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Scientific societies in the United Kingdom that support their counterparts in developing countries have formed a network to coordinate their work and share tips on effective capacity building.

The Learned Societies for Development (LSfD) network was launched last month (15 October) under the auspices of the UK National Commission for UNESCO (UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization).

Many scientific societies — networks of researchers in a specific field — carry out capacity building work such as mentoring and exchange schemes, providing equipment and advice, running training courses and providing free access to publications.

At a meeting in June last year, UK societies agreed that their strength lay in large networks, which could nurture researchers in developing countries at a grassroots level and connect them directly to global networks they may have been isolated from before.

"Learned societies have an incredible swathe of expertise within their membership," said Rebecca Smith, parliamentary and policy officer at the UK's Biochemical Society, and coordinator of the LSfD network.

"But it's not always easy to know how best to use it. Although there are lots of organisations that have been working in this area, it's been quite fragmented and, by bringing everyone together and making each other aware of what we're doing, we can learn a lot from one another," she told SciDev.Net.

The network is open to societies that are already active in this area, as well as those interested in getting involved in capacity building and development.

"Over time we'll be able to develop a shared resource to outline experience and good practice as well as to highlight problems and successes that people have had," said Smith.

The network is currently made up of UK societies but the group aims to identify other societies from around the world that are involved with similar work. "It would be great to get any learned societies in developing countries involved in the network too — those kinds of links are invaluable," said Smith.

Funding for the group comes from the UK National Commission for UNESCO and the Biochemical Society.