203. DFID has an excellent and well-deserved reputation
in international development. Despite this, we have found clear
deficiencies in its approach to science, technology and research.
We are encouraged by the willingness displayed by DFID, under
the leadership of the current Secretary of State, Mr Benn, to
take on board the criticisms made during this inquiry and acknowledge
the recent developments in DFID that have been undertaken with
the intention of strengthening its handling of science and research.
However, we have concerns that DFID, in its haste to resolve areas
of difficulty, may be underestimating the nature of challenge.
DFID staff need to recognise the cross-cutting, underpinning qualities
of science and technology and the contribution that they can make
to international development: science should play a far greater
role in influencing DFID policy development than has been the
case so far. In addition, DFID's failure to fully appreciate the
value of research has sometimes undermined its ability to undertake
evidence-based policy making. Surmounting these difficulties will
require a change in culture, not just a change in policy. We believe
that the appointment of a CSA with the right credentials will
be an important first step that should have a very positive impact
on DFID's treatment of science and research.
204. The strength of the UK's reputation in international
development has enabled DFID to adopt a leadership role in the
international donor community. DFID, regrettably, has been slow
to acknowledge that the quality of UK research has contributed
greatly to building the UK's reputation in international development.
There is now an urgent need to improve the status of development
sciences research in the UK and for somebody in Government to
take responsibility for UK research capacity in this area. For
many scientific disciplines, the applied nature of development
work has made it the poor relation. We propose the establishment
of a Development Sciences Research Board to expand the research
effort towards poverty reduction and to ensure the preservation
of the UK development sciences research base.
205. As Rothamsted Research told us, "Poor countries
do not deserve poor science".
The UK Presidencies of the G8 and EU in 2005 provide a unique
opportunity for the UK to galvanise global support for science
and technology capacity building and strengthening of the research
effort required to make effective progress towards the MDGs. An
increased focus on the value and importance of science and technology
for international development could also have a positive impact
on the appeal of science and technology qualifications in the
UK, attracting students who are motivated by the idea of helping
to solve global problems and contributing to poverty reduction.
This, in turn, serves to illustrate the fact that international
development can indeed deliver benefits to both North and South.
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