SCIENTIFIC CAPACITY BUILDING AND
STRENGTHENING OF AUTONOMOUS R-D RESOURCES
writer in Science and Technology Policy
The world Research and Development network has been mainly built on the dominating North model. So forth, it is:
- not adapted to the cultural structures of the South,
- not favourable do the development of the South,
- not propitious to the respect of the world environment ( earth and natural resources degradation).
The sustainable development concept requires a complete change of the R-D system, and the world environment crises offers the best opportunity to be seized by anyone.
Strengthening of autonomous R-D resources in the South is the main condition to the success of a transfer of scientific and technical knowledge, and further on for a balanced world development. Northern and Southern countries are both concerned in the process; some imperative tasks should be the responsability of one side, others of both. They must be considered as complementary and they have to be conducted in a simultaneous way. Without a common engagement from both parts, there is no sense to believe that a sustainable development should be reached.
ON THE SIDE OF THE SOUTH
It is imperative: (These are free talks of some one who has no authority to give advice to the South. They result, in particular, from the analysis of the northern situation and from reporting on science policy around the world)
- to favour the integration of the indigenous cultures
Science is not neutral; it is the fruit of an historical and cultural process. One should think to a new formulation of scientific questions taking in account the cultural specificities.
- to support an inventive politicy of R-D based on indigenous, social, environmental and developmental specific conditions criteria.
Science is not just an accumulation of knowledge, it is also the utilisation of this knowledge for the demand of the society. An R-D policy should take in account the proper needs of its population as a priority. To give chance to this policy to have concrete effects on the development of the society, its basis have to be formulated with delegates of the population and not only by technocrats and politicians.
- to take into account the short term in accordance with the long term in the definition of R-D priorities
Science is a long term process which needs a continuous support. The worst thing for science is to be confronted with disruption in its programmation and financement. Some policy have a tendancy to favour the short term because urgent questions need a fast answer but also for lack of money and immediate return for government image. But doing so it does not help to impulse a new type of development. With few money, it seems more important to invest on the long term and it implies to find specific and provisory means to solve short term questions.
- to identify the proper needs of the different countries and to transform the world technologies and knowledge in the view of answering them.
An enormous mass of R-D material has been accumulated in the world, some of which is not used because science has followed its own development without interfering most ot the time with a social demand. An important step would be to start a convergence between the needs of a country and the existing material keeping in view that it is the mark of a specific culture and that it has to be adapted to each identity.
- to strengthen the regional cooperatlons.
In similar ecosystem, the fundamental problems are the same. This situation should encourage the creation of regional centers of excellence which will concentrate the efforts of both southern and northern scientists. They would be in permanent connection with institutions of a smaller size, located in each sub-ecosystem, gathered in networks and problems oriented research working. The centers of excellence could rely on a preferential international financing, and the local on national resources.
- to valorize the profession of scientist.
The somewhat miserable salary of most southern scientists obliged them to fulfil side work. But research has to be recognised as a profession. Hereby, a necessary condition to the capacity building is to give scientists a livable salary. It is essential to provide scientists with an equipment which answers precisely the research needs and is adapted to the local climatic conditions. Scientists have to be part of the policy decisions process. Politics have to recognise and to claim openly the importance of science for the society in order to increase the social responsability of scientists.
- to give support to the existing competences
While creating new competences, it is important to recognise the already existing ones who have a real knowledge of the practise of science in their own country. They should be given a special support which could imply some theoritical recycling and training
- to respect strict R-D evaluation criteria
What ever the quantity of science beeing done and the work conditions, the results have to answer quality criteria. These criteria have to be elaborated in a strict and neutral manner; they have to sustain the evaluation of all the research results.
- to train local competent technicians
Technicians are as much important as scientists in the process of R-D; in particular, they have to be specially trained for the maintenance and the repairing of the equipment.
- to divulge the scientific and technical culture
In the industrialised countries, statistics reveal a scientific growing illeteracy which shows a lack of understanding to the applications of science and technology. This, in turn, can lead to a reject of science or to a non better devoted allowance. Educated people are fundamental for the benefits of science in the development process. It is also the only guarantee that science is not cliverted for the profit of a few.
