Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Ames Remote?

Ames Remote

Internet links to remote sensing , GIS and related information with an emphasis on precision agriculture. It is surprising how much of US farming is now using these techniques.

At the Center of the Storm Over Bush And Science

At the Center of the Storm Over Bush And Science:

"'I think this is as bad as it's ever been,' said Wolfgang H. K. Panofsky, a retired Stanford physicist who has advised the government on science and national security since the Eisenhower administration. 'This is an extremely serious issue. I believe it is true that there is such a thing as objective scientific reality, and if you ignore that or try to misrepresent it in formulating policy, you do so at peril to the country.'"

Monday, March 29, 2004

The Role of ICT in Development

The World Bank’s WSIS website provides some useful stuff on this topic, including:
· ICT and MDGs: A World Bank Perspective,
· ICT and Development: Enabling the Information Society, and
· The Knowledge Economy

My series on ICTs and the Millennium Development Goals also might be helpful.

Some other papers that might be useful are:

· Investment and Technology Policies for Competitiveness: Review of Successful Country Experiences
· ICT in Support of South American Competitiveness and Integration - Action Plan
· Sourcebook on Information and Communication Technologies for Asian Parliamentarians
· Information and Communication Technologies, Poverty and Development: Learning from Experience
· Why National Strategies are Needed for ICT-enabled Development?· SMEs and e-Commerce in Indonesia
· Creating a Development Dynamic: Final Report of the Digital Opportunity Initiative

Leisure Pursuits of Today?s Young Man

Leisure Pursuits of Today?s Young Man: "As the fall TV season began, viewership among men from 18 to 34 fell 12 percent compared with the year before, Nielsen reported. And for the youngest group of adult men, those 18 to 24, the decline was a steeper 20 percent."

"nearly 75 percent of males 18 to 34 have Internet access, according to the latest figures from comScore Media Metrix, making them the most wired segment of the population."

The idea is that the most wired are watching stuff from the Internet, and not subjecting themselves to broadcast television.

UNICEF - Nutrition

UNICEF - Nutrition: "A new report launched today by UNICEF and the Micronutrient Initiative offers a global overview of vitamin and mineral deficiency - a public health issue that prevents a third of the world’s children from reaching their intellectual and physical potential.
The report is accompanied by Individual Damage Assessment Reports that present the most comprehensive picture to date of the toll being taken by vitamin and mineral deficiency in 80 developing countries. "

U.S.: Access to Generic HIV/AIDS Drugs at Risk (Human Rights Watch, 25-3-2004)

U.S.: Access to Generic HIV/AIDS Drugs at Risk (Human Rights Watch, 25-3-2004): "The United States will convene a conference in Botswana on Monday that may challenge the WHO?s approval of generic copies of patented AIDS drugs."

Ground-based strategic mid-course ballistic missile defense (GMD) capability challenged

: "'We're asking the Pentagon to follow its own well-established policy: thoroughly testing a system before it is deployed to ensure that it works. The truth is, there as yet are not even plans for operational testing,' retired Lt. General Robert C. Gard, Jr., who serves as the Center's senior military fellow, observed. The Center's Senior Associate for Policy, John Isaacs, noted that the system 'hasn't really undergone any realistic testing in realistic conditions' and that the money proposed for its deployment could be better spent by ensuring that the system's technology works before the administration claims success. 'If some of the technological obstacles can be overcome prior to deployment the American people will be better served,' Isaacs said. 'Right now it looks as if the Bush administration is deploying this system simply to say that they have done it'"

Sunday, March 28, 2004

Plan to Battle AIDS Worldwide Is Falling Short

Plan to Battle AIDS Worldwide Is Falling Short: "Only about 300,000 people in the world's poorest nations are getting the drugs, of six million who need them, according to the World Health Organization. "

Saturday, March 27, 2004

Kofi Annan's Science Editorial

Kofi Annan's Science Editorial

The Secretary General of the United Nations wrote this editorial in Science magazine on the occassion of the publishing of the InterAcademy Council report on S&T for Development

The Millennium Project

The Millennium Project

This is the site of the reports made by a high level commission on how the Millennium Development Goals are to be reached.

Science -- Mervis 303 (5659): 747b

Science -- Mervis 303 (5659): 747b: "Two reports delivered this week to United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan make a strong pitch for developing nations to build up their scientific institutions if they hope to improve conditions in their countries. The two reports, written independently, both underscore the importance of improving universities, funding the best science through peer review, and providing government leaders with impartial technical advice. Whereas those elements are woven into the fabric of scientifically advanced nations, the reports note, they are often lacking in the rest of the world."

Creationism is Alive and Well in the United States

Science -- Holden 303 (5662): 1268 Figure 1: "Proposals to encourage teaching creationism and 'intelligent design' have been advanced in 37 states since 2001."

ApproTEC: Appropriate Technology

ApproTEC: Appropriate Technology: "ApproTEC is a non-profit organization that develops and markets new technologies in Africa. These low-cost technologies are bought by local entrepreneurs, and used to establish highly profitable new small businesses. They create new jobs and new wealth and allow the poor to climb out of their poverty forever."

