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Asia was not prepared for last month's tsunami. Many believe that had it been, the death toll would have been lower.

This editorial in Nature argues that the way events unfolded, and their tragic consequences, show the disparity in how science is applied in different parts of the world. It points out the irony that the very same tools of communication that could have saved lives instead brought news of widespread death.

There are two lessons to be learnt. International bodies set up to provide early warnings of natural disasters must no longer be neglected and underfunded. Also, people in rich countries need to ask their governments to "pay modest respect to the value of human life" — particularly when deciding research priorities.

Scientists have a role to play in this, says the article. Earth scientists should follow the example of biomedical researchers in developed nations who have put time, effort and funding into studying diseases that affect mostly poorer nations.

Link to full article in Nature

Reference: Nature 433, 1 (2005)

Link to SciDev.Net's news focus 'Tsunami update'