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[BEIJING] Larger developing countries have been urged by the president of the Third World Academy of Sciences (TWAS) to increase their support for scientists in other parts of the developing world, and these in turn have been encouraged not simply look to advanced countries for assistance.

The call was made this week by C. N. R. Rao, Linus Pauling Research Professor at the Jawaharlal Nehru Center for Advanced Scientific Researchan in Bangalore, India. He was speaking at a meeting in Beijing to mark the 20th anniversary of the founding of TWAS by the Pakistan-born physicist Abdus Salam.

"We have already changed our strategy in many ways,'' Rao said in an interview with SciDev.Net. "We are no longer just looking at advanced countries like the United States [for assistance], but also the big developing countries like China, India and Brazil. They could and should do more to promote scientific cooperation amongst the developing world.''

Rao’s remarks were reflected in a declaration adopted at the end of the TWAS meeting – known as the 'Beijing Declaration' – that encourages developing countries with scientific expertise to provide opportunities for research to scientists from less developed nations.

In line with this proposal, Lu Yongxiang, president of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) and vice president of TWAS, announced that that China had agreed to provide 50 postgraduate fellowships for students from the developing world to further their studies.

Lu said many developing countries were showing greater interest in scientific cooperation, and that Chinese scientists were willing to exchange with their counterparts in developing countries.
Rao admits that the attention given to science and scientists in many developing countries is still frustratingly poor. "Probably China is an exception," he said, adding that he had observed an impressive progress in Chinese science, particularly during the past three to four years.

In general, however, the scientific strategies of many developing countries had focused too much on exchange with the developed world, and this had been insufficient to overcome their “knowledge poverty”, he said.

Indeed, despite changes over the past two decades, the gap between the developing and developed worlds in science remained striking. Science in the developing world was still plagued by factors such as lack of adequate investment, and the effects of the brain drain, he said.

Good science was urgently needed in such countries, especially the least developed, to solve common problems such as a shortage of food, said Rao. Such problems make scientific cooperation amongst developing countries not only possible, but necessary. "An African young man, for example, may come over to China or India to study and go back armed with knowledge that could help him tackle similar problems at home,'' he said.

In his remarks to the TWAS meeting, Lu ascribed China's relative strength in science to the rapid growth in investment in science over recent years. This has been spearheaded by the multi-billion-dollar Knowledge Innovation Project initiated by the CAS, and intended to overhaul research practices and improve the overall research level of Chinese science.