Global Warming??? -- First-Ever Hurricane Forms in South Atlantic

Yahoo! News - First-Ever Hurricane Forms in South Atlantic: "The first hurricane ever reported in the south Atlantic swirled off the coast of Brazil on Friday, and forecasters said it could make landfall in the South American country during the weekend. "

GOP criticizes Democratic House candidate's Internet fund-raising

AP Wire | 03/25/2004 | GOP criticizes Democratic House candidate's Internet fund-raising: "Republicans have accused Democratic U.S. House candidate Stephanie Herseth of maintaining a secret Web page to receive campaign donations raised from ads on liberal groups' Internet sites."

This is Herseth's blog to which you may make contributions should you so wish.

Friday, March 26, 2004

The Telson Spur -- Home: Telecommunity (1)

The Telson Spur -- Home: Telecommunity (1): "One of a group of 'Home' pages comprising the sterncastle or local section of The Telson Spur, this page is the first of three comprising a list of links to on-line resources giving information about telecommunity: information infrastructure; The Grid, Internet2, & NGI; networking & development; internet access & service; the digital divide; and broadband. The coordinate Home pages, with a common header and List of Contents, contain links to Local Information (including Canada), Telecommunity, Global News, Sky and Weather, Reference, Family, Life and Leisure, Home Computing, Internet Forums, Portals, and Web Weaving.
KEYWORDS: community; telecommunity; information infrastructure; Grid; Internet2; NGI"

Four Genes May Aid Fight Against Malaria

FINDINGS (washingtonpost.com): "The discovery of four genes that help or hinder the malaria parasite as it infects mosquitoes could lead to new ways to battle one of the world's biggest killers, researchers in Germany said.
Two of the mosquito genes kill the plasmodium parasite in the insect's gut, and two others promote the parasite's development, the researchers report in today's issue of the journal Science.
Studying their effects could lead to novel ways to fight malaria, which is transmitted by mosquitoes and kills a million people every year.
'We now see a way to potentially stop the parasite in its tracks,' said Fotis Kafatos, director-general of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg, Germany, who led the study.
Some mosquitoes do not transmit the parasites, and Kafatos's colleagues identified two genes that control proteins made by the mosquitoes that kill the parasite in the gut. The research was published in the journal Cell.
Kafatos and colleagues found two other proteins that protect the parasite as it develops in the mosquito gut. If these proteins were eliminated, the parasites died. "

Thursday, March 25, 2004

Salon.com Technology | Thou shalt not make scientific progress

Salon.com Technology | Thou shalt not make scientific progress

And still more on the Bush stem cell research policy.

"Science Friction" by Nicholas Thompson

"Science Friction" by Nicholas Thompson

More on the Bush policy on stem cell research.

OJR article: What Newspapers and Their Web Sites Must Do to Survive

OJR article: What Newspapers and Their Web Sites Must Do to Survive: "Most printed newspapers' circulations and readerships meanwhile continue their steady 40-year declines. More than 80 percent of American adults read a newspaper each weekday in 1964, but only 58 percent did in 1997, according to the Newspaper Association of America. In 2003, an estimated 54 percent read a newspaper each weekday. Most analysts predict that fewer than half of adults will read the paper every day by the end of this decade."

ZNet | Global Economics | US AIDS Czar Undermines WHO Initiative

ZNet | Global Economics | US AIDS Czar Undermines WHO Initiative

According to Sanjay Basu, "the new US AIDS "Czar", Randall Tobias, the former CEO of Eli Lilly, has almost totally undermined the WHO plan. While he and the White House initially pledged to support the initiative, no monies have flowed to date, and Tobias appears to be waiting until the program completely collapses from financial instability. Ironically, when President Bush claimed to pledge $15 billion to global AIDS efforts during the State of the Union Address last year (none of which has actually been apportioned to date), he quoted the price of the WHO generic pill as a basis for claiming that the US would support drug treatment for HIV-infected persons, since such treatment has become more affordable. It now appears that the US will only pay if US patent-based pharmaceutical manufacturers are given the money--an effective subsidy of an already heavily-subsidized industry that is taxed at only one-third of the rate of other equivalent industries". by Sanjay Basu, ZNet, March 21, 2004.

Is the Any Hope for Africa

The New York Times: Nicholas D. Kristof

If you have the bandwidth, check out this story. The photos are great, and the voice over tells a story of African poverty in an accessable form. Some of Kristof's articles on the website complement the video.

Where is the United States Headed?

I heard a radio broadcast by Robert Reich this week in which he debunked the threat to the U.S. economy of outsourcing to India and China. He pointed out, correctly I think, that there had been similar fears in the past that had proven baseless, and that the amount of outsourcing to date is still very small as compared with the size of the U.S. economy.

He pointed instead to the real threat -- an undermining of U.S. innovation capacity. As the AAAS data makes clear, governmental spending on research and development has again swung heavily toward the military. Military R&D spending actually dropped in the early 1990's, until in 1995 it was 53 percent of government R&D. In the budget proposed for 2004, it is 56 percent of the total. Basic research has increased to some 22 percent of the (increasing) R&D total, which is a good thing for long term competitiveness of the U.S. economy. But I question whether the economic benefits per dollar from basic research funded through defense budgets will equal those from basic research funded through the civilian agencies of the government.

I have noted in the past that there seems to be little appreciation for the long term negative impacts of the current immigration policies that cut the flow of foreign teachers, engineers, scientists and others to the U.S.

In the past there have been severe dislocations as shifts in comparative advantage and trade have caused factories to close and jobs to be lost in the U.S. "rust belt". It has been hard to tell a 50 year old, unemployed machinist that those are the breaks, and you have to find a new career.

