Select Committee on Science and Technology Thirteenth Report

6 Capacity Building in Developing Countries

The need for capacity building in developing countries

97. It is not a straightforward matter to quantify national science and technology capacity, but by any measure there is a vast gap between the North and South. For instance, developing countries have an average of 384 researchers in R&D per million people compared to an OECD average of 2,098 per million.[178],[179] Similarly, developing countries commit an average of 0.6% of GDP to R&D in comparison with an OECD average of 2.6%.[180] Whilst there are 40.9 internet users per million people in developing countries, the OECD average is 383.1 per million.[181] In addition, Sir David King recently published a paper that demonstrated that 31 countries, including the G8 countries and the 15 countries of the European Union before the 2004 accession, produced more than 98% of the world's highly cited scientific papers.[182] Although it is accepted that citations and publication rates are highly imperfect indicators of scientific capacity in developing countries, these data collectively serve to illustrate the yawning divide between North and South. Harefield Research Foundation also estimated that "Compared to their counterparts in the developed world, young people in the developing countries are 100 times less likely to enter a scientific career".[183]Figure 3
Categories of Science and Technology Capacity in Developing Countries

There is obviously wide variation in the science and technology capacity of developing countries. The World Bank Policy Research Working Paper on Strategic Approaches to Science and Technology in Development describes three categories of science and technology capacity for developing countries:

Scientifically proficient countries increasingly define their relations with the scientifically advanced countries on the basis of equality or near equality; examples include Brazil, China, India, Hungary, and South Africa.

Scientifically developing countries have pockets of adequate scientific and technological capacity amidst general scarcity; examples include countries such as Turkey, Colombia, Indonesia, Pakistan, and Latvia.

Scientifically lagging countries lack capacity almost entirely; examples include countries such as Nepal, Albania, Mali, Ecuador, and Libya.

Strategic Approaches to Science and Technology in Development, Policy Research Working Paper, World Bank, April 2003

98. Chancellor College, University of Malawi, provided us with a description of the human resource problems typically faced by a research institution in a scientifically lagging country: "Technicians are not updated on use of new technologies. Very few academic staff have PhDs. Some members have stayed for over 10 years after obtaining their Masters and are still looking for PhD scholarships without success".[184] Chancellor College also highlighted the lack of adequate infrastructure and equipment: "Limited funds do not permit expansion of appropriate infrastructure […] The research centre does not have [its] own labs, library, ICT offices and teaching rooms […] Most equipment is outdated or not working".[185]

99. Mr Scott from the Intermediate Technology Development Group told us that capacity building was essential to improve "the ability and capability of institutions throughout the developing countries from government right down to community level to […] assess and make decisions for themselves about the kinds of technologies that they want to use" and their ability to "develop and adapt technologies for their own use".[186] Chancellor College agreed, noting that "Research centres enhance research capacity and respond to the needs of the nation in solving problems requiring expert analysis. These are also important for the generation of baseline data for identifying intervention strategies and use in decision and policy making".[187]

100. Furthermore, capacity building of national university and research systems promotes training of professionals and educators, whilst international collaborations between academics in the North and South can contribute to global stability. Capacity building is also required to enable monitoring of progress towards the MDGs: the High Level Forum on the Health Millennium Development Goals published a discussion document in December 2003 noting the "remarkable disconnect between the demand for high quality health information and the ability of [developing] country systems to respond to the demand".[188] Moreover, a recent article in the British Medical Journal addressing attainment of the MDGs highlighted "concerns about the current capacity of poor countries to effectively absorb major increases in aid".[189] Capacity building is also required to help developing countries to meet their international environmental obligations (e.g. see paragraph 149 on the Darwin initiative).

101. In addition, we heard in Malawi that for UK researchers in Tropical Medicine, for example, the projects undertaken in Sub-Saharan Africa provided access to clinical samples that simply could not be obtained in the UK. As Professor Leach, IDS, remarked, "In my experience, good partnership arrangements involve just as much learning the other way".[190] We believe that capacity building in science and technology can yield a panoply of benefits for both North and South, including stronger research and education systems in developing countries, and the fostering of international relations.

102. The draft DFID Research Strategy asserted that the "first priority, especially for Africa, is the capacity to access existing knowledge".[191] On the other hand, an article in Nature on combating malaria in Africa observed that: "Speak to any scientist in Africa and you get the same message: to turn the tide, African doctors and researchers must take matters into their own hands, translating research and control measures into sustainable local campaigns".[192] Whilst we agree that access to knowledge is vital, the capacity to utilise knowledge needs to be developed in tandem if any benefits are to be derived from the availability of new information. This requires both human resources and physical infrastructure. Moreover, research has demonstrated that countries can only assimilate R&D information from other countries if they are engaged in R&D themselves.[193]

UK commitment to science and technology capacity building in developing countries

103. The UK Science and Innovation Investment Framework 2004-2014 published in July 2004 placed capacity building in developing countries at the heart of its vision for UK science: "through knowledge transfer and capacity building activities the UK will be making significant contributions to the sustainable development and stabilisation of a world in which issues of poverty, education, water provision, population growth and global warming are tackled".[194] In addition, the IAC report, Inventing a Better Future, asserted that "Enhancing S&T capacity in the developing nations is truly a necessity and not a luxury".[195] We agree. We firmly believe that the UK has an obligation to support capacity building in science and technology for development and welcome the fact that the Government has now affirmed its commitment to do so.

