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Indian prime minister pledges to revamp science
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14 January 2003 India is to make a concerted effort to lure home its scientists from abroad and to strip its scientific agencies of excessive bureaucracy, under a science policy document released recently.

Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vaijapee unveiled the Science and Technology Policy 2003 policy at the Indian Science Congress in Bangalore on 3 January. Nature reports that Vaiapyee pledged to increase Indian spending on research and development (R&D) by government and industry to at least 2% of gross domestic product (GDP) by 2007, almost double that spent last year. This would place India among the nations of the world which devote the greatest share of GDP to R&D.

In comparison, Western Europe devotes an average 1.8% of GDP to R&D, compared to 2.5% for the USA and 3.0% for Japan (World Science Report, 1998).

Vaijapee appealed to India's ‘scientific diaspora’ to return to the country to help him realize his ‘vision of making India a developed nation’.

The science and technology secretary, Valangiman Ramamurthi, told Nature that ‘the mechanisms will be in place very soon’ to attract home scientists who have left India. He said that the new policy would be rapidly implemented and will give universities and research institutions greater autonomy.

He also said that that increasing Indian spending on R&D to 2% would not be difficult, as spending had already risen from 0.8% in 2000 to 1.08% in 2002.

Nature reports government officials as saying that, under the policy, science-based ministries will be run by scientists and engineers, and other ministries will appoint scientific advisory committees. They also say that selected universities and scientific institutions will receive money to strengthen infrastructure. Details of the funding will be left to a task force being set up to find ways of encouraging private and public investment in research.

The World Conference on Science called on governments to ensure stable funding for public research (para. 14, Science Agenda) and aim for high-quality scientific institutions capable of providing research and training facilities in areas of specific interest (para. 7). Paragraph 41 urges governments to accord the highest priority to improving science education at all levels, to raising public awareness of science and to fostering its popularization The Science Agenda also advocates putting in place adequate participatory mechanisms to facilitate democratic debate on science policy choices (para. 56).

Only recently, Brazilian president-elect Luis Inácio 'Lula' da Silva pledged to double spending on science and technology to 2% of gross domestic product by the end of his government's term (WCS Newsletter, 27 November 2002).

Source: K. S. Jayaraman, Nature (421, 101 (2003)), courtesy of SciDev.Net

Link to Nature article : : http://www.nature.com/cgi-taf/Dynapage.taf?file=/nature/journal/v421/n6919/full/421101b_fs.html

Link to Brazilian news item

Harnessing science to society
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31 December 2002 An analytical overview of the impact of the World Conference on Science (Budapest, 1999) and of progress achieved in initiating, implementing and developing follow-up. Prepared by UNESCO at the specific request of the Conference itself, the report addresses governments and international WCS partners, as well as all other national and regional bodies interested in taking part in the follow-up process.

The World Conference on Science charted new territory for UNESCO. Drawing on its unique comparative advantage of housing education, natural and human sciences, communications and culture under one roof, UNESCO responded to Budapest by adopting a more integrated approach to problem-solving and the promotion of research and science education through multilateral cooperation.

The Organization’s Medium-Term Strategy for 2002-2007 gives full weight to implementation of the Science Agenda, with special emphasis on ‘freshwater and supporting ecosystems’ and on ‘the ethics of science and technology’ as the absolute priorities respectively of UNESCO’s science and social and human sciences programmes.

It is in its clearing-house capacity that UNESCO has prepared the present analytical report recommended by Budapest, in consultation with its partners. Harnessing science to society is based on information made available to UNESCO by Member States, United Nations specialized agencies, intergovernmental and non-governmental international organizations, regional institutions, science networks, centres of excellence and educational establishments. Naturally, the report also covers UNESCO’s own activity.

Harnessing science to society overviews developments during the two and a half years following the World Conference on Science; it provides a factual basis for assessing the real impact of the Conference. It can be concluded that the Budapest Conference was a worthwhile event; visibly, over the initial period of follow-up, it has inspired many partners to adopt innovative approaches to fostering science. There appears to exist a real need – and an opportunity – to further develop a worldwide partnership that has the potential to multiply the returns on the Conference.

Forward-looking, the report envisages the possibility that UNESCO will launch a comprehensive follow-up consultation with partners in 2004 (Budapest+5) in its capacity as clearing-house. A consultation in 2004 would have the advantage of enabling partners to evaluate collectively the returns on the Conference thus far as well as identify any necessary readjustments to the follow-up strategy.

The political commitment that governments agreed upon in Budapest in 1999 must be sustained if the Conference is to make a lasting difference. Harnessing science to society more effectively is not something that can be achieved overnight. But we cannot afford to let ourselves fall back into a ‘business as usual’ complacency. We must keep up the momentum and that means re-galvanizing our efforts and our collaboration.