I think we are going to see new dislocations, and new job categories hit. New groups are going to have to leave the work they have done for years, and get new jobs in new fields. I suspect that as outsourcing hits the white collar jobs, their greater political clout will raise the profile of the issue.

I think Robert Reich is right, that if we can maintain the innovation capacity of the United States, the average end result of more trade options will be beneficial. If we fail to remain at the intellectual and technological forefront, the results will be unfortunate.

But the American workforce is going to have to be nimble indeed. Professionals, who were really not threatened in the past, are going to have to be more productive, and are likely to lose jobs to their lower paid colleagues in developing countries. U.S. professionals are going to have to be prepared to change jobs and professions in the future.

And American workers who are uneducated and unwilling to change jobs and to move to where new jobs are being created are going to be out of luck. We have to be willing to accept rapid social change to keep working and progress economically in the globalizing economy.

We also have to reconeptualize eduction. Everyone will have to be more educated. Education will be a continuing process, not something left behind after childhood school days.

The situation I describe is like that faced by immigrants, and the U.S. is an immigrant nation. Perhaps we will have to return to our roots, and display a willingness to change and learn in exchange for economic opportunity.

If the situation in the world's richest nation is challenging, so much more so that in developing nations!

The Fate of Those Practicing Evidence Based Decision Making in the Bush Administration

Harold Meyerson, "Professional Revolt: Many conscientious civil servants, including Richard Clarke, relied on empirical data while working for Bush. Then were forced to leave." The American Prospect Online, March 25, 2004.

Mobilizing Engineers to Help Eradicate Poverty

Mobilizing Engineers to Help Eradicate Poverty

A UNESCO Focus Group met at the American Association for the Advancement of Science on Monday and Tuesday of this week to discuss ways in which engineers could join more productively in the fight against poverty. I was unable to attend, but I was told the meeting was worthwhile.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

How should Community Telecenters be Organized in Developing Nations

The World Bank Discussion on Telecenters has been interesting, and made me think about the topic of this blog entry.

How should Community Telecenters be Organized

There are lots of ways that community telecenters can be administratively organized. It seems to make sense to me to make the computers and Internet connections in schools and health facilities available to the public when they are not in use in their host institutions. You can call these arrangements telecenters, and can put the responsibility with the educational and health organizations.

I like the Indian approach of using the post offices as Internet contact points. They can accept email, and deliver it via the local postal delivery system. They can also provide access to government online services. And the organization administering the postal service should then run the postal telecenters.

Where libraries exist, they would seem to be obvious candidates to run telecenters.

I like the idea of community radio stations having Internet connectivity. I wonder if the radio stations might do better making their facilities available as telecenters? This would suggest independent ownership of the telecenter-radio station combos.

I rather like the idea of the telephone companies running community access points, especially when the operation could be incorporated into an auction process such as is used to provide universal telephone service in Chile. The private firms bid on the minimum subsidy needed to provide both commercial and community access points for a geographic region.

There seems to be a thought that networks of telecenters should be operated by NGOs (or firms). Alternatively, telecenters could be operated as cybercafes or business centers, with small enterprises operating one or a few telecenters.

I wonder if there have been any studies of the efficiencies of these alternative arrangements? Is there any efficiency advantage in a single organization owning and operating a large number of telecenters?

Would franchising work?

AAAS S&T Policy Forum April 22-23, 2004

AAAS S&T Policy Forum April 22-23, 2004

I can seldom afford to go to these things, but they are great. The website has a wealth of information on U.S. science policy, programs and budgets.

WHO: Global tuberculosis control - surveillance, planning, financing

WHO: Global tuberculosis control - surveillance, planning, financing

Using trends in case notifications to update estimates of incidence, WHO calculates that "there were 8.8 million new cases of TB in 2002, of which 3.9 million were smear-positive. The global incidence rate of TB (per capita) was growing at approximately 1.1% per year, and the number of cases at 2.4% per year. The growth in case notifications has been much faster in African countries with high HIV prevalence, and in eastern Europe (mainly the former Soviet Union), but growth has been decelerating in both these regions since the mid 1990s.......Treatment success under DOTS for the 2001 cohort was 82% on average, the same as for the 2000 cohort. As in previous years, treatment success was substantially below average in the WHO African Region (71%) and in eastern Europe (70%). Low treatment success in these two regions can be attributed, in part, to the complications of HIV co-infection and drug resistance, respectively. Equally important, though, is the failure of NTPs to monitor the outcome of treatment for all patients."

This is the 8th WHO annual report on global TB control. It includes data on case notifications and treatment outcomes from all national TB control programmes that have reported to WHO, together with an analysis of plans, budgets, expenditures, and constraints on DOTS expansion for 22 high-burden countries (HBCs). Eight consecutive years of data are now available to assess progress towards the 2005 global targets for case detection (70%) and treatment success (85%).

Thursday, March 18, 2004

Science, Technology and Innovation for the 21st Century. Meeting of the OECD Committee for Scientific and Technological Policy at Ministerial Level, 29-30

Science, Technology and Innovation for the 21st Century. Meeting of the OECD Committee for Scientific and Technological Policy at Ministerial Level, 29-30 January 2004 - Final Communique

AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellowships

AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellowships

I was fortunate enough to be invited to participate in the interviews of some of the the candidates for these fellowships last week. I was pleased to see so many highly trained and skilled people seeking to make international development their careers, or at least a significant part of their careers.