104. However, we heard a number of complaints about the inadequacy of UK support for science and technology capacity building. Martin Hodnett from the Free University of Amsterdam stated: "Over many years of working on DFID funded projects, particularly in the capacity building sector, I have observed a move away from science, research and capacity building within DFID funding. This appears to have been driven indirectly by the relatively recent, and very laudable focus on poverty elimination".[196] Moreover, the Oxford Forestry Institute pointed out that capacity building needs to take place on a much larger scale than has been the case in the past: "factors such as civil conflict, HIV/AIDS are having serious impacts on research and technical capacity in some countries. The past assumption that sufficient research capacity will result from training a few people per country, on a one-off basis, that will then be self sustaining within the country, is not valid".[197] Dr Robin Matthews went further, telling us that this was "a sorry state of affairs for a country that, historically, has made a huge contribution throughout the world in this area, particularly at a time when the need to improve food production at low cost has never been greater, and when the resources for the global community to work together on common problems have never been so readily available".[198] On a more positive note, Rothamsted Research commented on the "enormous inherent willingness in the UK science community to participate in the capacity building in developing countries" and urged DFID to exploit this.[199]

105. It will be important for the UK to develop a longer-term vision for capacity building. Ralph Cobham of Resource Consultants International, for example, emphasised the need for DFID to make more long-term investments: "From experience of recently working on a DFID-funded environmental management strengthening project in Siberia over 3.5 years, I would also advocate the development and use of much more long-term monitoring and mentoring programmes, post—'project completion'. A period of 3.5 years is far too short for the achievement of sustained capacity building. Provision needs to be made for follow-up mechanisms that enable institutional performances to be nurtured, monitored and mentored over a realistic longer time-period".[200] The long-term nature of capacity building and the vast scale of resources required for it mean that it is very difficult for a single country to make a sustainable impact. Co-ordinated global action, as called for in the IAC report, Inventing a Better Future, is therefore essential.[201]

106. Although the CSA's Scoping Project on science and technology capacity building in developing countries has not yet been published, Sir David King has revealed that the interim report concluded that "there is presently little systematic approach to S&T capacity building [for developing countries] in the UK".[202] DFID has also now published its draft Research Strategy, which states that DFID will "give more effort to building developing country research capacity".[203] We are pleased to see capacity building featuring in the new Research Strategy but are not yet persuaded that this will result in the considerable boost to science and technology capacity building funding that is urgently required. DFID should commit significant extra funding specifically for capacity building, over and above the existing research budget. In addition to the funds for capacity building that are currently channelled through the central research budget, DFID Country Offices should play a much greater role in capacity building. However, a major collective international effort with a long-term horizon is vital for sustainable science and technology capacity building to be effected on the scale required. DFID should take advantage of its leadership roles in NEPAD and the Commission for Africa, as well as the forthcoming UK Presidencies of the G8 and EU, to call for an international science and technology capacity building strategy supported by the necessary resources.

Trends in capacity building

107. The recent POSTnote on scientific capacity in developing countries described four approaches to capacity building through research projects:

108. UK support for capacity building has mainly taken the form of fellowships and research programmes based in both the UK and developing countries. Although there is clear potential for research programmes to contribute to capacity building, Mr Maxwell, Director of the ODI, warned that capacity building should not just "be tacked on to existing research projects" and should be properly funded to ensure that it did not "undermine and weaken the home country investment". [205],[206] Mr Maxwell was also one of many witnesses who emphasised the importance of in-country training: "Wherever it is possible to train people in the South it will be much cheaper, more cost effective and more appropriate culturally to do so".[207] Professor Leach pointed out that developing country researchers "are often very aware of what the local problems are, they simply do not have the ability to pursue them and they have to go for funding which is within the remit of donor projects and, indeed, need to appeal to those audiences in order to publish".[208] The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine also told us distance learning had "the twin advantages of reduced cost and avoiding lengthy absences from the country in question" and was increasingly in demand, although contact with supervisors was still necessary for research degree students.[209]

109. The history of British technical assistance was summarised by the International Development Select Committee, which observed in its Report on DFID in 2002-03 that "Technical assistance as a mode of development assistance has, it seems, gone out of fashion. This is largely because it was generally a donor-imposed method of aid delivery and was often seen as resulting in the neglect of local knowledge […] The suggestion that countries which need technical assistance because of very low capacity 'purchase technical assistance on the open market and manage it' is impractical precisely because they may lack the capacity to do this. We believe that DFID should re-examine its policy on technical assistance in those countries with large skills gaps—particularly those affected by AIDS and HIV" .[210] We agree. Technical assistance must play a valuable role in capacity building, providing that training and other forms of support for developing country nationals are included as an integral component of the assistance.

UK training schemes and scholarships

110. An overview of the main UK training schemes and scholarships that play a role in supporting science and technology in developing countries is provided below. Although these schemes are important contributors to capacity building, the collective funding involved still represents only a fraction of the total UK aid budget, and capacity building comprises more than just training.

