The Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology POSTnote Number 216 discusses the importance of building ‘Scientific Capacity in Developing Countries’. In short, this highlights how science and technology can play an important role in fighting poverty, disease and environmental degradation, and yet the numbers of researchers in the developing world falls well below other areas of the world.
According to POSTnote 216, the UN Human Development Report (2003) estimated that in Africa (excluding South Africa) there were 70 researchers per million population, in India, 130 researchers per million population, and in Latin America 550 researchers per million population. These contrast with figures per million of 1990 (Europe), 2640 (North America) and 4380 (Japan). Although these figures are now ten years out of date, the 2013 Human Development Report suggests little change, with the top 15 countries (in terms of high human development) having between 2500-7500 researchers per million population, and the bottom 15 countries having approximately 7-45 researchers per million.
There is, of course, a debate about whether investment in R&D spurs development or whether development allows a greater investment in R&D. Both are almost certainly true to some extent. It is clear, however, that building scientific literacy amongst local communities, policy makers and governments (local and national) can bring huge benefits to society. The Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology has recognised this, and been involved in strengthening the capacity of parliaments in developing countries to use science.
If this brief introduction to the POSTnote has caught your attention, then why not have a read of the whole thing. It is one of the readings we have selected as good background reading for our conference, encouraging students to think about how geoscientists working on development projects overseas could raise the profile and public understanding of science – and inspire people to pursue (geo)science based training and careers?
We are also delighted that Dr Chandrika Nath, Africa Programmes Manager at POST, has agreed to attend our conference in October – joining the panel discussion on effective communication for development. She has been very involved in their programme to help build scientific capacity in the Ugandan parliament, and has many valuable comments to make.