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II.2   Science for Development


How to foster science and build endogenous scientific capacities in developing countries? Science and technology for socio-economic development and poverty elimination. Countering the growing North-South gap in science. Different North-South perceptions on the opportunities of science.

Chair: C.N.R. Rao Vice-President, TWAS; India
Rapporteur: Mohamed Hassan Executive Director, TWAS; Sudan

Session co-ordinator: Mohamed Hassan Executive Director, TWAS; Sudan
Local secretary: tbd


Science and survival in the coming decades

C.N.R. Rao
Vice-President, TWAS; India

The developing world will face numerous problems and challenges in the coming decades. In most of the developing countries much of the effort needs to be directed towards bringing social equality and improving the overall quality of life. Some of them will have the unenviable task of pursuing efforts in science and technology (S&T) to solve pressing problems of the vast population on the one hand, and to compete with the advanced countries in frontier S&T on the other. Efforts in S&T in developing countries can be categorised as follows: (1) those related to solving pressing problems of mankind related health, food and nutrition, shelter, etc.; (2) those related to crucial infrastructure elements such as energy, communications and transportation. (Education and capacity in science should also be included as infrastructure requirements, since without them there can be no real progress). (3) efforts in areas related to the unique features, strengths and resources of the country concerned (e.g. making use of the natural resources, special skills and manpower available, crucial needs related to the country in areas related to health). Besides providing support to these three types of efforts, basic science and science education deserve utmost consideration. It is important that developing countries develop national development strategies where S&T is properly integrated with the socio-economic plan.

As we approach the 21st century it is imperative that developing countries prepare a time-targeted agenda for action. A typical list would be as follows:

Preparation of S&T based national development plan


Investment in S&T (1-2% of GNP)


Universal primary education and scientific literacy


Safe drinking water for all


Food security and irradication of malnutrition


Irradication of malaria, polio and other diseases


Exploitation of specific natural resources (related numerals etc.) and setting up of the concerned industry


Improvement of science department sin the higher education sector to bring them to the standards in advanced countries


Clearly, there are many problems that developing countries need to tackle on a war-footing, and they include improving the infrastructure, making use of the advances in information technology and above all inculcating an overall awareness and scientific temper amongst the masses. I believe that the mechanism to reduce the imbalance in development or the gap in well-being, has to be based on knowledge. The knowledge base, and in particular capacity in science, will be a crucial element in determining how developing nations will fare in the highly competitive atmosphere of the next century.

Science, development and globalization

Ahmad Jalali
Ambassador of Iran to UNESCO

One of the most patent inequalities which beset our world is the inequality in the production of new scientific knowledge. According to the UNESCO statistics, in 1991, only 4 percent of the worldwide scienitifc research was done in the so-called developing coutnries. If we take into account the unequal distribution of this tiny percentage among the developing countries, and also the fact that most of the research done in this countries is what would be called "subsistance research", we get a more gloomy picture of the scientific situation of the underdeveloped part of our world.

In this paper a distinction is made between three types of research: "subsistance research", "developmental research" and " fundamental research ". It is argued that a solid and direct link is established between science and development only when a country passes from subsistance research, i. e., research directed toward the fulfillemnet of the most basic needs of the society, to developmental research and further to fundamental research. Several structural obstacles which stand in the way of such a transition are analyzed. To begin with, in many developing countries the number of researchers in some fields is not great enough to produce the critical mass without which effective research can not begin. Accordingly, many researchers do their work in an individual manner and without any bearing on their society and its problmes. In some countries, even the very notion of organized research is lacking. In addition, reserch priorities and research programmes are often not clear and there is no national long-term resarch policy.

In these conditions, the porcess of globalization can have a double effect on the research situation in developing countries. One the one hand, where appropriate research structures already exist, globalization can provide them with much more open much more efficient channels of communication, thus creating unprecedented opportunities to redefine existing research programmes and to establish new ones. On the other hand, by weakening the role played by the state in scientific planning in developing countries, it can create a vacuum which is not always sure to be filled by the private sector.

Addressing the socio-economic developmental needs society:
contribution of the geosciences

Godwin O.P. Obasi
Vice-President, TWAS; Nigeria

Advances in science have contributed, through the years, to the development of every aspect of human endeavours. It has transformed society’s way of life on planet Earth from the food we eat, the house that we live in and the clothes we wear. Progress made in medical sciences, transportation systems, space technology, computers, telecommunications, information technology and genetic engineering are having unprecedented impacts on the life style of people.