Commonwealth Scholarship and Fellowship Plan

111. The Commonwealth Scholarship and Fellowship Plan (CSFP) is managed by the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission (CSC), a Non-Departmental Public Body that was established at the first Conference of Commonwealth Education Ministers in 1959 and now operates under the International Development Act 2002. DFID provides £11.75 million, and the FCO £2.05 million, for awards to developing and developed countries respectively.[211] The CSC explained to us that the CSFP "provides a framework through which governments of Commonwealth nations can offer awards to citizens of other member states".[212] This means that "Although the aims are primarily developmental", a small number of UK students have been awarded scholarships to study in other Commonwealth countries (with funding provided by the host country).[213]

112. Historically, most of the awards made by the CSC were for conventional Postgraduate degrees or shorter Fellowships for mid-career academics from developing countries. However, the CSC has recently introduced a number of innovations, including split-site and distance learning awards. The CSC told us that split-site awards "contribute to the stock of PhDs in those countries at relatively modest cost, without the need for candidates to leave their countries for long periods and in a way that promotes collaboration between universities in the UK and developing world".[214] Distance learning awards additionally plug a gap in scholarship policy since "Generally, overseas students wanting to follow a British university distance learning course cannot obtain local scholarships (because they are not studying in a local institution) or an overseas scholarship (because they are not planning to travel overseas)".[215] Both approaches also have the added benefit that the research problems being addressed are more likely to be of direct relevance to the developing country than projects typically undertaken in UK universities. In addition, the CSC has introduced Professional Fellowships to enable mid-career professionals in areas other than academia to spend time in the UK acquiring specific skills, as opposed to undertaking a specific research project. Although these schemes are still under evaluation, we are encouraged by the innovative approaches being applied to the Commonwealth Scholarship and Fellowship Plan. In particular, we support the introduction of split-site and distance learning awards.

113. Between 1999 and 2003, an average of 49% of awards were made in science and technology subjects (including medicine, dentistry and veterinary science; see Table 3).[216] The CSC attributed this high percentage of science and technology awards in part to the fact that, despite a widespread trend towards taught postgraduate courses, "the Commission has been clear in its determination to preserve doctoral awards as a key part of its provision".[217] Furthermore, the CSC suggested that the fact that "The overwhelming majority of nominations for our scholarships come from national government agencies and developing country universities", as well as the strong representation of science and technology in the selection panels, contributed to the high proportion of science and technology awards.[218] We are pleased that the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission continues to recognise the importance of doctorates for development of expertise in scientific subjects, despite the fact that PhDs are significantly more expensive than taught postgraduate courses. We also commend the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission for following a demand-led approach, and for ensuring strong representation of science and technology in the review process for award applications.Table 3: CSFP Awards in Science and Technology
Year Percentage of Awards in Science and Technology[219]

Source: CSC

114. In seeking to improve the evaluation of the success of its schemes, the CSC has undertaken a tracer study of alumni, with contact already having been made with over 4,000 award holders.[220] As a result, the CSC was able to publish a Directory of Commonwealth Scholars and Fellows in 2003, as well as conducting an analysis of the experiences of the CSFP alumni. Consistent with the fact that candidates sign an undertaking to return to their home country, the study demonstrated that over 85% of alumni had returned to their home country.[221] The study also indicated that more than half the alumni were working in higher education, suggesting that the CSFP was effectively contributing to capacity building. In the course of the study, the CSC discovered that a number of their alumni reported "a feeling of isolation on their return", and noted that "a lack of equipment or other facilities" was sometimes cited as a reason for this.[222] The latter point is discussed further in paragraph 136.

115. The CSC have taken steps to improve the environment to which award holders return on completion of their studies, for example by establishing "professional networks" for alumni with similar interests, and through the introduction of Institutional Capacity Grants. These grants allow up to six individual awards to be allocated towards a particular initiative to which the home institution has also offered support. This can start to build a community of researchers who have similar training opportunities and better funded research. The CSC also told us that "grants can be taken up over a four year period, to prevent too dramatic an outflow of staff at any given time".[223] In addition, since direct funding of infrastructure falls outside its remit, the CSC is exploring the possibility of joint activity programmes with other development agencies which focus on infrastructure support. The CSC is also seeking to strengthen collaboration with the Higher Education Links scheme.

116. The CSC is leading the way in undertaking tracer studies and improving the support that it gives to alumni. We believe that Institutional Capacity Grants, as well as collaborative programmes with agencies that can deliver infrastructure support and other UK schemes such as the Higher Education Links scheme, are likely to provide effective routes to capacity building and - subject to the evaluation of such schemes - encourage DFID to increase its support for them. We welcome the approaches that the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission is adopting to improve the quality and impact of the training it delivers. However, whilst the development of centres of excellence can undoubtedly have a positive impact on the wider region, care must be taken to ensure that concentration of resources in one institution or area does not distort the balance of capacity in the region or country as a whole.

117. DFID also provides approximately £2 million per year to the Shared Scholarship Scheme, administered by the Association of Commonwealth Universities, which assists students from Commonwealth countries wishing to pursue studies of relevance to development. Of the current 168 awards, 54% are in science and technology subjects.[224]

Higher Education Links Scheme

118. The Higher Education Links (HEL) scheme exists to promote collaboration between at least two higher education institutions­one in the UK and one overseas­with the ultimate objective of contributing towards poverty reduction and sustainable development.[225] The scheme has been running with minimal change since 1981 and it is estimated that approximately 3,200 Links have been supported during this period. On average, the HEL scheme awards approximately £8,000 to £10,000 per year to each Link and the funding is used for a variety of activities, including training of staff, development of new courses, publication of research or teaching materials, and organisation of workshops or seminars.[226]

