[ISLAMABAD] Pakistan's early-career scientists have launched a national academy to share research findings, and address specific concerns such as a lack of career opportunities and brain drain.
The National Academy of Young Scientists (NAYS) is for scientists aged 40 years and under, and will also include young Pakistani scientists working abroad.
The academy is in its initial stages and 350 young scientists have joined so far. They have started a newsletter, negotiated young scientists' representation in the Pakistan Academy of Sciences and written a proposal letter for collaborative activities with the Pakistan chapter of UNESCO.
"Young scientists of Pakistan — who are an invaluable intellectual resource for the nation — can play a pivotal role in developing future strategies for using science and technology for socioeconomic uplift," Anwar Nasim, science advisor to the Organisation of Islamic Conference's (OIC) Standing Committee on Scientific and Technological Cooperation (COMSTECH) and patron of the new academy, told SciDev.Net.
The NAYS' objectives include promoting science education and careers, motivating young researchers to share their findings, improving coordination among science societies and encouraging university–industry partnerships.
Although the academy does not yet have government backing, NAYS hopes to persuade policymakers and academia to ensure a bigger role for younger scientists in the country's development, said NAYS president Aftab Ahmad. As a start, the government-backed Pakistan Academy of Sciences has agreed to include younger scientists among its members.
"Young scientists are neither represented nor are their concerns properly addressed at national meetings of scientists and policymakers," Ejaz Ahmad, NAYS member and a professor of chemistry at the Punjab University, Lahore, told SciDev.Net. Pakistan's young scientists are mainly concerned about unemployment, insufficient salaries and brain drain.
A 2005 report on brain drain from OIC countries — by the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (ISESCO) — said: "In the case of Pakistan, professionals who are going abroad consist of a significant number of civil servants and those belonging to the scientific community. These are the people who complain about the casual attitude of society towards professionals, particularly scientists."
ISESCO and the Pakistani government do not have specific statistics on the migration of the country's scientists or the gap between science graduates and science jobs. But the ISESCO report reveals that the migration of highly qualified people rose from 1,300 in 1995 to 3,300 in 2004.
NAYS members are also keen to promote university–industry partnerships which, they hope, will help universities tailor their course content according to industry's needs rather than churning out graduates in disciplines of no interest to local industries.