The report, prefaced by the Director-General of UNESCO, Koïchiro Matsuura, is now available on-line at: http://www.unesco.org/science/wcs/report_wcs.pdf

UK launches public–private partnership to ‘INSPIRE’ science vocation in schools
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18 December 2002 The Prime Minister, Tony Blair and Education and Skills Secretary, Estelle Morris have launched a new partnership between the Government, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), the Technology Colleges Trust (TCT) and Imperial College London to boost science education in schools applying to become Science Colleges under the Government’s Specialist Schools Programme.

GSK has committed up to £1 million over the next four years to funding the scheme, which will be known as INSPIRE (INnovative Scheme for Post-docs in Research and Education). Under the programme post-doctoral science researchers (post-docs) from Imperial College who have recently completed their PhDs will spend around half their time in selected specialist science or combined science and engineering schools. At the same time, they will study towards a post-graduate teaching qualification.

Speaking at the special launch of the programme at No.10, Downing Street last summer, Tony Blair gave his strong support to the specialist schools programme and welcomed the partnership of industry, government and higher education, ‘The Government is committed to excellence in science education and I am delighted that GlaxoSmithKline, one of our major science-based companies, and Imperial College are supporting this important initiative. This partnership programme will benefit not only the pupils in the new specialist science schools but also the pupils in their partner schools.

The children of today will be our teachers, our scientists and our doctors tomorrow – by investing in the education of our children now, we are investing in the future of our economy and society.

I would like to see many more specialist schools. We are expanding the number significantly up to 1000 by this September, and at least 1500 by 2005 – half of all secondary schools.

But 1500 is only a staging post. Once it has been achieved, we will advance decisively in extending the opportunity for more schools to achieve specialist status. We want to see all schools that are capable of becoming specialist doing so. We are also introducing new specialisms such as science and engineering. INSPIRE will give an enormous boost to the launch of these new specialisms."

The £1 million commitment from GSK will support an initial four-year pilot of INSPIRE. It is hoped that the project will involve up to 15 schools in and around the M25 area.

Education and Skills Secretary, Estelle Morris said ‘This is a major landmark in introducing a modern blend of practical and professional skills into the classroom. Pupils will benefit from new ways of teaching science and engineering through the cutting edge scientific knowledge that the post-docs will bring to their lessons and the post-docs will gain valuable practical experience on the road to a teaching qualification through working with high quality, experienced teachers. I believe the post-docs will be inspiring role models helping to spark interest in science as a career choice for pupils at the specialist schools and other schools in their communities.’

Also speaking today at the event Sir Richard Sykes, Rector of Imperial College London said, ‘INSPIRE offers a unique opportunity to create partnerships between industry, higher education and schools. I believe that the Imperial post-docs will act as excellent role models and stimulate broader enthusiasm for science. Britain has a successful high technology industry, which depends on the flow of well-qualified scientists and engineers. INSPIRE has been developed to increase the number of young people specialising in post-16 science courses enabling them to pursue degrees in chemistry, physics and engineering and ultimately a career in science.’

Jennie Younger, Senior Vice President, Corporate Communications and Community Partnerships at GSK commented, ‘GSK employs around 25,000 people in the UK and spends £2.6 billion each year on research and development worldwide. Encouraging young people to choose a career in science is fundamental to the continued success of our business.’

Chapter 2.4 of the Science Agenda is devoted to Science education. ‘Governments should accord the highest priority to improving science education at all levels’, the section begins, going on to say that ‘steps need to be taken to promote the professional development of teachers and educators in the face of change and special efforts should be made to address the lack of appropriately trained science teachers and educators.

The Science Agenda also encourages innovative approaches to stimulating a vocation in science and defining new public–private partnerships. Curricula relating to science and technology should encourage a scientific approach to problem-solving’, paragraph 37 recommends. ‘University–industry cooperation should be promoted to assist engineering education and continuing vocational education and to enhance responsiveness to the needs of industry and support from industry to the education sector.’

There are currently four categories of specialist school: Technology, Language, Arts and Sports Colleges. Four new specialisms became operational from September 2002: Science, Engineering, Business and Enterprise and Mathematics and Computing. Since October, it has also been possible for certain specialisms to be combined, for example Science and Engineering.

Specialist schools are maintained secondary schools that teach the full national curriculum but place a particular emphasis on teaching and learning in their chosen specialism within the Specialist Schools Programme. Specialist schools must raise £50,000 in private-sector sponsorship (approximately US$80,000) and draw up a four-year development plan to raise standards, increase provision and encourage take-up in their specialist subject(s).

They must also have a community development plan which shows how they will share the benefits of good practice, expertise and resources with other schools named in the plan and with identified groups within their wider community. The Government believes that widening schools’ options in this way will mean they are able to develop their individual strengths, promote innovation and spread good practice throughout the whole school system.