119. The British Council, which manages the scheme on behalf of DFID, described the aim of the HEL scheme as being "to build links in areas of innovative work, using relatively small sums of money".[227] Dr Lloyd Anderson, Director of Science at the British Council, told us that "DFID put about £3 million a year into this scheme, and if you take the contribution by the higher education institutions in the UK and British Council, it adds up to over £10 million per annum".[228] Although DFID appears to be leveraging other funds very successfully through the HEL scheme, we heard that there had been some detrimental effects of academics having to give their time for free. Of the 430 links in 2003, 47% were in low income countries and 53% in middle income countries, with 14% of the total in science and technology subjects.[229]

120. The scheme was placed under review in 2002-03 and no new links were awarded after 2003-04. The review, published in March 2003, praised the effectiveness of the scheme in mobilising resources from other sources, but criticised the lack of evaluation and identification of good practice. [230] The scheme was not integrated into DFID's PSA targets and concerns were raised about the sustainability of the scheme. In the light of the findings of the review, DFID informed its partners that funding for the HEL scheme in its current form would be withdrawn in 2006. In May 2004, Hilary Benn announced a new HEL scheme, expected to commence in April 2005 with funding of £3 million a year committed over the following seven years. The new scheme will have a stronger focus on poverty reduction and promotion of sustainable development, and only countries where DFID has bilateral programmes will be eligible. The new scheme will also involve closer collaboration with other DFID programmes (including CSFP) and development agencies engaged in capacity building; will support both South-South links and links between Southern partners and non-UK partners (i.e. will be "untied"); will have a stronger emphasis on science and technology links; and will utilise more systematic approaches to learning and disseminating best practice. The management contract for the new scheme will be awarded by open competition. [231]

121. We support DFID's efforts to improve the Higher Education Links scheme through formal evaluation and are pleased that DFID has decided to continue to support the scheme with an increased emphasis on poverty reduction and science and technology, and a more rigorous approach to evaluation. However, it is regrettable that DFID's timing resulted in a hiatus between the closure of the old scheme and announcement of the new one. Better planning could have obviated this delay, which caused uncertainty for DFID's partners in the HEL scheme. DFID should be more sensitive to the impact of changes in its policy and funding arrangements on UK organisations and researchers, and their counterparts in developing countries.

Chevening Scheme

122. The majority of the training supported by the FCO is delivered through the £44 million per annum Chevening Programme, under which scholarships are mainly awarded for one year Masters courses. Chevening awards are made to promising young postgraduate students or professionals, "who display both intellectual ability and leadership potential".[232] The objective of the scheme is implicit in the FCO requirement that candidates "should have the potential to rise to positions of power and influence in their own countries where they might help to further UK political, diplomatic, commercial, and other interests in the mid or longer term".[233]

123. In 2002-03, 71% of Chevening scholars were from developing countries, but only 6.54% (i.e. 154) of the 2,387 awards made were for science and technology subjects (see Table 4).[234] Of the 154 awards made in science and technology subjects in 2002-03, 6.4% were for PhDs, 55.1% were for Masters courses and 3.8% were for short courses. The value of PhD awards in science and technology is discussed in paragraph 125. Awards for the Chevening scheme are made on the "best-of-the-best basis of selection" and the FCO does not take into account country needs in making the awards.[235] The fact that candidates "should have the potential to rise to positions of power and influence in their own countries" may put science and technology candidates on a weaker footing than those from the humanities and legal and political fields, since it is difficult for people working in an environment where there is little financial support for science and a poor infrastructure to gain the reputation and profile demanded.Table 4: Chevening Awards in Science and Technology
Academic Year All Awards Number of Science and Technology Awards[236] Awards in Science and Technology as Percentage of All Awards
2002-03 2,387156 6.54
2001-02 2,284128 5.60
2000-01 2,285145 6.35
1999-2000 2,022205 10.14

Source: FCO

124. The Chevening scheme was recently subjected to an independent review that identified weaknesses in the evaluation of the scheme, commenting on the fact that there was "little formal evidence" of the impact of the FCO's expenditure.[237] The FCO also alluded to the superficial nature of Chevening alumni tracking in its memorandum of evidence: "Many Embassies and High Commissions hold annual receptions for Chevening alumni and invite them to specific events. The careers of Chevening alumni are monitored through these means".[238] It is disappointing that the FCO has not been at all thorough in its past evaluation of the Chevening scheme. We hope that this will not be the case in the future. In addition, the review recommended that the scheme should "be integrated fully with FCO strategy" and reported that "More effective co-ordination is needed with other government departments".[239] The latter issue is addressed in paragraph 165. As a result of the review, the FCO will pilot a short-term professional fellowships scheme in 2004-05, and "revise the criteria for Chevening academic scholarships for the 2005-06 intake of scholars to link them more directly with the FCO's objectives".[240] It is not yet clear how, if at all, that is likely to affect the percentage of awards made either to developing countries, or in science and technology subjects.

Dorothy Hodgkins Postgraduate Awards

125. The Dorothy Hodgkin Postgraduate Awards constitute a new £10 million initiative to bring high-quality science, engineering, medicine, social science and technology students from overseas to study for PhDs in top UK university departments.[241],[242] The first intake in October 2004 will provide fully-funded scholarships for more than 100 PhD students from India, China, Hong Kong, Russia and the developing world. The scheme is run through the OST, with funding provided both by the Research Councils and industry. Sir David King, the Government's CSA, has been emphatic about the merits of PhD training for overseas students: "the value […] of a three to four-year scheme in my view is considerably more than four schemes of one year […] in terms of the learning experience in science, but perhaps more especially in terms of the understanding of the culture".[243] PhD fellowships, although more expensive than those for taught courses, are essential for building the depth of expertise and range of skills required for effective research in many scientific and technological subjects.

