05/07/11

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University science graduates in the developing world must be given the right opportunities to advance their careers at home if developing countries are to boost their scientific and economic capacity, says Romain Murenzi, executive director of The Academy of Sciences for the Developing World (TWAS).

Although many postgraduate and postdoctoral programmes are available to students from developing countries, the improvements in scientific capacity are slow and uneven, says Murenzi. Just six developing countries account for three quarters of scientific articles published in peer-reviewed journals, with China alone contributing 30 per cent.

This gap is growing and has serious implications for young science students from countries that are "failing to keep pace". And even in the countries with growing science capacity, there is a wide gap between science and innovation.

Murenzi says that politicians in developing countries must see investment in science as a way of alleviating poverty.

He recommends three steps that developing countries can take to build scientific capacity: support doctorate-level research to achieve a critical mass of PhDs; create opportunities for North-South scientific exchange; and provide more research funds to young scientists — and not just from foreign donors.

Murenzi gives the example of Rwanda, which spends 1.6 per cent of its gross domestic product (GDP) on science and technology (S&T). This investment supports higher education institutions, and 70 per cent of higher education loans are reserved for students who pursue S&T disciplines. These efforts have been supported by governments and funding agencies around the world.

But development agencies and global institutions must now integrate S&T into development planning using more comprehensive strategies, argues Murenzi, and governments must put in place policies that focus on building capacity in science, technology and innovation over the long term.

Link to full article in Nature