For further information, contact: c-atkinson@dfid.gov.uk

ACPCT celebrates its first year in promoting public communication of science
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16 December 2002 A group of Argentinian science journalists and science communication experts from Villa Mercedes in San Luis province have spent the past year promoting the public communication of science and technology through their own association.

The fledgling Asociación para la Comunicación de la Ciencia y la Tecnología (ACPCT), founded in November 2001, has initiated projects to analyse the representation of the sciences in the Latin American media (press, television and radio); it has also studied science communication in local and regional contexts. All of the projects have received sponsorship and funding.

ACPCT is committed to fostering quality science journalism. One means towards this end is science communication courses in universities, which they plan to organize. Another is research. ACPCT has begun researching science journalism in the region, as well as public comprehension of science and the relations between science journalism, science communication and education. The ethical risks and social responsibility of science journalism are another of its concerns.

In the area of science popularisation, ACPCT is interacting with non-profit organizations, state bodies, science departments, universities and all other relevant institutions.

Paragraph 41 of the Science Agenda stresses that ‘governments, international organizations and relevant professional institutions should enhance or develop programmes for the training of scientific journalists, communicators and all those involved in increasing public awareness of science.’

The Science Agenda recommends that an international programme on promotion of scientific literacy and culture accessible to all be considered in order to provide appropriate technology and scientific inputs in an easily understandable form that are conducive to the development of local communities.

National authorities and funding institutions are urged to promote the role of science museums and centres as important elements in public education in science (para. 42).

ACPCT is interested in exchanging experiences on common initiatives within the large Ibero-American family.

For further information, go to: CIENCIAXXII@yahoo.com.ar

African workshop trains women to use ICTs in reporting on the science of HIV/AIDS
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11 December 2002 SciDev.Net and UNESCO are organizing a five-day training workshop on the use of information and communications technologies (ICTs) - in particular the Internet - to improve reporting on the science of HIV/AIDS. The workshop will take place in Uganda in April 2003. The deadline for applications is 31 December (see below).

The workshop will target those who are (or would like to be) professionally engaged in communicating HIV/AIDS information to the public through print, radio or electronic means. There are 15 places, all of which are reserved for women participants. All travel and accommodation costs will be covered.

The World Conference on Science urged partners to disseminate scientific information as broadly as possible to foster knowledge and public debate, including through the use of ICTs.

Moreover, paragraph 48 of the Science Agenda invites 'governments, international organizations and relevant professional institutions to enhance or develop programmes for the training of scientific journalists, communicators and all those involved in increasing public awareness of science.'

All applications must be received, either electronically or by fax, by 31 December 2002. Further information, as well as details of the application procedure and an application form, may be found at www.scidev.net/hivworkshop/advance.html .

Contact: Stella Hughes

Brazil pledges to double science budget
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27 November 2002 - Brazilian president-elect Luis Inácio 'Lula' da Silva has pledged to double spending on science and technology to 2% of gross domestic product by the end of his government's term, with particular emphasis on increasing financial support for basic research.

The new government, which will take office in January, has also promised to improve science education and to set up a national science communication programme involving scientific institutions, universities and museums. José Ribamar Ferreira, President of the Brazilian Association of Science Centres and Museums, is enthusiastic about the government's proposals on science communication. 'There are several science communication activities in Brazil, but these are fragmented with no linkage among individuals and institutions responsible for these activities', he says. 'A national programme which has government support - both financially and politically - will indeed be positive'.

Lula, who won last month's elections with 62% of the votes, has said that politically sensitive issues - such as energy, nuclear technology and genetic engineering - would be widely and democratically discussed. He is also expected to encourage universities, research institutions and technological companies and other stakeholders to have a greater role in formulating science and technology policies.

The World Conference on Science called on governments to ensure stable funding for public research (para. 14, Science Agenda) and aim for high-quality scientific institutions capable of providing research and training facilities in areas of specific interest (para. 7). Paragraph 41 urges governments to accord the highest priority to improving science education at all levels, to raising public awareness of science and to fostering its popularization The Science Agenda also advocates putting in place adequate participatory mechanisms to facilitate democratic debate on science policy choices (para. 56).

Source: SciDev.Net

Preventing water wars
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25 November 2002 - It has been called 'blue gold'. Key to survival and prosperity, shared water sources are frequent sources of friction between neighbouring countries.

The potential for conflict surrounding water issues prompted UNESCO's International Hydrological Programme and Green Cross International, an environmental non-governmental organization, to hold an international conference on the prevention of water wars within and between countries from 20 to 22 November.

'From Conflict to Cooperation in International Water Resources Management' was held at the International Institute for Infrastructural, Hydraulic and Environmental Engineering (IHE) in Delft (The Netherlands).