126. The scheme will be administered on behalf of OST by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). The other Research Councils who are providing funding for the scheme in addition to EPSRC are the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the Medical Research Council (MRC), the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council (PPARC).[244]

127. Although plans have not yet been finalised, Sir David told us that near-term assessment of the scheme was likely to include consideration of:

  • the quality of successful applicants from an assessment of their first degree attainment;
  • submitted versus successful applications;
  • take-up and successful completion of awards;
  • demographic profiles - by discipline, nationality, ethnicity, gender; and
  • views of students, the Research Councils, private sector stakeholders and participating universities.[245]

128. Alumni tracking will also be undertaken and efforts made to ensure that students return to an environment where they can utilise their new skills, for example through networking schemes and encouraging alumni and institutional collaboration.[246]

Capacity building of national science and technology institutions

129. The importance of developing country science and technology institutions for the PRSP approach was touched on in paragraph 28. However, building the capacity of these national science and technology systems can deliver many other notable benefits. The Interim Report of the Task Force on Science, Technology and Innovation United Nations Millennium Project makes the following observation: "government policies towards science and technology have a critical role to play in economic transformation. One of the key areas requiring policy adjustment in most developing countries is the way governments receive advice on issues related to the role of science and technology in development. There is a need for STI [science, technology and innovation] advice to reach policymakers. The first necessary step is to provide the institutional framework in developing countries and commit to support such a framework".[247]

130. Science and technology permeate modern society, sometimes producing controversial effects. The Institute of Development Studies told us that "Issues of potential disbenefits from science and technology, and the ways these may impact on poverty, should be central to any agenda linking science, technology and development".[248] In Malawi we encountered agricultural researchers who told us that they could not use the term "GM" to describe the work they were doing due to the negative connotations that genetic modification has acquired. It seems likely that this has much to do with perceptions, attitudes and market positions in the North filtering through to the South or being transmitted directly, for example by the refusal of the EU to purchase genetically modified foodstuffs. The stance was certainly not based on thorough local discussion of the potential benefits and risks of using genetically modified seeds for agriculture in Malawi.

131. On the one hand, this illustrates that science in society activities are just as important in developing countries as in the developed world; on the other, it demonstrates the need to build sufficient capacity to enable developing countries to undertake their own risk assessments for new technologies. The Institute of Development Studies told us: "Issues concerning the unequal distribution of gains and possible risks from technological interventions acquire particular pertinence in developing country contexts, where those who stand to lose may already be at the margins of survival".[249] This adds further weight to the argument for making the strengthening of national science and technology institutions a high priority.

132. It will not, however, be sufficient to focus on capacity building of developing country research institutes. The whole system of innovation needs to function effectively if the full potential of research is to be harvested. Dr Grant Singleton from Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) told us that "The training of NGO field and extension staff has had a greater impact than simply training in-country scientists and post-graduate students.[250] Rothamsted Research also emphasised efforts to "train-the-trainers".[251] Investment to strengthen the whole system of innovation in developing countries is required to make research more effective. Capacity building of national research systems must therefore encompass reinforcement of knowledge transfer and dissemination mechanisms.

Information and Communications Technology capacity

133. The United Nations Development Programme website comments that "Information and Communications Technology (ICT) is an increasingly powerful tool for participating in global markets; promoting political accountability; improving the delivery of services; and enhancing local development opportunities".[252] In the context of science and technology, ICT also provides a means of accessing information and knowledge, particularly in the form of specialist articles and journals. Our recent Report, Scientific Publications: Free for all?, stated that "The relatively low levels of ICT in the developing world compared to the West is not an argument against digital journals, rather it highlights the need for further development of ICT capacity to fully exploit the potential of digital technologies […] The digitisation of journals has the potential to greatly increase access to research findings for researchers in the developing world".[253]

134. Science is an international activity and ICT can facilitate the formation of networks between individual researchers in different institutions and countries. This contact can be invaluable for stimulating and supporting collaborations, as well as improving the quality of research through peer input and creative discussion, particularly for scientists who may not have access to a strong research community in their home institution, region or country. The International Development Research Centre of Canada also told us that it has "put great emphasis on forming networks of researchers working on similar problems in different countries" since not only have they found that the "practice contributes to the goal of producing valid and relevant research results, but it also contributes to capacity-building through exchange of information, research experience and results; the creation of a peer group; and assembling a critical mass of researchers and resources when it might not be possible in any one institution or country".[254]

135. We are aware that DFID has funded various ICT projects, for instance assisting the Kigali Institute of Science, Technology and Management in Rwanda to strengthen its ICT infrastructure.[255] Investment in Information and Communications Technology, for example to grant institutions in developing countries reliable access to the internet, is money well spent and we encourage DFID to give such support high priority. Failure to address inadequacies in ICT infrastructure and equipment can negate the benefits of other investments in capacity building: effective science and research require access to the global pool of knowledge, and isolated researchers are likely to flounder without both scientific and moral support from their peers. For the same reasons, DFID should also continue to support networks that include researchers in developing countries. Clearly, ongoing support for training and running costs is required in addition to the original injection of funding to purchase hardware or establish an internet connection.