I was humbled to discover that if I had tried for the post-doc fellowship at the point in my career at which it would have been appropriate, I probably would not have made the cut against the kind of competition that now exists. I was greatly pleased by the discovery.

ICT Projects versus ICT Leadership

I have been looking at nominations for the Petersberg Prize for exemplary contribution in the field of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) for development. I was struck by the novelty of the view of the field it provided me.

I have been working with projects for a long time. Some projects, and some people managing projects have been nominated, as well they should be.

However, some of the interesting nominations are for people who play a more diversified role in the information revolution. These folk are involved in teaching and training, building an ICT workforce. They advise on ICT4D policy and related development policies. They are prime movers in the development of ISPs, academic ICT programs, Internet governance, and other initiatives. They play a role in the expansion of the network of telecenters.

The view of these folk going about their business reduces the importance of projects, and encourages a longer range view of the ICT4D process.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Poverty and inequality: A question of justice?

"Poverty and inequality: A question of justice?" is an editorial in the Economist of March 11th 2004. It points out the immorality of the present situation in which huge numbers of people live in poverty we can hardly imagine, while the rich nations largely stand by. It is also correct, in my opinion, in stating that the problem of poverty will not be solved except by increasing productivity in poor countries, and that doing so should be possible in ways that don't threaten affluent countries. (Indeed, the reconstruction of the European and Japanese economies after World War II seems to have contributed to the growth of the U.S. economy.)

Perhaps the Economist is a little disingenuous in not mentioning the cost to developing nations of OECD nation's agricultural subsidies and trade barriers.

Still, nice to see morality raised before the public eye in this context.



2003-03-21 to 2004-03-16
Tabby and white tom cat, died of anaphylactic shock

In Memorium.

Sunday, March 14, 2004

Global economic inequality

Global economic inequality

This is an article in the Economist (March 11th 2004) describing the disagreements about the evolution of poverty in the world in the last couple of decades. The numbers of people living on one dollar a day or less may have stayed even, or it may have decreased, according to whose data you believe.

Big deal. Living on two dollars a day is bad enough to scare me. I lived for a while on just under three dollars a day, back when a dollar went a lot further, and I don't recommend it!

NSF ENG Division of Engineering Education and Centers

NSF ENG Division of Engineering Education and Centers

This is the website of the NSF program funding engineering centers. The evaluations of center programs might be especially interesting.

Saturday, March 13, 2004

MASHAV: Israeli Development Gateway

MASHAV: Israeli Development Gateway

This is the website of the Israeli organization for development cooperation. MASHAV, I am told, is the acronym for the Hebrew name of the organization. MASHAV's program is primarily devoted to the training of people from developing nations in Israel.

Big Ag Subsidies and Little Biotech Research: Is there a relation?

The World Bank metareview of evaluations of the CGIAR noted that the International Agricultural Research Centers (IARCs) spend only about US$25 million on biotechnology research in the last decade.

The North has been estimated to spend about US$350 billion per year on agricultural subsidies.

Is there a connection?

There are lots of reasons countries might want to keep domestic agriculture alive. Reasons might be nostalgia for an agricultural past, assuring safe food supplies in the event of future war, or social policy preference for a strong rural sector. Politically, the agricultural sector may trade electoral support for subsidies, and may be powerful enough to get its way. Elites based in agricultural sectors may have influence beyond that which might be expected from their contemporary status, stemming from historical events and processes. I am no expert, but the result seems clear -- industrial and post-industrial countries work hard to keep agriculture alive.

Tariffs and trade quotas were effective for centuries in protecting agriculture, but are made less effective in today's global movement toward free trade. Subsidies for farmers also work, making it possible for them to sell food cheaply and still make a profit, and thus making it harder for farmers from other countries without such subsidies to sell into the markets. (Secondary subsidies are also possible, such as the provision of water to farmers at prices far below the actual costs, supply of free publicly financed services such as agricultural extension, or allowance of farmers to avoid payment for environmental damage their actions may create. )

Non-trade barriers can also be effective in protecting markets. Restrictions on food imports in the name of food safety can reduce foreign competition. Long delays may be imposed in the process of demonstrating food safety. Is it possible that European nations restricting the imports of genetically modified foods (without scientific evidence that they are harmful) do so to protect domestic markets from foreign competition. You bet! Indeed, since European countries have lagged in developing and testing GM crops that might increase farm productivity, they have even more to gain by excluding GM crops.

Of course, consumer preference helps exclude foreign foods. If people in the North prefer their domestically produced foods, and will pay a premium for them, less subsidy from tax revenues will be needed to protect the domestic market. A serious effort to inform the European public about the safety of GM foods might reduce their preference for domestically produced, non-GM foods (as well as their enthusiasm for non-trade barrier protections against the imports of those foods). Is it a coincidence that few governments have undertaken major programs to educate the public about the real risks and benefits in GM foods?

Do such policies have negative, long-term impacts -- the economists would say so. Consumers would be expected to pay more for food. Resources that could be directed to more productive economic activities are instead tied to inefficient agricultural practices.

But what does this have to do with the topic of this blog -- "knowledge for development"? Biotechnology can be a very powerful tool in the hands of researchers seeking knowledge to improve agricultural productivity. But if you can't sell GM crops into international markets, it doesn't make sense to use GM as a tool to increase yields in those crops. So prohibitions against GM crop imports in Europe reduce the demand for biotechnology in the research on crop improvement.

