Brussels, 04 Sep 2002
The former head of an international research centre network has called for a global science fund to bridge the growing 'scientific apartheid' between the world's rich and poor countries.
Speaking at the World summit on sustainable development in Johannesburg, Ismail Serageldin, former head of the consultative group for international agricultural research, stressed that he was speaking in a personal capacity. He said that such a fund was needed in order to reverse the rapidly growing knowledge gap between developed and developing countries. Half of the money distributed by such a fund should be used to build up scientific research institutions in developing countries, while the other half should be distributed on a strictly competitive basis, according to formal peer review, said Mr Serageldin.
'At a time of an enormous explosion in knowledge, one of the scariest statistics is that while those living in developed countries earn on average 40 times as much as those in poor countries, in terms of investment in research, the level of expenditure per capita is almost 220 times higher,' said Mr Serageldin.
He also called for more appreciation of science in the developing countries and for the younger generation to question common beliefs. 'These values [of science] require intellectual honesty as well as creativity and imagination,' he said. 'They also require encouraging a certain constructive subversiveness; science does not advance unless you overthrow the dominant paradigm, and young people must therefore be allowed to challenge their professor.'
Mr Serageldin also argued that competitive bidding for funding is essential as government research grants should not be seen as an entitlement. A global science fund would support centres of excellence with seed funding and facilitate collaboration between researchers in developed and developing countries,' he explained.
Adopting a non-binding resolution on 3 September, the European Parliament called for the EU to aid capacity building in developing countries, including in the areas of establishing an information technology sector, technology transfer and measures to encourage the development of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs).