Commonwealth Science Conference Bangalore 2014

Regional presentations on science around the Commonwealth

Professor Daya Reddy
Science across the Commonwealth countries in Africa

This presentation will provide an overview of the nature and state of science in the Commonwealth countries located in Africa, and will highlight strengths, recent developments, weaknesses, and opportunities for strengthening the scientific enterprise at the national and regional levels, and beyond.

There has been significant progress in research in Africa over the last decade, albeit off a low base. Areas of particular strength include the health sciences, which collectively are found to constitute a particular focus of research in sub-Saharan Africa. Significant challenges nevertheless remain; for example, in the need to strengthen and broaden the reach of science education; to build capacity and ensure its sustainability. Much progress remains to be made in many areas in the natural sciences, mathematics, and engineering and technology.

The presentation will also explore the growth of Africa's connections to the global scientific enterprise through international exchanges and collaborations.

Professor Atta ur Rahman FRS
A Revolution in Higher Education: The Pakistan Example

Pakistan has experienced tremendous progress in the higher education sector in the last decade. This is illustrated by an increase in university enrollment from 276,000 in the year 2002 to 1.3 million by 2014, increase in the number of universities/degree awarding institutions from 59 in the year 2000 to 157 by 2014, increase in Ph.D. output from 3,281 during the 55 year period from 1947 to 2003 to over 7000 during the subsequent 9 year period 2004-2013, and increase in international research publications from only about 700 annually in the year 2,000 to about 9,000 research publications annually by the year 2012. This was accompanied by a massive foreign scholarship program for Ph. D. level training, placement of an educational satellite in space, a ten-fold increase in faculty salaries on a new contractual system of tenure-track appointments, and the provision of digital library that provides every student in every public sector university with 25,000 international journals and 60,000 text books. Over 11,000 students have been given foreign scholarships for PhD and post-doctoral training at world’s leading universities at a cost of over US$ 1 billion, and each returning student awarded research grants of up to $ 100,000. The research publications output in internationally abstracted journals from Pakistan is now about the same as of India on a per million population basis, illustrating the spectacular progress made during the last decade. Recently an Integrated Massive Open Online Courses (i-MOOCs) program has been initiated to offer free educational courses from Stanford, MIT, ...

The remarkable programmes in Pakistan initiated under my supervision (as Federal Minister of Science & Technology/Federal Minister of Education/Federal Minister & Chairman Higher Education Commission) have been termed as a model for other developing countries to follow by the Royal Society (London) in a book entitled "A New Golden Age?" and a number of international awards have been given in recognition of the revolutionary transformation of the landscape of higher education including the highest civil award of the Austrian Government. A review of the Higher Education system of Pakistan was carried out by Prof. Michael Rode, Chairman of the United Nations Commission on Science, Technology and Development. He wrote and I quote: "Around the world when we discuss the status of higher education in different countries, there is unanimity of opinion that the developing country that has made the most rapid progress internationally in recent years is Pakistan. In no other country has the higher education sector seen such spectacular positive developments as that in Pakistan”.

A specific example of the development of a research institute, the International Center for Chemical and Biological Sciences at University of Karachi, will also be presented.

Professor Emeritus Harold Ramkissoon
Science in the Caribbean Today

The Commonwealth Caribbean countries is a group of  fourteen countries, mainly islands, touched by the Caribbean sea from the most populous Jamaica in the North  to Guyana on the main land  in the South and with a total population  of about 6 million people.  The development of science and research in the region is of fairly recent vintage and was, and to some extent still is centered around the regional University of the West Indies (UWI) which was founded in 1948 as a college of London University with an initial enrollment of 33 students in the Faculty of Medicine.  It was then the only university in the region.   Today that landscape has been transformed- UWI with a student population of about 45,000 now has three Campuses and serves 14 countries in the region.  In addition, there are now a number of other universities including national universities in Guyana, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago.

In this presentation, we take you on a whirlwind tour of the science landscape of the Caribbean and the socio-economic environment in which is embedded touching on GDP, publications, R&D, our strengths and our challenges.  Along the tour, we will introduce you to the key-players promoting the development of S&T in the region and make recommendations as to how the Commonwealth Science Conference can assist us in taking science to a higher level in the Caribbean.

Professor Robert Williamson FRS
Science in Australasia

Australia and New Zealand are large and prosperous countries, but with small populations, while some of the smaller island countries in Australasia are not wealthy.  While Australia tries to maintain strong science across many fields, other countries in the region have to pick and choose their research areas.  Australia is particularly strong in astronomy and astrophysics, in geology and some aspects of chemistry, and in medical research, and has a unique flora and fauna that contribute much to understanding both evolution and physiology.  The smaller island countries may not yet have a strong research culture, yet these are the countries most at threat from global warming and environmental disasters, and their unique situation calls for a scientific approach.  A scheme to facilitate exchanges of students and post-docs between the Australasian Commonwealth countries and those in other parts of the world would be of great value to our region. 

Professor Arthur Carty
Science in Canada: An Overview of Strengths, Opportunities and Challenges

A recent Expert Panel Study concluded that Canadian science and technology is healthy and growing in both output and impact. This presentation will give an overview of fields of excellence and emerging strengths across the country as shown by publications outputs and bibliometrics. International collaboration in research is increasing as global connections are key to global competitiveness. Access to skilled human resources is crucial to the Canadian research enterprise and some comments on employment in the natural science and engineering workforce in Canada will be made. The major research funding programs of NSERC (the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council) will be described and some of the investments in people, discovery and innovation, outlined. There are opportunities for commonwealth researchers and students to collaborate with Canadian academics and some examples of major collaborative, international projects will be profiled. 

Lead image: Colourful piles of paint on a produce market in Mysore, South India.

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Professor Andy Hopper FRS Head of the Computer Laboratory, University of Cambridge


Africa: Professor Daya Reddy President, South African Academy of Science (ASSAF)

Australasia: Professor Bob Williamson FRS Professor of Medical Genetics, University of Melbourne

Canada: Professor Arthur Carty Former National Science Advisor

Caribbean: Professor Harold Ramkissoon Chair, CARICOM Committee on Science Technology and Innovation

The Royal Society and the Commonwealth: Dr Julie Maxton Executive Director, Royal Society