ON THE SIDE OF THE NORTH AND OF INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTIONS
The responsibility is:
- to favour the circulation of scientific and technical information
Military and industrial arguments are put forwards to restrain the circulation of the research results, but it has never been proved that economical interests of a country keep pace with the scientific secret. Knowledge must belong to every one. More over, the circulation of scientific and technical informations is a compulsory condition to the achievement of a balanced world. On the other side, one has to find unanimously accepted rules to protect the inventions .
- to invent a new environment science taking into account the multiple faces of the subject
Environmental science scarecly exists, we rather deal with environmental sciences. Environment is divided in specialised fields, geology, pedology, climatology, ethology, biology.. In addition, ecology was mostly dedicated to local problems, and the natural sciences did not pay much attention to the possible interactions with life. A new science has to be invented which recognise the environment in its globality, a real biosphere science of the planeraty system involving life. This seems preliminary to any prevision in matters of environment.
- to formulate worlwide evaluation criteria for multidisciplinary sciences
Science does not advance without evaluation and the referee system, so called the pair system, does not suit for multidisciplinary sciences to which belong the study of environment.
- to promote environmental sciences at the level of notorious sciences
Environmental sciences have never been part of the nobel sciences as nuclear physics, molecular biology or space for exemple are. So for, they do not attract the best scientists and face lack of money as financing is directly linked to notoriety.
- to consider the Public Information Process as part of the scientific responsibility
Scientists do receive public money. This implies that they have a social responsibility of sharing their knowledge with the population and of acting so that the results of science are used for the benefits of all. In turn, the scientific authorities have to take into account the social involvement of the scientists in their career.
- considering a new perspective for the cooperation with the South, it is important to get rid of the "aid mentality"
New fields of science have to be discovered and carried on to cope with the project of a world sustainable development. There is no reason they should not be as intellectually motivating as most of the sciences. They also imply a new practice of Science more opened to the social demand and a wide cooperation between North and South .
- to stop the practice of sending cooperation professionals
Professional of the cooperation have done their time because most of them still carry on the development model which has drawn to the degradation of the earth.
One has now to encourage the involvement of scientists and technicians convinced of the professional interest of the work. They have to be moved on a specific period ot time and for a precise task in order to promote:
- training of southern technicians and scientists corresponding to the needs defined by their countries,
- providing equipment adapted to the local research, climate and maintenance conditions,
- the residence of scientists in northern top laboratories. In order to avoid the rupture with the indigenous conditions and the underlying braindrain, the scientists should come for a precise time schedule and be encouraged to carry on a study which is of interest for their countries. The coming for short periods should be facilitated in the view of studying thoroughly a result, getting aware of a technique, starting a collaboration.
- conducting R-D projects in a true cooperative fashion. From the definition to the end, the projects have to be carry on with partners of each side possessing the same level of competences. If necessary, this problem can be solved through the regional cooperation within the south.
ON BOTH SIDES OF NORTH AND SOUTH:
It is peremptory to make visible the Research-Development results concerning the environment-development double perspective. Not only R-D in the field has no expression, but also science in the South is not adaptated to the northern, english language monopolist publication system. A new kind of publications and a new way of communicating have to be invented.
In a general perspective, institutional means should be found to associate social and economical sciences, and social demand, to the definition of priority proposals of R-D. So far, natural sciences have been the principal interlocutors in the definition of the themes of research, social and economical sciences were mainly observers, and population, users. The system has proven his failure. A certain demand is already formulated by representatives of the population like users associations, mainly women, or Non Governemental Organizations. A first start should be to privilege the connections between those and the scientists.
All these tasks are essential. Some of them should be assumed by every country. The responsibility of others could be shared between different authorities on a regional or an international basis. Their chance of success rely mainly so far on the engagement and the will of individuals.
Despite of an unquestionable ignorance of northern scientific institutions about South specificity, there are scientists concerned by the necessary evolution of the Research and Development system all around the world. Those have to be encouraged to be part of the process.
Scientists have always been part of the societal evolution. But, they have been used through their results rather than involved in the definition process of developmental models.