Laboratory equipment and infrastructure

136. The Wellcome Trust stated in their response to DFID's consultation on their draft Research Strategy that "many scientists are unable to satisfactorily perform research in their home-country because of the inadequate quality of local laboratories" and Professor Gaines of Strathclyde University told us that "Little is done to ensure that relevant facilities await the student on their return to their home developing country". [256],[257] During our visit to Malawi, we saw chronic shortages of even basic (and relatively cheap) laboratory equipment, and instances of equipment being donated without provision of manuals or training with the result that it could not be calibrated or maintained. We believe that capacity building requires a holistic approach including thorough consideration of the infrastructure and equipment that will be available to the developing country researchers on completion of their training. In the case of split-site or in-country training schemes, it is clearly essential that adequate facilities are in place during the training. We urge DFID to explore further opportunities for the provision of laboratory equipment to developing countries; where this does occur, the equipment must be of a standard sufficient to support high quality research and the necessary training and instruction provided to render the equipment genuinely useful and to maintain it.

Technology transfer/capacity building in the private sector

137. The Government's Investing in Innovation strategy paper stated that the "potential of scientific and technological discoveries will only be realised […] if they can be effectively translated into innovation—new products, services and systems".[258] In developing countries, this process of innovation is often hampered by the weakness of the local private sector. Paragraph 42 discussed the importance of international PPPs for financing large scale R&D projects. We believe there is also an important role for public-private partnerships at a local level. Professor Julian Evans told us that "support for the pilot or demonstration scale application of research outputs" was needed from donors, in order to "allow the public-private partnerships to operate, under the demand-leadership of the poor".[259] We agree.

138. The Chairs of the RNRRS Independent Programme Advisory Committees told us that DFID had "recently conducted a number of exploratory exercises to identify appropriate mechanisms to stimulate investment by the private sector in pro-poor research, development and technology transfer, including establishing a Rural Enterprise Technology Facility (RETF)", which had "led to greater understanding of the challenges involved in getting greater involvement of the private sector in pro-poor development, but not to any practical outcomes that provide opportunities for national or fledgling local enterprises".[260] In addition, the Centre for Development and Poverty Reduction at Imperial College stated that "capacity building programmes still tend to be biased towards government agencies and NGOs, and their employees, and in many cases private firms are ineligible for support. While there may have been some small improvement on this in the last few years, there is still a long way to go".[261] Science and technology capacity building in the private sector would complement efforts to strengthen science and technology capacity in the public sector and is vital for stimulation of innovation, and thus economic growth, in developing countries.

139. Science and technology capacity building in the private sector can also help to overcome trade barriers. CAB International told us that they believed science was now "the main arbiter of international agricultural trade" since successive reductions in import tariffs by WTO agreements mean that "non-tariff trade barriers such as sanitary/phytosanitary (SPS) considerations and the potential impacts of biotechnologies have come to assume great importance".[262] Argentina is reported to have spent more than $80 million on improving its levels of plant and animal sanitation in order to gain acceptance for its meat, vegetables and fruit in developed country markets, and the cost of meeting SPS, customs valuation and TRIPs agreements has been estimated to be approximately $150 million per developing country.[263]

140. Developing countries cannot increase exports or attract private sector investment unless they have the necessary infrastructure in place. This includes roads, telecommunication networks and an appropriate legal framework, as well as the scientific and technological capability to select, build, maintain and operate this infrastructure. DFID told us that it had "committed £160 million to trade-related capacity building from 1998 - more than treble the pledge in the 2000 White Paper".[264] It has also recently committed £5 million over three years to the African Agricultural Technology Foundation, a new not-for-profit foundation that facilitates partnerships with public and private sector entities in order to remove barriers that have prevented smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa from gaining access to agricultural technologies that could help improve food security.[265] Scientific and technological capability is a necessary condition for trade and investment, both for development of the required infrastructure and to enable countries to attain the increasingly high quality standards demanded by the international market. We welcome DFID's recognition of the importance of building capacity to enable the private sector in developing countries to have access to appropriate scientific and technological expertise to enable them to meet the conditions imposed by world markets. However, DFID's increasing emphasis on budgetary support actually weakens its ability to provide the expertise which would permit enterprises in developing countries to meet quality standards imposed by developed countries. As the Government's policies stand it is impossible for developing countries to trade their way out of poverty.

141. Science and technology capacity building in the pharmaceutical industry in developing countries could also lead to wider benefits, not least improvements in healthcare. The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine told us: "Greater support is needed to assist developing countries to build their own capacity to develop drugs, particularly in the case of neglected diseases affecting predominantly poor populations for which pharmaceutical companies may have little interest in investing because the market is unlikely to provide adequate returns".[266] The School urged "continuing collaboration" of "DFID, International Agencies (especially the World Health Organization), academics in the UK and elsewhere and pharmaceutical companies" towards this end.[267] We believe that in the more scientifically advanced and higher income developing countries there is much to be gained from building the capacity of the public and private sector to develop and manufacture drugs to meet the needs of people in developing countries. We therefore welcome DFID's recent publications, Increasing access to essential medicines in the developing world: UK Government policy and plans, and Taking Action: The UK's strategy for tackling HIV and AIDS in the developing world, and the commitments contained therein. The WHO's recent withdrawal of three more generic drugs from its original list of seven approved AIDS medicines, due to tests showing that the generic versions differed in composition from the patented equivalents, emphasises how much needs to be done to improve developing countries' ability to manufacture affordable drugs of the required standard and efficacy.[268]

