NZSM Online

Get TurboNote+ desktop sticky notes

Interclue makes your browsing smarter, faster, more informative

SciTech Daily Review

Webcentre Ltd: Web solutions, Smart software, Quality graphics

Over The Horizon

International Science Through Electronic Networks

"We cannot imagine asking a professor of a rich country to spend a year teaching in a Third World country. But we can ask him or her to go for one or two months to a place that is OK from the health and security point of view. In two months, the transfer of knowledge can be fantastic."

So says UNESCO head Frederico Mayer, in the organisation's World Science Report. UNESCO and the International Council of Scientific Unions are calling for greater international links in the scientific and technological community to promote excellence and development.

While physically sending researchers to train and inspire others, emphasis is being placed on developing electronic links through e-mail systems, data exchange and similar technology.

UNESCO, the Latin American Academy of Sciences and Union Latina are aiming to establish an "invisible college" using electronic data interchange via telephone and computers.

"This is one way of creating the community of scientists -- the so-called `critical mass' -- needed to give a country or region strength in a given discipline. At the same time, it is a way of...linking expatriate scientists and laboratories at home, " the report says.

The concept has been greeted with enthusiasm by developing countries. Electronic data links can be supplemented with participation in conferences via telecommunications hookups, as well as more traditional efforts such as travel awards, fellowships and publication exchanges.

The electronic interconnections also provide a possible means of stemming the "brain drain" of skilled scientists and engineers from poorer nations.

In comparing the number of students studying abroad with those studying in their homes countries, the UNESCO report notes that sub-Saharan Africa is the worst off, with over 14% of its students being forced to study overseas. The average expatriation rates for the countries in the UNESCO study is 1.9%; New Zealand's expatriation rate is 1.4%.