Developing countries need a broad-based capacity in physics to achieve sustainable economic growth, says Reza Mansouri in a Nature supplement published to coincide with the twenty-fifth anniversary of TWAS, the academy of sciences in the developing world.
Physics is one of the most important sciences underpinning development, yet is often ignored by developing countries. Mansouri argues that national capacity in physics correlates strongly with economic performance.
For example, China, which authors 14 per cent of peer-reviewed physics papers — up from four per cent a decade ago — ranks first in the developing world in the physical sciences. It also accounts for three per cent of the world's trade in high-technology goods and services. This is no surprise, says Mansouri, as most of these are based on research and development in the physical sciences.
The lesson from China, Mansouri says, is to focus on condensed matter physics, optics and nuclear physics. Developing scientific hardware is also important — China is home to the latest physics instruments, which has helped the country transform its physics capacity into technology products and services, which have, in turn, helped fuel China's growth.