Brain drain

142. The term "brain drain" is used to refer to the departure of educated or professional people from one country, economic sector, or field for another, usually for better pay or living conditions. In particular, the term is often used to describe the widespread concern that the inequities between the South and North could be fuelling the migration of scientists, health professionals and teachers from developing countries to transitional and developed countries. The fact that these individuals are highly skilled makes them more employable in the North, and their loss all the more damaging for the South.Table 5: Healthcare Staff Per 100,000 Population
Cadre BotswanaSouth Africa GhanaTanzania Malawi
Physicians 28.725.1 9.04.1 1.6
Nurses 241.0140.0 64.085.2 28.6

Source: DFIDTable 6: Current and Required Human Resources in Malawian Healthcare System[269]
Cadre Malawian Ministry of Health target cadre Current number in post Current vacancies
Absolute numberAs percentage of target
Physicians 433139 29467.9%
Nurses 84404717 372344.1%
Clinical Officers 1405942 46333.0%
Medical Assistants 1500718 78252.1%
Laboratory Technicians 507251 25650.5%
Pharmacists 28593 19267.4%
Environmental Health Officers 1662304 135881.7%

Source: DFID

143. We saw evidence of a crippling shortage of health workers in Malawi. Malawi now has only 1.6 physicians for every 100,000 people and more than 50% of positions for medical assistants, laboratory technicians and pharmacists are vacant (see Tables 5 and 6). For environmental health officers, this figure rises to over 80% (see Table 6). It is known that significant numbers of Malawian nurses are now employed in the UK, in both the public and private sector. [270] Indeed, in the period January 2002 to January 2004, 23% of the nurses who left Lilongwe Central Hospital in Malawi to take up other nursing posts in known destinations (including Malawi) came to the UK.[271] Other Malawian nurses have taken up positions in South Africa and other African countries, in some cases filling positions left vacant by a brain drain to Northern countries. In addition, researchers sponsored by DFID recently estimated that India and Ghana had lost up to $5 billion and $60 million respectively in investment and training of doctors since 1951.[272]

144. We agree with the International Development Select Committee that it is "unfair, inefficient and incoherent for developed countries to provide aid to help developing countries to make progress towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) on health and education, whilst helping themselves to the nurses, doctors and teachers who have been trained in, and at the expense of, developing countries".[273] There is currently a voluntary Code of Practice that discourages NHS employers from actively recruiting healthcare professionals from countries which would suffer as a result of the loss of these staff.[274] It is thus possible for the NHS employers to circumvent the Code through the use of private sector recruitment agencies and by bringing in locum and temporary staff from developing countries. In recognition of these limitations, the Department of Health announced new proposals to strengthen the Code of Practice on 25 August 2004.[275] In the meantime, DFID is in discussions with the Ministry of Health in Malawi and other donors regarding the financing of a $270 million human resource relief programme for the Malawi health sector.[276] The failure to address the brain drain of health workers from Malawi to the UK has been a highly damaging example of lack of Government co-ordination. We believe that in cases where there is clear evidence of a brain drain of scientists, researchers or health professionals from developing countries to the UK, the UK Government should institute arrangements for direct compensation for the loss of capacity in the relevant sector. In some cases, this could be achieved by directly funding the necessary salary increases for those workers to improve the attractiveness of staying in their home country. Research would obviously be required to determine the most appropriate solution for each situation.

145. Nonetheless, there is an ongoing debate over the extent to which the "brain drain" represents a genuine cause for concern. For example, the trade union Prospect told us that in terms of the migration of scientists, "the alleged brain drain" had "been over-emphasised".[277] Others argue that developing country researchers based in the UK still contribute to development in their country through collaborations and many do eventually return to their home country, bringing with them years of valuable experience gained overseas, giving rise to the concept of "brain circulation". In addition, the International Development Select Committee in their recent report, Migration and Development, stated that in 2003, remittances sent by migrant workers to developing countries through official channels amounted to $93 billion, so that "Global remittance flows far exceed the flow of aid, and are second only to Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) as a source of external financing for developing countries".[278] On the other side of the equation, Northern countries are increasingly looking to the South to replenish their dwindling supplies of scientists and engineers.

146. We were unable to find comprehensive data to assess the precise extent of a brain drain of scientists, researchers and scientific or technical support staff. The Commonwealth Scholarship Commission told us that tracer studies of CSFP award holders who had studied in the UK showed that "85% of those identified to date have returned to their own (developing) country", but the figure fell to 71% for award holders who had studied in Canada.[279] The International Development Select Committee's Report also commented on the deficiencies of the evidence base upon which migration policies should be developed.[280] Determining the extent of any brain drain of scientists, researchers and scientific and technical support staff from developing countries, and understanding the consequences of this migration for international development, require further research and data collection. At the very least, UK Government departments should monitor the numbers of migrants from developing countries in their employment and the destinations of developing country award holders for scholarships that they sponsor. However, a far more powerful evidence base could be built if other countries were willing to engage in a long-term international study of the mobility of scientists and researchers from developing countries. We recommend that DFID take the lead in calling for the initiation of such a study by the UN or another international agency.

