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Science in the developing world.

Mohamed H. A. Hassan is a great spokesman for the role that science, technology, and innovation (ST & I) can play in facilitating the development of the less developed part of our world ("Global Science Gaps Need Global Action," Issues, Winter 2008). He speaks for Africa because so much of the need is there. I too believe that ST & I can enable development and that investments there will pay off in the future.

He points out that there are now countries more developed and growing (Brazil, China, India, Malaysia, South Africa, Turkey, etc.) that are investing in S & T, creating a multipolar world of science. These are countries with a strong base, positive growth rates, and increasingly replete government coffers. They can afford to build research facilities. But they all had traditions of research and education as well as institutions to build on. Sometimes these date from their colonial period. The African countries have much less, and even when their colonial masters built universities, periods of ruinous dictatorship and wars have left those institutions in a shambles.

It seems to me that there needs to be an emphasis on institution-building in Africa. Africa needs research but perhaps a greater need is more trained people. People trained in S & T can contribute in many ways to economic development. Thus, the institutions that are built should combine teaching and research. It is important to start small, concentrating available resources and talent until there are sufficient trained personnel for further expansion. It will take significant and sustained foreign aid and assistance from universities in the developed world to build such institutions, but the payoff could be immense.

Building S & T capability is a long-term effort. Only in the context of political stability will it work. The nongovernmental organizations of the world have learned this lesson and are putting an increasing fraction of their aid into countries that are stable, reasonably honest, and intelligently led. This is also where the long-term bets should be placed, with the understanding that present stability may not be a guarantee of future stability.



Robert Andrews Millikan Professor of Biology

California Institute of Technology

Pasadena, California

I could not agree more strongly with Mohamed H. A. Hassan's assertion that: "Expanding the reach of ST & I to countries that have been largely left behind is one of the most critical problems of our time." It is also true that Africa, in particular, has a host of other problems: HIV/AIDS, malaria, nutrient deficiencies, exhausted soil, not to mention poor transportation and communications infrastructure. These problems need to be addressed in a coordinated, substantive fashion--as the Millennium Village project is striving to do--that has some chance of becoming self-sustaining.

But I think that our research universities and institutes, working together with the business sector and using contemporary electronic resources, have a unique opportunity to accelerate the "flattening" of the world, to use Tom Friedman's metaphor. There is little doubt that U.S. universities are eager to go global. But according to a recent New York Times article, the most visible and successful outposts have been stimulated by invitations from wealthy countries and have the objective of widening the income pool and foreign student base of the home institution. The task of assisting much less wealthy countries, often in Africa and the Middle East, to bolster the instructional, organizational, and research capacities of their own institutions is a vastly different proposition.

The G8 countries have pledged $8 billion to rebuild Africa's universities and establish centers of excellence, although only a fraction of it has so far materialized. But the physical infrastructure is only part of the problem. The other is quite human. Most academic scientists in the United States look to foreign institutions for top-notch graduate students and postdocs to populate their laboratories. The notion of taking time out from a busy and competitive career to teach and develop research collaborations in the least advanced countries most in need of help is just not on the academic radar screen.

Corporate America, as evidenced in Bill Gates' speech at the 2008 World Economic Forum, is recognizing the breakdown of capitalism in the face of extreme poverty. Noting that technological breakthroughs change lives "primarily where people can afford them," Gates calls for what he terms "creative capitalism": capitalism leavened by a pinch of idealism and an altruistic desire to better the lot of others.

We could use a bit of such missionary fervor in the scientific community. Science is our best global common language, able to bridge the deepest of political and religious divides. So, too, there is a growing recognition in every country that it is science and technology that drive and will increasingly drive the economy of the 21st century. Our scientists and engineers are still welcome, even in countries that have lost respect for our politics and our culture. Perhaps we need to recognize concretely in the academic reward structure that scientists and engineers have a critical role to play in flattening the world; in creating a future in which the citizens of all countries have the educational and economic opportunities now largely restricted to the developed world.


Science and Technology Adviser to the Secretary of State and the Administrator of USAID

U.S. Department of State

Washington, DC

RELATED ARTICLE: Cindy Stelmackowich

Cindy Stelmackowich has been working for a number of years with themes related to medicine and anatomy. She has incorporated scientific glassware, medical textbooks, test tubes, surgical instruments, and anatomical transparencies into wall installations, sculpture-based works, chandeliers, and light boxes. Intrigued by the way the classical medical figure is persistently represented as neither dead nor alive in the lithographic illustrations, Stelmackowich explores the symbolic and allegorical dimensions of the images.

In Blinded by Science (2006-2007) colorful transparent glass objects are positioned over the anatomized bodies, emphasizing their transparency, vulnerability, and fragility. In The Disaster Series (2007) Stelmackowich inserts scenes of disasters into the deep anatomical regions of the body. In engaging directly with the cultural and aesthetic paradoxes of 19th-century idealized images, these two series suggest that the imaging of the bodily interior was far from neutral. Artists and anatomists did not simply record anatomical reality: they dramatized, travestied, and beautified it.

Stelmackowich's current and upcoming exhibitions and projects include a residency in digital imaging techniques at DAIMON in Gatineau, Quebec; the Virtual Museum of Canada project "Science in Art" organized by Galerie de I'UQAM in Montreal; and "Obsolete Concepts" at A Space Gallery in Toronto. Works from this exhibition will be traveling to various galleries in Saskatchewan, Alberta, and Los Angeles in 2008-2009.

Images courtesy of the Patrick Mikhail Gallery.
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Title Annotation:FORUM
Author:Baltimore, David; Fedoroff, Nina
Publication:Issues in Science and Technology
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 22, 2008
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