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Algeria has started to fund a US$1.4 billion, five year science and technology (S&T) programme that was promised in 2007 (see Algeria increases science spending).

Rachid Harraoubia, minister of higher education and scientific research, made the funding announcement at the opening of the first National Conference on Scientific Research last month (14 July) in Bou Ismail.

The money will help develop S&T research in Algeria, in areas chosen to meet the needs of all the country's provinces. There are plans for 34 projects (cut from 100 planned in 2007), which among other activities will create 15 new research units and 900 new laboratories, upgrade 583 existing laboratories and recruit more researchers.

The projects will link basic and applied research, aiming to promote technology transfer and boost socioeconomic development and help Algeria become more self-reliant.

Sadallah Boubaker-Khaled, professor of mathematics at The National University in Algiers, says the money could have taken one-and-a-half years to be released because "the government has no clear action plan or monitoring system to ensure proper implementation of S&T programmes".

But he adds that the government has stuck to most of the promises made in 2007, including reopening the Algerian National Council for Scientific Research to help coordinate researchers — though no staff members have been appointed.

The government has also raised the budget for scientific research and technological development to one per cent of the country's gross domestic product, says Boubaker-Khaled.

"However, a new council to follow up and evaluate scientific research projects still has not been established and the promises to improve working conditions and salaries for scientific researchers has only been partially implemented," he says.

A bonus system designed to encourage Algeria's 22,000 scientists to remain in the country was also announced at the conference. As well as increased salaries, researchers will be rewarded for excellence in research — with bonuses depending on the significance of a scientific breakthrough — from January 2010.

Last month also saw the creation of the Algerian–American Foundation for Culture, Education, Science and Technology (announced on 3 July), which is linked to ongoing S&T cooperation between the United States and Algeria (see Algeria and the US combine forces in S&T).