Developing Science

Investing in science is critically important to a country’s development. Without the new scientists however, there will be no new science. Just as much investment in people is needed as infrastructure. The campaigns of making a sexy career choice, such as the European Commission’s contraversial “Science: It’s a Girl Thing!” campaign are prime examples. Some developing countries look to stimulate their economies by investing in science.

In London I met a young guy, who had just returned from working on the Ghana Planetarium Science Project. The Project entailed the construction of Ghana’s first science centre and build Ghana’s first planetarium. The opening coincided with the International Year of Astronomy in 2009. The Project was conceived by Jacob Ashong, who enlisted the help of Dave Weinrich from Minnesota State University and current President of International Planetarium Society to get the project going.

The primary aim of the Planetarium was to get young people in Ghana excited about not only Astronomy, but also science as a whole. Dr Ashong had hoped this would be planting the seeds for a new generation of scientists in West Africa and potentially helping this developing nation in the long term.

Ghana Planetarium - courtesy of Ghana Planetarium Science Project

This may seem a bit dated, but this is entirely relevant today. Nature reported Eritrea, a country ranked 177th out of 187 on the United Nations Human Development Index, had severed collaborations with all US universities earlier this year. Funding and supplies for many research instituions, particularly medical training and research programmes in paediatrics, surgery, obstetrics and gynaecology. Many international institutions had been working hard to train medical professionals and educate the community in the hope of making life better in Eritrea.

Eritrea is located on the Red sea, bordered by Sudan and Ethiopia. Courtesy of Google Maps

The severance was a directive of the President Isaias Afwerki in response to criticism by the UN and US over Eritrea’s human rights record. Promising gains made by the country, including being on track to cut what was in 2003 the world’s highest maternal mortality rate by 75% for 2015.

Without this investment in the science in Eritrea, it is hard to see how life in impoverished nations like Eritrea is going to get better.  Ghana has proven to be a good role model, and should reap the rewards later if further investments in scientific and medical infrastructure are made.

It seems an investment in science will not only will it benefit the economy but the general well-being of the population as a whole.