A TWAS-COSTED PAPER
Prof. D. Balasubramanian
Helpful suggestions received from Prof. A.M. Cetto, Prof. M.H.A. Hassan, Prof. Lu Y.X., Prof. C.N.R. Rao, Prof. J.I. Vargas, Prof. S.O. Wandiga and Dr. V. Zharov are gratefully acknowledged.
Table of Contents
|1. Why Support the Development of Science in the South|
|2. Status of Science in the South|
|3. Capacity-building for Science-led Development in the South|
|5. Role of International Cooperation|
|6. Linking Science and Technology Policies to National and Regional Economic Plans|
|1. Why Suppport the Development of Science in the South|
|A dramatically successful example of the use of science in solving real
life problems of the world is the eradication of small pox, the dreaded disease know to
man around the world since Biblical times. A scourge that maimed and claimed
millions of lives every year was rid from the face of the earth through the successful
application of original research (making the vaccine), development (making it souhaitable
for transport to varied climes and conditions, and its mode of application) and systems
approach (coordination of efforts in delivery). Learning from it, and using a
similar strategic application of medical sciences coordinated around the world, it appears
that we may rid humandking of two other disabling diseases, namely polio and leprosy,
within a generation or so.
Food is another area where the efforts of science have brought direct benefits in terms of health, wealth and prosperity to many nations of the South. The South Asian region, battered time and again in the past with food shortage and famine, has become self-sufficient in food production within a span of fifty years, thanks to the use of high yielding dwarf varieties of crops developed by plant breeders, better fertilizers and pest control practices, water management and post-harvest storage methods. Some of these nations have been able to turn around and export grains to the needy. Following this Green Revolution and using similar methods of science and technology has come the White Revolution in milk and dairy products, initiated by rural farmer and dairy cooperatives. And the Blue Revolution in fish and marine food products appears to be in the offing.
|During the last a few decades we have also come to realize the importance
of conservation of resources and of sustainable development. Happily, the South has an
abiding tradition of knowledge and practice in managing and sustaining biodiversity, and
the wealth and spectrum of its natural resources. Indeed, the nations of the South have
been very good at traditional technologies, crafts and techniques, which we are
rediscovering now, for example (a) the use of building materials and methods most suited
to a given geo-climatic region (Egypt, China and the Far East, Equatorial Africa), (b)
water harvesting and preservation (the qanats of Iran, aqueducts of the Mediterranean and
West Asia, the village wells of India), (c) use of natural products for comfort, health
and medicine (the Oriental, Ayurveda, Arabic and Unani systems), (d) germ plasm
preservation (almost all the traditional societies), and so forth.
Quite apart from these, several regions and nations of the South have had an earlier history of practising and propagating high level, and sometimes abstract, science. As early as in The Third Century B. C., the Egyptian Erastothenes wondered about why the mid-day Sun casts no shadows in the town of Syene on the day of the Summer Solstice, while it did at Alexandria, 800 kilometers away. Using the logic of geometry he concluded that this must be so only if the Earth were not flat, but a sphere of radius about 6400 kilometers! He was the first person to measure the size of a planet. He was not a freak example, but the product of a tradition of scholarship in science. The late Professor Abdus Salam, founder of the Third World Academy of Sciences (TWAS), has reminded us of the great universities and centres of learning of Greece, China, India, Egypt, Tenth Century Islamia, Spain, Native Americans and the Incas, to name but a few, and their notable contributions to mathematics, astronomy, chemistry, metallurgy and material science, anatomy and physiology, and botany and zoology. These have been backstaged for some time in the passage of time, ready for revival.
Science, it has been said, is
required as a language and as part of the culture of the South. Science is also the
currency that is used everywhere in the hierarchy of nations. It is against this backdrop
that a case and a plan for supporting the development, indeed the revival and
rejuvenation, of science and technology in the South is made. Such an effort will benefit
these countries in solving their real life problems, and benefit their efforts at wealth
generation. This effort would in essence be of global benefit, since more than 120
countries of the world are "the South", comprising three-fourths of the global
population. In order for these countries to be counted as players in the march of progress
towards the new millennium, they must have minimum, nay, optimum competence in science.
Unless science reaches, and is effectively used by, these people, how can we talk of World