Saturday, 2 April 2011

Western world losing ground on science

I wasn't surprised to read that the Royal Society says that the western world is losing ground to countries like Brazil and India in becoming leaders in science. Also countries including Iran, Turkey and Tunisia are rapidly emerging 'scientific superpowers'.

The countries mentioned in the report 'Knowledge, Networks and Nations: Global scientific collaboration in the 21st century' invest in education and in key, core subject areas like science and engineering. They also invest more in R&D. Apparently between 2002-2007 global spending on R&D rose by 45%, in the developing nations it had increased by 100% over the same time period. 

There are two areas of concern for me, one is science education the other is R&D spend within the UK. 

My fear is that the disparity in energy, enthusiasm and investment between countries is creating a self-fulfilling prophecy for the UK (and possibly other former science supercountries like the USA and Japan) that we are going to be so structurally lacking that we can no longer produce our own scientists, nor our own science. 

Given that we have a future which is going to be incredibly reliant on new technologies, isn't our approach short-sighted in the extreme?  I know the public purse is reduced to barely a few coppers, but surely this is an area of extreme importance and this report a wake-up call.

Back in November of last year, I heard Digby Jones say that Britain has two very important products to sell to the emerging economies (outside our banking/commerce offerings) they are 'value-added goods' and 'know how' -to sell 'know how' we need to develop it first, otherwise they will be selling it to us!

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