Looking at the CGIAR, what is the likelihood that the many European donors -- representatives of countries prohibiting the production and importation of GM food -- have pushed for use of biotechnology in IARC research program?

The effect on developing nations of agricultural subsidies in the North has been the subject of a great deal of discussion. Many feel that the cost to developing nations in reduction of their food exports is much greater than the total development assistance they receive. So too, in the long run, there will be important costs from the discouragement of use of biotechnology for agricultural research. These costs will be felt, unfortunately not only in the pocket book, but in the belly and the mortality statistics.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

'Greatest Generation' Struggled With History, Too

'Greatest Generation' Struggled With History, Too

American kids don't know much about history, but, according to this article by Jay Mathews (in the Washington Post on Tuesday, March 9, 2004) American kids never did know much about history.

Monday, March 08, 2004

Workshop: Science and technology for sustainable development in Africa

Workshop: Science and technology for sustainable development in Africa

The workshop held in Paris (8-9 November 2001) recommended that UNESCO should enable African scientists and institutions to contribute to solving Africa’s problems concerning sustainable development by a number of means, listed in the workshop's recommendations. The proceedings can be downloaded from this site.

NEPAD Science and Technology Forum

NEPAD Science and Technology Forum

The African Forum on Science and Technology for Development (AFSTD) was established by the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) to promote the application of science and technology for economic growth and poverty reduction. The AFSTD provides NEPAD and the African Union (AU) with high-level advice on science and technology issues through analysis, dialogues and policy recommendations.

UNESCO Cooperation with NEPAD in Science and Technology

UNESCO Cooperation with NEPAD in Science and Technology

As the United States has rejoined UNESCO, I would hope that U.S. scientists and engineers will become more involved in UNESCO efforts, and UNESCO will become more of a partner for U.S. development efforts.

NEPAD, the ambitious initiative for development cooperation in Africa is a welcome sign of hope in a rather depressing picture. It is also a sign of hope that there is an S&T thrust in NEPAD.

This site describes UNESCO's support for S&T in NEPAD.

Science and Technology for Sustainable Development - A G8 Action Plan

Science and Technology for Sustainable Development - A G8 Action Plan

This action plan is one of the many results published from the G8 meeting in June 2003.

The Women Behind Cloning

"The Women Behind Cloning" is an opinion piece in today's Washington Post by Josephine Johnston, associate for ethics, law and society at the Hastings Center. It makes a serious point about the need to assure the ethical treatment of women donating eggs for cloning research, and for applied human cloning if that ever develops.

I could quibble. For example, it seems to me that some women are so altruistic that they would willingly and knowingly undergo the unpleasant procedures and take the risks to advance research; I see no ethical reason to deprive them of that opportunity if they choose it. She also implies that such women should not be financially compensated, but I seen no compelling ethical reason that egg donors should not be compensated for the expenses they incur in the process.

The real issue in my mind is how important is this ethical risk, as compared with those we accept every day. Millions of children are allowed to die each year from preventable diseases. Millions will die of AIDS this year, and will be deprived of the medicines that would keep them alive. We sit by and watch children soldiers kill each other in Africa, and refuse to intervene. The Washington Post has not provided editorial page coverage of these ethical atrocities for some time!

The Ethics of Science (washingtonpost.com)

"The Ethics of Science" is an editorial in today's Washington Post, continuing its coverage of the President's Council on Bioethics. I was disappointed by the following statement:

"The president's policy, while perhaps well-intentioned, has neither allowed good research to continue nor prevented science from going down the "slippery slope" it was already headed toward."

I don't think there is reason to doubt that the president is well intentioned. That shot seems to weaken the point of the editorial, with which I agree:

"The policy must be reexamined -- and in an atmosphere of total honesty about what the scientific and moral consequences of new funding and regulatory decisions will be. The President's Council on Bioethics is still one of the few institutions that could offer advice. Its chairman, its members and the Bush administration must bend even further backward to prove that they really do intend to take all views into account."

New Visa Ceiling Called Threat to Teacher Recruitment

New Visa Ceiling Called Threat to Teacher Recruitment

Karin Brulliard has an article in The Washington Post today noting that urban schools in the United States fear the post 9/11 visa restrictions imposed by the Bush Administration will cause fall staffing shortages. They will no longer be able as easily to recruit foreign teachers with skills in short supply in the United States.

She writes, "last month, midway into the fiscal year, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced it had reached the new ceiling on issuing the visas -- 65,000, a 17 percent cut from the number issued last year -- and no more would be issued until October, when fiscal 2005 begins. Because corporations take most of those slots, the visa cutoff has forced many schools, which usually recruit most aggressively in the spring and summer, to cancel international recruiting trips, turn away foreign applicants and worry that they will be short-staffed when the new school year begins in the fall."

She puts this in context: "Beginning in 2000, Congress tripled the annual ceiling for H-1B visas, to 195,000, mostly to accommodate the high-tech boom's soaring demand for workers. The higher ceiling was for a three-year period, and after a year or so, the slumping high-tech sector sapped demand for the visas. But even as high-tech sputtered, the demand for teachers' visas remained strong. Last year about 78,000 of the visas were issued, not only for high-tech employees and teachers, but also for foreign fashion models and health care workers."

