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Britain's most senior scientist has urged political leaders in both developed and developing countries to view money spent on science and technology as an investment in preventing the worst effects of diseases and natural disasters.

"That is much better than having to spend the money on emergency relief aid to respond to a crisis that could have been reduced or averted," said Lord May of Oxford, president of the Royal Society and former chief scientific advisor to the UK government, in a statement issued yesterday (6 January).

He described as "tragically short-sighted" the fact that discussions initiated two years ago about an early warning system for tsunamis in the Indian Ocean were not given greater priority.

"The developed countries must provide long-term investment in the scientific potential of poor nations," said May, commenting on a new report that has been produced for the United Nations on the role of science and technology in meeting the Millennium Development Goals.

He urged the United Kingdom to lead the way by allocating funds for building the scientific capacity of developing countries. And he added that Britain should use its presidency of the G8 group of leading industrialised nations to persuade other countries to do the same.

The UN report "makes clear that without a greater focus on science, technology and innovation, and the investment to match, we will not be able to achieve the Millennium Development Goals," said May. "That would be a tragic missed opportunity to improve the lives of billions of people."

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

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