SA too busy 'chasing gongs'

June 27, 2003

Scientists in South Africa and other developing countries should spend less time chasing Nobel prizes and do more to help build sustainable economies, Commonwealth science policy leaders have been told.

Sir Kumar Bhattacharyya, head of Warwick University's Manufacturing Group, said universities and academics in developing countries had to be more responsive to the economic needs of their countries.

In a speech to the 21st Commonwealth Science Council meeting in Johannesburg, Sir Kumar, who was knighted in the latest Queen's birthday honours, said there needed to be a "change in mindset" in developing countries to make their universities turn more of their work to "face the market" at home, rather than pursuing world recognition.

He asked: "How sustainable is it for universities in developing countries to benchmark themselves against their equivalents in the western world?" He added that scientists in South Africa's top 12 universities could hold their own with any in the world. But he said: "Unfortunately, like scientists all over the world, they are motivated by Nobel prizes."

He pointed out, however, that there were "some high-value inward investment companies backed up by fiscal incentives that export high-quality manufacturers across the globe".

• An invitation to Zimbabwe's science minister Olivia Muchena to attend a Commonwealth science meeting this month was revoked after an outcry over reports that she had received a farm under land-grab policies and had urged the killing of political opponents.

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