More than 200 experts from around the world participated in the open conference sessions, which enabled experts from diverse regions to exchange perspectives on extremely sensitive issues, such as major dam construction projects in India and Lesotho, and tensions over shared water resources in the Middle East or in the Volta River basin shared by Burkina Faso and Ghana.

One session took a prospective look at the impacts of climate, social and technological changes by focusing specifically on the Mekong River basin, where recurrent flooding and other problems have led to increased co-operation among states situated on the banks of rivers. Another studied international security agreements for shared basins, like that of the Lempa River, which crosses into Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

In section 2.5 of the Science Agenda devoted to Science for peace and conflict resolution, paragraph 52 calls for governments and the private sector to invest in sectors of science and technology directly addressing issues that are at the root of potential conflicts, such as energy use, competition for resources, and pollution of air, soil and water.

For further information, write to j.bogardi@unesco.org

British Science gets a boost
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12 November 2002 Education and Skills Secretary Estelle Morris has announced that Science Year, the Government initiative to increase young people’s interest and engagement in science, will be extended until July 2003.

In making the announcement in July, Ms Morris said ‘Extending Science Year until July 2003 will allow us to create a lasting legacy of resources and sustainable projects. There is a tremendous desire among schools, the science community, business and key partners to build on its success. ‘

Science Year is a national follow-up activity to the World Conference on Science. Launched in September 2001, Science Year has already given more than £4 million in new science resources to schools, including digital microscopes, electronic whiteboards and biotechnology kits. It has also improved links with industry through the Science and Engineering Ambassadors scheme.

The Year aims to raise awareness of science among young people aged 10–19 years and their key influences: parents and teachers.

Working with teachers, industry and the Government, Science Year is the launchpad for a wide range of activities, initiatives and programmes delivered by local and national organisations.

Science Year seeks to highlight the many creative opportunities that exist in the workplace today for young people with a science qualification and the importance and impact that science has on our everyday lives.

The Year is managed by the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA) on behalf of the Department for Education and Skills, and involving their key partners the Association for Science Education (ASE) and the British Association for the Advancement of Science (BA).

‘The Year will continue to improve the profile and perception of science,’ Ms Morris added, ‘involve communities in science and strengthen and demonstrate links between schools, higher education and industry. It will also continue to support work being done to improve science teaching and learning in the early years of secondary education and the aim to increase the uptake of science in higher education and careers particularly for under-represented groups, such as girls and minority ethnic groups.’

Mike Tomlinson, Director of Science Year said ‘Strategic partnerships with organisations including the BA (British Association for the Advancement of Science), ASE (Association for Science Education) and Science Year ‘Friends’, have been a contributing factor to the success of Science Year. These relationships have enabled us to provide innovative equipment and resources to both primary and secondary schools and we will continue to build new relationships in the future.

Therefore, I am delighted to announce that, following their sponsorship of the Tomorrow’s World Roadshow Live, which is touring in celebration of Science Year, we have made British Gas a Friend of Science Year.’

Responding to the honour, Simon Waugh, Deputy Managing Director, British Gas said, ‘We're absolutely delighted that British Gas are being awarded 'Friend
of Science Year' status. I believe it firmly underlines our commitment to energy efficiency and in particular, our Think Energy programme for schools, which we are continuing into the forthcoming school year.’

Further information about Science Year is available at www.scienceyear.com

Member States celebrate World Science Day
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6 November 2002 - Worldwide, countries are preparing to celebrate the first World Science Day for Peace and Development on 10 November Events include conferences scheduled in scientific institutions, public debates on science with the participation of policy-makers, special events in museums and science parks, activities for school children and press briefings.

The idea of a World Science Day was first proposed by countries attending the World Conference on Science organized by UNESCO and the International Council for Science (ICSU) in Budapest (Hungary) in June 1999. Adopted by UNESCO three months later and established as 10 November of each year, the annual Day provides an opportunity to renew national and international commitment to the cause of science for peace and development and to promote responsible use of scientific knowledge in the service of society.

At UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, two roundtables are being organized to mark the Day. These will bring together scientific figures, Ministers of Science and Technology and people involved in building science awareness or a science culture. One will be on Science for Peace and Development, the other on Science for Peace; the latter is being co-organized by the US National Academy of Sciences, represented by Dr Farouk El Baz. Other participants include Dr Torsten Weisel, Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1981 and Chair of the Human Rights Committee at the US National Academy of Sciences, Professor Menahem Yaari of the Centre for the Study of Rationality at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem (Israel) and Dr Sari Nusseibeh of the Palestine Academy for Science and Technology.

The same day, an exhibition on Art and Science will be inaugurated at UNESCO Paris Headquarters. The exhibition will show paintings by Denis Fadier and photographs by mathematician Jean-François Colonna. Read about events around the world and at UNESCO.

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