I suspect the impact will be uneven. Inner city schools, that have trouble attracting good teachers due to low salaries and tough conditions may be affected. Schools seeking qualified bilingual teachers seem likely to be affected. And of course, the supply of teachers of science and mathematics will be affected.

This does not seem to be good news for U.S. citizens concerned with knowledge for development at home.

Copenhagen Consensus 2004

Copenhagen Consensus 2004 aims to improve prioritization of the limited means available for the development of poor nations. Ten challenges representing some of the world's biggest concerns have been identified. In Copenhagen, nine outstanding acknowledged economic experts will gather in May, 2004 to discuss, analyze and rank the opportunities corresponding to each challenge. A specialist has been asked to prepared a background paper on each challenge in order to provide the experts with the best and most recent information.

The Economist has an article on this effort this week. It has also dedicated a website for future articles on the effort.

Strategic Approaches to Science and Technology in Development

Strategic Approaches to Science and Technology in Development

Abstract: "This paper examines the ways in which science and technology (S&T) support poverty alleviation and economic development and how these themes have been given emphasis or short shrift in various areas of the World Bank’s work. Central to the paper’s thesis is the now well-established argument that development will increasingly depend on a country’s ability to understand, interpret, select, adapt, use, transmit, diffuse, produce and commercialize scientific and technological knowledge in ways appropriate to its culture, aspirations and level of development. The paper goes beyond this tenet, analyzing the importance of S&T for development within specific sectors. It presents policy options for enhancing the effectiveness of S&T systems in developing countries, reviews the previous experience of the World Bank and other donors in supporting S&T, and suggests changes that the World Bank and its partners can adopt to increase the impact of the work currently undertaken in S&T. Its main messages are that: (i) S&T has always been important for development, but the unprecedented pace of advancement of scientific knowledge is rapidly creating new opportunities for and threats to development; (ii) most developing countries are largely unprepared to deal with the changes that S&T advancement will bring; (iii) the World Bank’s numerous actions in various domains of S&T could be more effective in producing the needed capacity improvements in client countries; and (iv) the World Bank could have a greater impact if it paid increased attention to S&T in education, health, rural development, private sector development, and the environment. The strategy emphasizes four S&T policy areas: education and human resources development, the private sector, the public sector and information communications technologies." By Michael Crawford, Sara Farley, and Robert Watson, World Bank Working Paper No. 3026, April 11, 2003. (PDF, 62 pages.)

Sunday, March 07, 2004

"A 'Full Range' of Bioethical Views Just Got Narrower"

A 'Full Range' of Bioethical Views Just Got Narrower

Elizabeth H. Blackburn, one of the members of the President's Council on Bioethics whose term of office was not extended, writes this article in today's Washington Post Outlook section.

She states:

"I am convinced that enlightened societies can only make good policy when that policy is based on the broadest possible information and on reasoned, open discussion. Narrowness of views on a federal commission is not conducive to the nation getting the best possible advice. My experience with the debate on embryonic stem cell research, however, suggests to me that a hardening and narrowing of views is exactly what is happening on the President's Council on Bioethics."

I will comment on only one of her statements. She writes, "Leon Kass has suggested that society should make decisions based on what he calls the 'wisdom of repugnance.' I think this is an unreliable kind of wisdom."

"Repugnance" is defined as "strong dislike, distaste, or antagonism." It seems an emotional, rather than an intellectual response. Indeed, in Kass' phrase the word seems to imply a strong distaste for cloning based on moral grounds -- such as the repugnance Renaissance church officials must have felt for Galileo's suggestion that the earth revolves around the sun. In some cases repugnance rules; the infamous Nazi medical experimentation on concentration camp inmates are repugnant, and similar experiments should never be allowed to occur in the future. In some cases, knowledge rules; the church had to overcome its repugnance toward the idea of a heliocentric solar system.

I had hoped that the President's Council on Bioethics would probe American's repugnance toward cloning, and especially towards therapeutic cloning, helping the public to make a good choice on whether to institutionalize or overcome the repugnance.

Saturday, March 06, 2004

Development Gateway Topical Communities

Development Gateway Topical Communities

The Development Gateway has the following public topic pages: Afghanistan Reconstruction; Aid Effectiveness; Argentina: Challenges and Opportunities; Business Environment; Capacity Development for MDGs; Civic Engagement ; Culture and Development; E-Commerce for Arts & Crafts; E-Government; E-Learning; Environmental Law; Food Security; Foreign Direct Investment; Gender and Development; Glocalization; Governance; HIV/AIDS; ICT for Development; Indigenous Knowledge; Indigenous Peoples; Indigenous Rights; Innovations for Development; Iraq: Relief and Recovery; Judicial and Legal Reform; Knowledge Economy; Microfinance; Non-Governmental Organizations; Population and Reproductive Health; Poverty; Privatization; Trade and Development; Urban Development; Water Resources Management; World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) Follow-Up; Youth for Development.

Any of them can be reached from the site I have linked above.

There are in addition several other topic pages supported by the Development Gateway that would interest some people, that are nowhere linked to the Development Gateway front pages. These include:

Monitoring and Evaluation (ICT Projects)

ICT in South Asia

UN ICT Task Force Europe & Central Asia Regional Network

e-Development Services Thematic Group

In general these topic pages include databases with annotated links to publications, organizations, projects, programs and other resources related to the topic. Importantly, each has a searchable list of members, with information on their location and interests. Many topic pages also include news, calendars of events, and other services.

