Fellowships for African physicists
p 10 - 21 projects help to engineer a better world
p 10 - GRASP vows to curb great ape loss by 2010
p 11 - Seven natural sites enrich World Heritage
p 12 - 23 new Biosphere Reserves
p 12 - Saudi Arabia gives boost to Palestinian higher education

p 13 - Stephen Hill on why recovery is taking so long in Aceh

p 16 - Caribbean science under the microscope
p 20 - Cuban science: a jewel in the Caribbean crown

p 24 - Diary
p 24 - New releases

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Not business as usual

The Cuban Ministry of Science and Technology (S&T) and UNESCO are organizing a regional conference on Science, Technology and Innovation for Sustainable Development from 1 to 3 December in Havana. The organizers are deliberately departing from a business-as-usual approach. Rather than aiming for the adoption of a set of recommendations – the more usual outcome of conferences of this kind – they will be putting on the table a series of projects for regional co-operation that participants will be invited to criticize, improve upon and possibly approve. These operational projects will include such areas as disaster risk reduction, science education and science popularization. UNESCO will then assist Member States in identifying project funding. The rationale behind this approach is that projects are an effective way of stimulating intra-regional co-operation in areas of common concern.

UNESCO has long been a proponent of South–South co-operation throughout the developing world. In Latin America and the Caribbean, its Regional Bureau for Science in Montevideo (Uruguay) has been involved in regional projects for technical co-operation for decades. UNESCO has also played a major role in creating regional scientific networks; the two most recent ones were launched in 1998: the network of research and development (R&D) and science programmes in the Caribbean (Cariscience) and the network of R&D for postgraduates in science in Central America (Red-CienciA).

Financial and political instability in recent decades has taken its toll on S&T in Latin America. Today, the region represents 8.3% of the world population and 8.9% of world GDP but just 3.2% of world expenditure on R&D and 2.6% of scientific articles. Countries have come to realize that, if their region is to take its rightful place on the international scene, they are going to have to pull together. That will entail strengthening intra-regional ties.

Latin America and the Caribbean is a highly diverse region. Countries devote from as little as 0.1% to 1.0% of GDP to R&D. Seven states account for 92% of scientific articles published in mainstream journals: Brazil (40%), Argentina and Mexico (a combined share of 20%) and, in equal parts, Chile, Colombia, Cuba and Venezuela.

In the Caribbean, Cuba is a unique case. Contrary to its neighbours, which still hesitate to embrace a ‘science culture’, Cuba has invested heavily in biotechnologies and is today reaping the dividends. In this issue, we take a closer look at the research situation in both Cuba and the countries of the Caribbean Common Market.

W. Erdelen
Sub-Director General para las Ciencias Exactas y Naturales


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