South Asian science collaboration hostage to political agendas

SciDev.Net, December 30, 2011
ISLAMABAD: South Asian collaboration in sustainable development research has been held hostage by internal and trans-boundary conflicts, a conference heard.

“Shifting (the) focus of federal policies of the regional governments from mere political agendas to science, research and technological advancement is critical for sustainable development,” Abid Qaiyum Suleri, executive director, Sustainable Development Policy Institute, an Islamabad-based non-governmental organisation (NGO), told the conference this month (13-15 December).

Poor collaboration among policymakers and scientists, coupled with insufficient technological advancement in South Asian countries, remain major stumbling blocks to fighting socioeconomic maladies, Suleri observed.

Sabina Alkire, director, Oxford Department of International Development, told SciDev.Net: “It has been observed that bilateral or multilateral talks focus only on political agendas while interstate collaboration in scientific knowhow, research and technology transfer are hardly on the agendas.”

“It does give (an) impression of how indifferent the governments are to the significance of collaboration.” There is a need for “a paradigm shift ” in agendas from political goals to science and research collaboration and sharing advanced technologies, she remarked.

Peter Taylor, programme specialist at Canada’s International Development Research Centre, observed that while policymakers’ access to quality, objective information generated through independent research was crucial, in most South Asian countries, this is produced outside national policy contexts.

“Such collaboration gaps must be plugged by the governments themselves to develop and implement policies in the light of results of scientific research that would help lead to more equitable, prosperous societies,” he stressed.

Eak Bahadur Rana Magar, project coordinator at the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development, said that the benefits of technology and access to technology have not reached a huge number of the poor in the region. Magar added that market pressures and the needs of developed countries, rather than those of poor countries, influenced technology development and dissemination.

Bipul Chatterjee, deputy executive director at the Consumer Unity and Trust Society International, an NGO based in Jaipur, said that over the last several years India has made great strides in science and technology.

He listed medicine, water conservation, renewable energy, high-yield crops, astronomy and computation as areas in which India has made progress that can be shared in the region. “These technologies and relevant scientific and technological knowhow can be transferred to other regional countries if better collaborative science and technology policies are implemented,” he said.

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