Developments in basic sciences, in particular, physics and mathematics, were also fundamental for the achievements made in the geosciences which deal with the Earth’s basic life support system – air, water, sea and land. Application of the knowledge of the geosciences had greatly contributed to the protection of life and property, increased food production, improved water use and energy production and consumption, as well as safeguarding the environment. However, several challenges still lie ahead. These include, the impacts of natural disasters, food insecurity, freshwater scarcity and environmental problems such as those related to global warming and climate change, ozone layer depletion and transboundary transport of pollutants. These issues will continue to be important factors in socio-economic development of many nations during the next millennium.

The expectations of society for science to adequately address these and other relevant challenges are high. Communities affected by tropical cyclones, storm surges, floods, droughts and other severe hydro-meteorological events would like to know where and when such events will occur and how long they will last. The socio-economic impacts of these natural disasters are very significant, particularly in developing countries. For example, in Honduras, two thirds of the national infrastructure was destroyed due to Hurricane Mitch (1998). In addition, the global economic loss due to the 1997-1998 El NiŮo events was estimated at more than $ 33 billion. These examples remind us of the need to improve our monitoring, prediction and warning capabilities to minimize such losses.

In addition, consequences of climate change, such as sea level rise, would have significant social and economic impacts. Communities and governments would like to be informed of regional distribution of such impacts to develop and implement appropriate response and/or adaptation strategies. The same could be said of ozone layer depletion. The agricultural sector would benefit from advice of the on-set of the rainy season as well as the duration and distribution of the rains. These parameters are of paramount importance for operational activities to improve food production, especially in the developing countries.

Unfortunately the information mentioned above can not be provided with the required level of accuracy. Much work remains to be done by the scientific community and, therefore, society should provide the necessary support towards this effort.

Nevertheless, the outcome of the Tropical Ocean and Global Atmosphere (TOGA) programme was a break through in establishing a scientific basis for the prediction of climate anomalies for several seasons in advance. However, further development in modelling capabilities is essential for improved climate prediction. This should take advantage of the various initiatives being undertaken within the framework of the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP) and other related activities, particularly those related to improved monitoring of the earth system.

Science for development:
the approach of a small island state

Gerald Lalor
Director-General, ICENS, Jamaica

The major political consequence of the application of science and technology during the last several centuries has been global domination by European and European-originated civilisations. Despite many changes this seems likely to continue as the knowledge gap on which this is based widens.

Since the 1940s the developing world has created many universities and research institutes and trained many nationals at home and abroad. There have been significant strides in certain disciplines and it has been shown time and again that citizens of the developing world can perform as well as any but still there is the, perhaps not always unjustified criticism, which with but a few exceptions, "our S&T" has not contributed enough to development. The situation can be particularly difficult in the small countries where resources and opportunities are usually limited and the effects of brain drain can be powerful.

One way forward may be the approach being adopted in one small country — Jamaica — in the International Centre for Environmental and Nuclear Sciences, to use a programme of multidisciplinary studies related to environmental geochemistry to obtain computer-readable databases that are essential to development. The programme involves local and international collaboration with universities, research organisations and regulatory bodies, and the private sector in a series of projects with applications in agriculture, national resource development and management, the environment, and health. the programme is designed to help build and retain a critical mass of workers and to strengthen collaborations with national scientists resident abroad to help reduce the impact of the brain drain.

Science for development

Adnan Badran
President, Philadelphia University, Jordan

World-wide economic, scientific, cultural and political interdependence dictated by free trade of economical and financial market and by the global information and communication revolution is cementing its roots at all corners of our planet. The current century has been the age of the birth of modern science and its applications and innovative technologies. Indeed, it has been the age of atomic, electronic, molecular genetics, new materials and the beginning of understanding our universe and space technology. Breakthroughs in science have put their mark on humanity; some have led to wide application and had great impact on energy generation, medicine, pharmaceuticals, biotechnologies and others. But other applications have created the crisis of confidence and uncertainties over questions of the environment, food and human health. There is no doubt that the major driving force behind the high expenditures in sciences during this millennium was due mainly to global dipolar race; two world wars and a very long cold war which have led to the birth of megascience in information, communication, electronics, space and aerospace technology, miniaturisation and many engineering and energy fields. So the predominant advancement of scientific research was led by a žpushÓ effect due to unlimited resources toward frontier areas of science.

