China supports new academy for science and technology

In cooperation with China, Algeria plans to set up an academy for science and technology, in an effort to boost the role of research in developing a knowledge-based economy.

The new academy was one of the projects included in a 4 September China-Algeria science, technology and higher education cooperation agreement, according to a report published by China Network.

Algeria is yet to make substantive progress in its performance in higher education, science, technology and innovation, according to the Global Competitiveness Report of the Geneva-based World Economic Forum, published on 2 September.

The report indicated that the most problematic factors for doing business in Algeria were an inadequately educated workforce and insufficient capacity to innovate.

It placed Algeria at 61 out of 144 countries for the availability of scientists and engineers, 78 for tertiary enrolment, 98 for higher education and training, 113 for maths and science education, 114 for the quality of the education system, 127 for the quality of research institutions, 128 for innovation, 129 for technological readiness and 137 for university-industry collaboration.

Scientific workforce shortages were highlighted by a map showing the distribution of researchers per million inhabitants by country, which indicated that Algeria has 170 researchers per million inhabitants – well below the world average of 1,080.

Science academy

The new academy will act as a collective hub to organise scientific endeavours as well as motivate, support and reward excellence in scientific research.

It will act as a think-tank that brings together multidisciplinary expertise to advise policy-makers on how to address present challenges facing Algeria, and to help envision strategies for driving future development including, crucially, critiquing science policies.

To do that, the academy will focus on tasks including contributing to the progress of sciences and technologies and their applications, improving the teaching of science and technology from primary schools to universities, and providing consultative services on knowledge, technology development and transfer.

It will also: promote international collaboration; support the publication of a magazine to disseminate new results to national and international scientific communities; participate in scientific debate on major topical issues; organise conferences; grant awards and medals; and organise meetings between researchers and politicians to promote the interaction of science with society.

Further cooperation projects

Under the China-Algeria higher education cooperation agreement, exchange of students and university staff will be developed and there will be postdoctoral training and the development of enhanced partnerships between universities in the two countries.

The agreement also includes organising seminars and symposia on major challenges facing higher education, and developing joint projects between research teams in Chinese and Algerian universities.

China and Algeria agreed to work on structured research projects centred on social concerns and major economic common interests as well as the development of the Chinese language in Algeria.

Expert's view

Sadallah Boubaker-Khaled, a professor of mathematics at École Normale Supérieure in Algiers, welcomed the cooperation agreement but was less sure about the Algerian academy of science and technology.

“Scientific and higher education cooperation is a welcome approach with all countries in the East and West for knowledge, technology and best practices transfer – especially with China which is experiencing matchless progress.”

Regarding the science academy, Boubaker-Khaled told University World News that given the inception of the initiative and the way it was proceeding, “I do not see that it would be successful because of the political nature of the project”.

“The political nature of any academic work kills it and this is what we are witnessing in the Algerian Arabic Language Academy, as an example.”

There should be no political element if an independent scientific academy was to be set up, free of governmental control, to act as a hub to guide the development of higher education and research.

“Not only academics working at the presidency, but also the wider community of Algerian academics, scientists and researchers in and outside Algeria should come together in unity to ensure an appropriate foundation of an academy that should ultimately be theirs,” Boubaker-Khaled concluded.