Thursday, November 06, 2008

Commentary on the lack of research funding

A lot of people are writing/blogging advise for our new President. Out of all of the many, many that we have sifted through, we found this one interesting.

David Dickson, the director, says that he would like to see more funding of science breakthroughs that could aid development of poor nations. In this commentary that we found at Business Daily Africa, he gives several recommendations to our new President.

The Bush administration’s efforts to promote science for development have also suffered the same ideological pressures as its domestic science programmes — from opposition to stem cell research (for example, a bid to promote a ban through the United Nations) to reluctance to accept scientific evidence on climate change.

The new administration will not lack suggestions for improvements. Sensing the possibility of a significant change of tack, with the election of a Democrat, several recent reports have proposed how the US can better manage its international scientific affairs.

For example, the national academies of science, medicine and engineering have argued for a chief scientific adviser with cabinet status, charged with promoting science in foreign policy. As the US foreign secretary, Michael Clegg, points out, “attitudes towards US science are more positive than towards any other aspect of US society”.

Others recommend improving collaborations with developing countries. Alan Leshner, chief executive of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, claims that the US refusal to fund international partners means that for many poor countries “collaboration is doomed before it has begun”.

He has argued for new funding mechanisms to get round this problem, pointing out that the European Commission’s 7th Framework Programme allows non-European institutions to apply for research funding.

Others have suggested a US$100 million annual research and development fund, based on the Defense Department’s Defense Advanced Research Project Agency.

Hopefully, the new president will seriously consider all such recommendations. There should be little political disagreement on the vital role of science and technology for development policy.

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