Pakistan's Higher Education Commission (HEC) has announced plans to bring together scientists, policymakers, industrialists and the media to promote the social and economic benefits science and technology can bring.
Under the initiative, announced on 12 September in Islamabad, the HEC will arrange 24 symposia during the next two years on ways science can contribute to Pakistan's development in four key sectors.
A committee set up this week to coordinate the plan has designated the priority areas as water, energy, the environment and health.
"Science is a vast subject and it would be impossible for us to cover it completely, so we decided to focus initially on the four subjects that are most important for Pakistan," says senator Rozina Tufail, a senator in Pakistan's National Assembly and a member of the committee.
The symposia will take place at universities across Pakistan and will bring together stakeholders with an interest in the topics. Some of the meetings will be held in collaboration with major mass media groups, including Pakistan Television (PTV) and national newspapers.
Prizes for talented scientists and science students were also announced under the initiative. Awards ranging from 50,000 to 100,000 rupees (US$835 to US$1,670) will be given to researchers who have successfully developed an innovative process or product.
Talented science students will be eligible for three prizes of US$500 to US$1170.
Anwar Nasim, chair of the National Commission on Biotechnology, welcomes the initiative.
"For the first time, Pakistan has engaged policymakers and industrialists in popularising science," he told SciDev.Net.
Nasim suggests there should be also be awards for science journalists. "With such incentives, the quantity and quality of science journalism could be enhanced."
S. Sohail Naqvi, HEC's executive director, says that in the weeks to come, the project will be finalised and details worked out. "It's just the beginning," he says.
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