WORLD SCIENCE REMAINS EXCLUSIONARY AND ELITIST

World science remains exclusionary and elitist
UNESCO Science Report
2010 presented in Havana

Cuba, ranked fourth in the region for its activities, concentrating on the use of science and technology to produce medicines, combat disease and improve quality of life
Marianela Martín González

 

• THE bulk of commercial patents in the world are for cosmetics and other glamorous products. However, millions of people are still dying from malaria and cancer and no patents as yet exist to counteract these diseases. This situation was reflected on at Havana’s San Gerónimo University College during a presentation of the UNESCO Science Report 2010.

During the presentation, Susan Schneegans, an official from UNESCO’s Natural and Exact Sciences Sector, acknowledged Cuba’s position as fourth in its geographic region in relation to activities in the field of science, technology and technical innovation.

Dr. Ismael Clark Arxer, president of the Cuban Academy of Sciences, who introduced the Cuba chapter in the UNESCO Report, spoke of the island nation’s research priorities, such as the neurosciences, basic science, computer technology, communications and nanotechnology.

In the context of the international reach of Cuban science he noted that products against auto-immune diseases are being developed with China. Cuba is also working on projects for the transfer of technology to combat cancer.

Dr. Fidel Castro Díaz-Balart, scientific advisor to the Council of State, described the island’s efforts in biotechnology as among the most advanced in the Third World and commented that the island holds numerous patents on health care products benefiting persons in a number of countries.

In relation to indicators which serve to measure scientific and technological impacts, Dr. Juan Luis Martín Chávez, secretary of the Social Sciences Higher Council, warned of the commercialization of science, a danger which is increasing with the growth of science in the business sector.

“This phenomenon can point science in the direction of money-making objectives rather than addressing the resolution of urgent needs,” he stated, indicating the concentration of 75% of the world GDP in only 15 nations, many of which prioritize financially lucrative demands as opposed to responding to urgent social needs.

 

Juan Antonio Fernández Palacio, Cuba’s permanent representative to UNESCO, explained that the Science Report 2010 was drawn up by a team of distinguished international experts and presents a global balance sheet of trends observed in the field of science, technology and innovations throughout the world, based on copious quantitative and qualitative data.

He stated that the panorama described in the report is characterized by its rapid and incessant evolution. New scientific poles are appearing in world geography. Scientific development continues to be marked by the chasm separating the rich and poor countries, despite the discreet advance of the developing world.

“Control of patents, the brain drain and the monopolistic domination of technologies continue being the daily practice of that egocentric First World, environmentally wasteful and predatory,” he emphasized.

The report’s data are painfully eloquent. The so-called First World possesses close to 70% of researchers and scientists, and produces 75% of world scientific publications.

But of all of the indicators, the one which most clearly reveals inequality in the creation and appropriation of scientific knowledge at the global level is that of patents, in terms of both quantity and quality.

“The real common drama concerning the exact and natural sciences, as in the case of the social sciences, is that constant siphoning off of intelligence signified by the persistent brain drain from the countries of the South. Suffice it to say that at least one third of African researchers are working outside their countries of origin, and that in many Third World countries the existence of certain scientific disciplines – from chemistry to archeology – is threatened,” Fernández Palacio noted.

Herman van Hoof, UNESCO’s Latin American and Caribbean regional executive in Havana, stated that UNESCO’s program and budget for 2010-2011 will have special priority to support Major Program II (exact and natural sciences).

He added that the program consists of helping countries to draw up and implement national policies for science, technology and innovation and to create the appropriate facilities.

“We hope that the process of reflection which we are initiating around the observations contained in this report on the current state of science in the world, will contribute to making science – as a product of knowledge – a genuine instrument for sustainable development which, within the reach of everyone, will make fruitful efforts to attain the Millennium Goals.” • (Taken from Juventud Rebelde)

 

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