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Science academies in the Americas have set up a regional network in a bid to strengthen the way that science and technology can act as a tool for enhancing development in their region.

At its founding meeting in Santiago, Chile, last month, the InterAmerican Network of Academies of Sciences (IANAS) agreed to help build national scientific capacities by strengthening regional collaboration in science and technology.

Science academies from more than 14 countries in the Americas agreed to share information and experience, and to work together to help create new academies in countries where they don't exist. They also pledged to strive to influence scientific decision-making to promote prosperity and equity in the region.

"The ability of a society to benefit from the continuously expanding store of the world's scientific knowledge depends on human capacities," says Marcos Cortesão of the Brazilian Academy of Sciences. "Therefore, a centrepiece of any strategy to achieve sustainability must be the accelerated development of local capacities in science, engineering, and health throughout the world."

Initially, the IANAS will concentrate its efforts on two areas – science education and water. The science education programme will review science teaching in schools, and aims over the next five years to improve the level and relevance of science education to children in the region.

The water programme will focus on ways of providing scientific and technological tools to assure a more rational use of water supplies.

"Our fundamental objective is to support national scientific and technological development in the hemisphere, towards the strengthening of science and technology as tools for advancing research and development, prosperity and equity in the Americas," says Cortesão.

Hernan Chaimovich Guralnik of the Brazilian Academy of Sciences and Howard Alper of the Royal Society of Canada are co-chairs of the network. The academies of Chile, United States, Mexico, Venezuela and the Caribbean Scientific Union have been elected as members of the executive board.

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