Don't rely on others' crumbs

October 23, 2008

The suggestion that the Western world should be happy to relinquish its scientific lead on some vague concept of "creativity", linked with an optimistic view that scientific advances made in other countries will always be made freely available, is a most naive suggestion ("Pack science off to revive wellspring of creativity", 9 October).

It ignores historical lessons and the long-term strategic needs of the West. One of those strategic needs will continue to be scientific dominance or, at worst, parity.

What we need are actually rather simple approaches, including better teaching of sciences, better salaries and career prospects for scientists and more imaginative ways of reversing the apparent disengagement of many schoolchildren from science.

We cannot afford to become reliant on the crumbs falling from other nations' research tables, and those suggesting that we should need to try taking a broader view of probable long-term consequences. After all, European governments seem to be waking up to the long-term risks of relying on Russian energy supplies; does this not teach us a fundamental lesson? It should.

Paul A. Fowler, Chair in translational medical sciences University of Aberdeen.

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