DEVELOPING WORLD: TWAS aims to boost its science fund

The developing world's academy of sciences, TWAS, is looking to double its endowment fund to support more scientists and researchers. The academy, which held its 11th general meeting in the South Africa city of Durban last week, said it wants to improve its assistance for scientists in countries with poor scientific resources.

Jacob Palis, president of TWAS, told some 400 delegates, mostly from the developing world, that the academy hopes to hit a target of US$25 million in the next four years. "In spite of the financial crisis we will approach governments, foundations and individuals who are willing to give support to science," Palis told SciDev.Net.

Mohamed Hassan, executive director of TWAS, said funds would be raised by seeking private sector support and donations from successful developing world countries such as Brazil, China and India.

TWAS will also extend its fundraising to the North, he said. It will ask for contributions towards the building of dedicated TWAS headquarters in Trieste, Italy (where it currently resides in the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics), offering the donors the option of putting their names to the buildings.

"We are not asking for a big sum of money," he told SciDev.Net, adding that "our case is compelling enough". Projects that would receive extra funding include multi-year grants for young scientists to pursue their own research activities.

In his opening address, Palis also said that the academy must continue to participate in discussions about the relationship between science and society - partly through debates on the state of science and technology in Africa.

Palis said the academy would exploit rapidly increasing scientific and technological capacity in Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa by fostering South-South cooperation. He said that although there have been impressive increases in the number of developing world scientists, most success has been in China.

TWAS has identified 80 countries, home to a quarter of the world's population, as lagging in science development. They generate just 0.7% of the articles published in international, peer-reviewed journals.

Robin Crewe, president of the Academy of Science of South Africa, told SciDev.Net that further strengthening of TWAS would lead to the expansion of science in developing countries.

Charles Igwe, dean of the faculty of sciences at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, warned that while the conference was part of drive to improve the science base, developing countries should make more effort to invest in resources. "We are faced with run-down laboratories. Some governments opt to fund rearmament at the expense of developing science."

* "TWAS aims to boost its science fund" was first published by SciDev.Net on 21 October 2009. It is republished under a Creative Commons licence.