Development Gateway: Country Entry Point

Development Gateway: Country Entry Point

If you want information on a specific developing nation, try this page. If there is a Country Development Gateway for that nation, you will find its link in a pull down menu. In any case, you will find another pull down menu taking you to the Development Gateway entry point for the DG resources for that country. From they you can find projects in the AiDA data base for the country, resources from the various topic pages for the country, dgMarket links. There is also a country page with general sources of data, and more.

I would suggest that using the topic pages, you consider also using the pull down menu and look for other resources from the region. Thus, looking for ICT for Development resources for Uganda, you might expand the search to look for ICT for Development resources for sub-Saharan Africa. Unfortunately, those submitting resources such as Sub Saharan African case studies will seldom code the meta-description for both Sub Sahara Africa, and for each of the countries for which there is a case study. Thus, expanding your search might get you a lot more case study material.

dgMarket - Tenders and procurement opportunities worldwide

dgMarket - Tenders and procurement opportunities worldwide

This website, part of the Development Gateway, provides its users with information on procurements being made worldwide. It seeks to make the market for goods and services used in development projects and programs more efficient. To the degree it succeeds, it should improve the productivity of development efforts. It also may help small and medium enterprises to compete more effectively in these markets by reducing their costs of finding sales opportunities.

DACON - Database of Consulting Companies

DACON - Database of Consulting Companies

DACON is a database of consulting companies maintained by the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). It is provided to the public by the Development Gateway, as part of dgMarket.

AiDA -Development Projects Gateway

AiDA -the Development Gateway Data Base of Projects

AiDA is a database of projects funded by donor agencies. As this is written, it includes information on more than 400,000 projects, more than 100,000 of them active. The information is provided by the donor agencies themselves, and the Development Gateway provides a portal that makes the metadata searchable in a common format.

Friday, March 05, 2004

"If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange apples then you and I will still each have one apple.
But if you have an idea and I have one idea and we exchange these ideas,then each of us will have two ideas"

George B. Shaw



Abstract: "Report on study commissioned by the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) for the Regional Infrastructure Integration in South America Initiative (IIRSA). It reviews the current status of ICT in South America and proposes an Action Plan under the IIRSA framework to encourage an increase in the use of ICT to strengthen competitiveness and promote economic, social and cultural integration in the region. The proposed Plan focuses on four areas: i) Connectivity agendas, ii) Telecommunications infrastructure, iii) Telecenters, and iv) Online delivery of government content and services." It covers Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay and Venezuela. Includes executive summary and four main sections. Led by Juan Belt of IADB's Infrastructure and Finance Division. 483 pages, dated December 2003.

From Natural Resources to the Knowledge Economy: Trade and Job Quality

This book "addresses three concerns about the structure of trade in Latin American and Caribbean economies. The first is whether natural wealth and exports of natural resource-intensive commodities hampers economic development. The second concern is that natural resources create a concentrated export structure which exacerbates economic volatility and thus reduces growth. The third concern is that international trade might eliminate jobs. The wide-ranging report cites the experience of Australia, Canada, Finland, Sweden, and the United States, as well as some Latin American countries, to show how successful economies have been built on the basis of primary commodity exports." By David de Ferranti, Guillermo E. Perry, Daniel Lederman, William F. Maloney, The World Bank, 2002. Note especially chapter 4, "Chapter 4: Recent LAC Experiences: The Role of Knowledge and Institutions".

R&D and Development

R&D and Development

Abstract: "This paper employs a new global panel data set on innovation related variables to examine patterns of R&D investment across the development process. We find that R&D effort measured as a share of GDP rises with development at an increasing rate, but that several countries have experienced extraordinary “take offs” relative to the median tendency. Our estimates of the rates of return to R&D suggest that these efforts are justified. Moreover, the returns to R&D appear
higher for developing countries. Differences in financial depth, protection of intellectual property rights, government capacity to mobilize resources, and the quality of research institutions appear as the main reasons that developing countries invest less despite higher returns. Finally, natural resource abundant countries show higher returns to R&D although lower overall investment. By Daniel Lederman and William F. Maloney, the World Bank, May ,2003. (PDF, 39 pages.)

Closing the Gap in Education and Technology

Closing the Gap in Education and Technology is a report by World Bank staff. Its thesis is that "investing in education, opening up to new technologies through foreign trade and investment, and encouraging private sector research and development (R&D) are the keys to unlocking the potential of technology to speed up economic growth in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC)." The first three chapters can be downloaded, and the entire book is available for sale in paper copy. 2002.

Thursday, March 04, 2004

Nigeria's Rebuff of Polio Vaccine Easing, WHO Says

Nigeria's Rebuff of Polio Vaccine Easing, WHO Says

David Brown has an article in the Washington Post today on the status of the polio vaccine campaign in Nigeria. There are problems getting to the desired 80% coverage in the middle and the south of the country, but campaigns there have been getting close. In the north, however, "Two states with 4 million vaccination-age children refused to join" this year's campaign.

Brown says that, "over the past years, rumors have spread through Nigeria's Muslim population, especially in the populous state of Kano, that the polio vaccine, given in drops, makes children sterile. Fears that the campaign is part of a global attack on Muslims led some tribal and religious leaders to oppose vaccination.......