178   There are 2,666 researchers in R&D per million people in the UK. Back

179   Human Development Report 2004: United Nations Development Programme, Cultural Liberty in Today's Diverse World, 2004 Back

180   Ibid Back

181   Ibid Back

182   Sir David A. King, "The scientific impact of nations", Nature, Vol 430, July 2004, pp.311-316  Back

183   Ev 125 Back

184   Ev 337 Back

185   Ibid Back

186   Q 65 Back

187   Ev 337 Back

188   High Level Forum on the Health Millennium Development Goals, Monitoring the Health MDGs, December 2003 Back

189   Andy Haines and Andres Cassels, "Can the millennium development goals be attained?", British Medical Journal, Vol 329, pp. 394-397, 14 August 2004 Back

190   Q 106 Back

191   DFID, DFID Research Funding Framework 2005-07, May 2004 Back

192   Declan Butler "Power to the people", Nature, Vol. 430, pp. 928-929, 19 August 2004 Back

193   Griffith, Redding and Van Reenen, Mapping the two faces of R&D: productivity growth in a panel of OECD industries, Centre for Economic Policy Research Discussion Paper, 2000 Back

194   HM Treasury, DTI, DfES, Science and innovation investment framework 2004-2014, July 2004 Back

195   InterAcademy, Inventing a better future: A strategy for building worldwide capacities in science and technology, Council, January 2004 Back

196   Ev 123 Back

197   Ev 132 Back

198   Ev 142, para 3 Back

199   Ev 153 Back

200   Ev 252, para 2.10 Back

201   InterAcademy, Inventing a better future: A strategy for building worldwide capacities in science and technology, Council, January 2004 Back

202   Presentation to FST, 12 May 2004 Back

203   DFID, DFID Research Funding Framework 2005-07, May 2004 Back

204   Scientific capacity in developing countries, POSTnote 216, Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology, March 2004 Back

205   Q 70 Back

206   Q 73 Back

207   Q 103 Back

208   Q 72 Back

209   Ev 134 Back

210   International Development Committee, Sixth report of Session 2003-04, Migration and Development: How to make migration work for poverty reduction, HC 79-I Back

211   Ev 355 Back

212   Ev 355-356 Back

213   Ev 356 Back

214   Ibid Back

215   Ibid Back

216   Ev 357 Back

217   Ibid Back

218   Ibid Back

219   Includes awards made in medicine, dentistry and veterinary science. Average percentage of awards made in pure science and technology between 1999 and 2003 was 39%. Back

220   Ev 357 Back

221   Ev 358 Back

222   Ibid Back

223   Ibid Back

224   Ev 104, para 71 Back

225   British Council, Higher Education Links Scheme Annual Report 2002-03, July 2003 Back

226   Terry Allsop, Paul Bennell and David Forrester, DFID's Higher Education Links Scheme: Review and Possible Future Options for Higher Education Partnerships, March 2003 Back

227   Ev 393 Back

228   Q 214 Back

229   David Levesque, DFID, presentation to UKFIET Colloquium, 17 May 2004 Back

230   Ibid Back

231   Letter from Gareth R Thomas MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, DFID, to Professor Robert Boucher, Chairman of the HEL scheme Steering Committee, 11 May 2004. Back

232   Ev 313 Back

233   Ibid Back

234   Ibid Back

235   FCO contribution to scoping study: Science and technology capacity building in developing countries, particularly Africa, February 2004 Back

236   Does not include awards made in computing, IT, sociology or other social science. Back

237   River Path Associates, The FCO Scholarships Review, 17 November 2003 Back

238   Ev 313 Back

239   River Path Associates, The FCO Scholarships Review, 17 November 2003 Back

240   Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Departmental Report 2004, Cm 6213, April 2004 Back

241 Back

242   In the first instance £10 million has been allocated to support a single cohort of students over three to four years. Back

243   Q 220 Back

244 Back

245   Ev 391 Back

246   Ibid Back

247   Interim Report of the Task Force on Science, Technology and Innovation United Nations Millennium Project, Science Technology and Innovation, Challenges and Opportunities for Implementing the Millennium Development Goals, 1 February 2004 Back

248   Ev 147, para 13 Back

249   Ev 147, para 13 Back

250   Ev 128, para 2 Back

251   Ev 152 Back

252 Back

253   HC (2003-04) 399-I Back

254   Ev 249 Back

255   Ev 105, para 76 Back

256   Wellcome Trust, Response to Department for International Development (DFID) Research Funding Framework 2005-07 consultation, July 2004 Back

257   Ev 192, para 7.1 Back

258   HM Treasury, Investing in Innovation, 2002 Back

259   Ev 256 Back

260   Ev 178, para 37 Back

261   Ev 151 Back

262   Ev 166, para 25 Back

263   J. Michael Finger, "The WTO's Special Burden on Less Developed Countries", Winter 2000, Cato Journal, Vol. 19, No. 3 Back

264   Ev 102, para 51 Back

265   DFID, Departmental Report 2004, 2004 Back

266   Ev 133 Back

267   Ibid Back

268   WHO pulls three more AIDS drugs from list, British Medical Journal, Vol. 329, 14 August 2004 Back

269   According to Malawian Ministry of Health and the Christian Health Association of Malawi which provides approximately 30% of healthcare in Malawi. Back

270   e.g. "Malawi crippled by nursing crisis", BBC News, 23 Aug 2004 Back

271   Memorandum from University of North Carolina [not printed] Back

272   Peter Bundred, Tim Martineau and Karola Decker, Health Policy, Vol. 70, August 2004, pp. 1-10 Back

273   HC (2003-04) 79-I Back

274   Department of Health, Code of Practice for NHS employers involved in the international recruitment of healthcare professionals, 11 October 2001 Back

275   Department of Health, New plans to strengthen code on international recruitment of healthcare staff, press release 2004/0315, 25 August 2004 Back

276   Memorandum from DFID [not printed] Back

277   Ev 388, para 6 Back

278   HC (2003-04) 79-I Back

279   Ev 358 Back

280   HC (2003-04) 79-I Back

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