However, indicators during this decade, as we are about to enter the new millennium, show clearly that economics and market forces žpull effectÓ at the global level will be the main catalyst for the new science drive during next millennium. Competition for scientific outputs in terms of R&D will be carried out largely by contractual research and private enterprises, who will be competitively searching for a new knowledge and innovations to stay ahead in the marketplace. This means that high investment by the žcorporateÓ in scientific research will be carried out extensively and may leave the Third World countries somewhat in a žvacuumÓ in terms of science advancement. We are witnessing a brain-intensive era for a knowledge-based industry leading to problem-solving and high tech enterprises. The target is a value-added žhuman capitalÓ in terms of ž brain knowledge bankÓ for developing skills and bringing innovations into new technologies and management.

The science gap may widen between developing and developed countries. Current data show that OECD countries can claim 85% on total gross expenditures on R&D where they commit between 2-3% of their GDP while the investment of developing countries in science is still below 0.4%. In addition, there are 4 scientists per 1000 work force in developed countries as compared to 0.7 per 1000 in developing countries. Therefore, capacity building in science and technology in the developing world is a pre-requisite for endogenous development. Developing countries have to undertake a long term policy of strengthening science and mathematics education at early age and reform their higher education system to address quality and relevance in teaching and research and adhere to a clear commitment for more investment in science and research.

European Union research programmes
with linkages to development

Jorma Routti
Director-General XII, European Commission, Finland

International collaboration in research, involving universities, research centres and industry, has long been supported by the European Union. It has been organised since 1984 within successive, multinational framework programmes. Community research activities are designed to complement those of the EU’s Member States and work towards closer integration of Europe’s scientific and industrial communities. The central objectives of Community research policy are to reinforce and mobilise the Union’s scientific and technological capabilities in support of industry, the economy and quality of life.

The Fifth Framework Programme (1998-2002) breaks with the tradition in targeting resources on specific socio-economic objectives, by means of focused research actions of an integrated and interdisciplinary nature. The approach is more selective than the science and technology-driven approach of the past, and will favour partnerships and networks of research actors – public and private – which are more strongly orientated towards utilisation and uptake of results. Structures for implementation will allow more flexible allocation of resources, to follow changing priorities. These changes should ensure that research efforts undertaken are effectively translated into practical and visible results.

In contrast with the disciplinary structure of the 4th Framework Programme, involving some 20 separate specific research programmes, the Commission has proposed a 5th Framework Programmes which is organised around seven individual programmes which include four thematic programmes and three horizontal programmes, with a budget of 14.96 billion Ecu over 4 years.

The four thematic programmes cover life sciences and biotechnology, user-friendly information technologies, competitive and sustainable growth, and energy and environmental questions. They combine a focus on a limited number of objectives, through inter-disciplinary, integrated "key actions", with actions to maintain and strengthen the science and technology base.

The horizontal programmes complement the thematic programmes by focusing on issues of international co-operation; SMEs; dissemination and exploitation; training and mobility. These actions are common to all thematic programmes but require also coordination and complementary specific activities.

In the emerging multipolar world, geo-political and geo-economic challenges require a concerted application of the relevant EU instruments : Development Co-operation, Economic Co-operation and S&T Co-operation. The EU intends to ensure a coherent and strategic application of these instruments to maintain Europe’s international presence in a knowledge-based society. It is a society in which economic competitiveness depends entirely on the ability to promote knowledge systems internationally.

Within the emerging region-to-region co-operation patterns cross-policy orientations are evolving in the EU. An evolution is taking place in the Union’s Development Co-operation policies in relation to Developing Countries and Emerging Economies to move away from traditional aid towards more trade oriented relations which would be mutually beneficial, without disregarding humanitarian and poverty alleviation concerns. Economic Co-operation policy has seen a growing trend in support of human and institutional capital development, with the aim of bringing together the knowledge systems in the Union and those in DCs and EEs (e.g. co-operation between universities, private-sector federations, etc.). Closer co-operation in regional S&T arrangements is also underway (e.g. ASEM, ASEAN, MED and possibly others).

As the main foreign direct investor, the largest world market and the biggest purveyor of development aid, the Union is poised to play a major geo-economic role in which the RTD policy will be instrumental in mobilizing S&T resources to proactively reinforce European international competitiveness. The resources of FP5 are being mobilized to address the following main groups of issues:

  • the role of the EU in equitable economic growth including our contributions to quality of life issues such as global food security and health care as key elements in regional and global solidarity and security;
  • tradeable goods and services, emphasizing development and quality assurance based on accepted international standards, including environmental and social accountability aspects;
  • environmental conservation and sustainable natural resource use for an enabling and demographically stable human environment. This relates also to the Union’s international commitments and interest in jointly and safely promoting the economic and ethical use of biological resources; and,
  • based on policy research, the generation of policy options for decision makers concerned with the twin goals of promoting knowledge-based development as well as the integration of DCs in the world economy.

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