"In the past year, eight formerly polio-free countries have been hit by outbreaks traced to the virus originating in northern Nigeria. Ivory Coast, where a child came down with paralytic polio on Dec. 17, is the latest."

What is the difference between complete eradication of a disease and one or two cases a year in a whole country. Well, of course, one difference is for the people who are the "cases" and their families. But when a disease is eradicated from the world, all the countries of the world can save the money and other resources that would have been spent on public health measures against that disease and use them for other purposes. The savings in the case of Smallpox, the only disease that has been eradicated, have been enormous.

It seems clear that the Nigerian problem with polio immunization is a failure of "knowledge for development". A safe, effective vaccine that has been used all over the world is being rejected by a Muslim community on the basis of superstitious beliefs, with serious repercussions worldwide.

New Embryonic Stem Cells Made Available

New Embryonic Stem Cells Made Available

Rick Weiss and Justin Gillis of the Washington Post are back today with this article about new Embryonic Stem Cell (ESC) lines. 17 new lines developed with private funds were announced today by researchers from Harvard University. Several other universities in the United States are seeking to develop still more ESC lines, financed by private funds, with state funding being planned in some states. None of these can be used by researchers funded by the federal government under the rules promulgated by President Bush. Since the National Institutes of Health fund such a large part of basic biomedical research in the United States, the Bush prohibition is quite significant.

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Australian Development Gateway

The Australian Development Gateway

This development portal provides developing countries with information from government, private sector, civil society and academic sources. It is an Australian initiative under the Virtual Colombo Plan

NIH: Few Stem Cell Colonies Likely Available for Research

NIH: Few Stem Cell Colonies Likely Available for Research

The Washington Post today has an article by Justin Gillis and Rick Weiss suggesting that there are very few lines of stem cells available to researchers in the United States as a result of policies implemented by the Bush Administration. When President Bush announced the policy, he said there would be 60 acceptable cell lines. The number was later increased to 78 by Administration officials.

The article suggests that there are now only 15 approved cell lines, and several of them are "going bad -- developing severe genetic abnormalities that could make them useless as therapies and, in some cases, impractical even for research."

This seems a case in which religious ideology is interfering with scientific knowledge creation in a serious way, and in which there has been a distressing lack of candor in the way that the decision was portrayed to the public.

We Don't Play Politics With Science

"We Don't Play Politics With Science" is a washinton Post opinion piece published today. It is by Leon Kass, chairman of the President's Council on Bioethics. He responds to charges that the change in membership of the committee is politically motivated.

Kass makes the valid and important points that the individuals working on this committee all have had distinguished careers and that the committe has been working very hard to do the right thing. Certainly I would not want to take any credit from the Council members, who have accepted an important responsibility at considerable personal sacrifice.

Kass misses the point however that a committee composed of people representing different positions and points of view can give better advice in the public decision making process, than can one composed of people sharing similar points of views. The issue is not with the individuals on the Council as individuals, nor with the honesty and serious purpose with which the Council and its members work, but with the diversity of philosophical and scientific positions that they as a group bring to the table. The knowledge of a group depends not only on the knowledability of each member, but of the complementarity of the knowledge brought by the different members.

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Understanding Regional Research Networks in Africa

Understanding Regional Research Networks in Africa, although five years old, seems to be an interesting report. It is one of the SIDA studies in Evaluation.

Meta Evaluation of the CGIAR

Meta Evaluation of the CGIAR

There is a long article in Science magazine this week, titled "Lab Network Eyes Closer Ties For Tackling World Hunger". It describes the major reorganization being considered to bring new techniques in biotechnology into the forefront of crop research in the international agricultural research centers (IARCs) overseen by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR).

A part of the motivation for this movement came from the meta-evaluation of the CGIAR system cited above.

I can't go into the full detail here, but the overall impression I got is that the IARCs have strayed away from their fundamental purpose of crop improvement, encouraged by evaluation after evaluation to add some nice new element to their program -- probably according to the fad of the day. Part of the problem of course is the stingy flow of foreign assistance, and the tendency to use the resources linked to the CGIAR for new things "because they are there". The added program elements came at the expense of crop research, and basic science applications in crop research took a back place to shorter term, more applied efforts.

As a result, the IARCs have spent only some $25 million on biotechnology in the 1990's. By comparison, private industry and universities spent some $8 to $10 billion on agricultural biotechnology in the 1990s.

Agriculture, and especially growing crops is still the major economic effort in developing countries, and a whole lot more production is going to have to come from existing acreage to meet the population and economic needs of coming decades. It is really too bad if our emphasis on rational evaluation has had the ultimate effect of weakening our most vital agriculturall research program.

Monday, March 01, 2004

Content Creation Online

Content Creation Online Report

Lead: "44% of U.S. Internet users have contributed their thoughts and their files to the online world." This report summarizes the main conclusions of a national phone survey done between March 12 and May 20, 2003 by the Pew Internet & American Life Project. The survey found "that more than 53 million American adults have used the Internet to publish their thoughts, respond to others, post pictures, share files and otherwise contribute to the explosion of content available online." By Amanda Lenhart, John Horrigan, and Deborah Fallows, Pew Internet & American Life Project, February 29, 2004. (PDF, 16 pages.)

Backyard Dig

Backyard Dig is worth a look. I was especially taken with Australopithecus spiff-arino.