Friday, December 31, 2004

Benjamin Rosenbaum - Tsunami Relief: Charity Efficiency and Transparency Ratings

Tsunami Relief: Charity Efficiency and Transparency Ratings

This is a useful compilation of ratings of a few of the charities seeking funds related to Tsunami relief == those with perhaps the most visible campaigns.

News - World Bank Commits $250 Million for Tsunami-Affected Countries

News - World Bank Commits $250 Million for Tsunami-Affected Countries:

"The World Bank announced today it will make available US$250 million as its initial contribution for emergency reconstruction in the immediate aftermath of the tsunami disaster. This amount will cover the next six months while further financing for longer-term reconstruction needs is identified."

Tsunami Relief

Tsunami Relief:

Google, following the devastation caused by the earthquake and tsunami, has linked to its homepate a disaster relief portal. It includeds a few selected websites set up to provide information and handle donations for victims throughout the region."

Thursday, December 30, 2004

USGS Discusses U.S. Discoveries Related to Historical Quakes and Tsunamis

Averting Surprises in the Pacific Northwest

"The mighty Pacific Northwest earthquake lasted a minute or more and seemed to go on forever. Soon after the shaking stopped, a roar along the Pacific coast announced the oncoming tsunami--a series of huge ocean waves caused by the earthquake. Years later, survivors would tell their grandchildren about endless shaking and the sea that surged far ashore. But most stories were eventually lost, and people forgot that this earthquake had ever struck the region. For the earthquake happened about A.D. 1700, generations before the words of native Northwesterners were first written down.

"Past occurrences of very powerful earthquakes in the Pacific Northwest went unrecognized by earth scientists until the mid-1980's. Had such an earthquake occurred earlier in this (the 20th) century, Northwesterners would have been taken by complete surprise. Now, warned by earth scientists, residents of the Pacific Northwest have taken new steps to reduce their vulnerability to future earthquake losses. Earthquake design standards in Oregon and Washington have been toughened, and many existing structures have been reinforced."

Contributions for Disaster Relief

I recommend donations to two organizations, to which I have channeled mine:

Sarvodaya (USA): This is the largest NGO in Sri Lanka, working in some 8,000 villages.

Sarvodaya (USA) Donation Site: This allows donations by credit card or PayPal.

Doctors without Borders: This is a highly respected non-governmental organization that is already on the ground in Aceh and is sending airloads of medical supplies to Sumatra.

Doctors without Borders Donation Site:: Lots of easy options to donate, and the website allows you to earmark online donations for tsunami relief.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Tsunami underscores need for U.N., UNESCO agencies

Decatur Daily Editorial:

"An Asian tragedy serves as a reminder we cannot take earthquake monitors for granted.

"An earthquake beneath the Indian Ocean triggered tidal waves that killed tens of thousands of people. Many more will likely die from starvation and water-borne diseases in the weeks to come.

"The agency that warns many countries of earthquakes and other geological incidents that trigger tsunamis is the International Tsunami Information Center, based in Honolulu. The agency is one of the many golden eggs laid by the United Nations Educational, Science and Cultural Organization."

Monday, December 27, 2004

King and McGrath’s Knowledge for Development: Final Comment

Final comments occasioned by reading King and McGrath’s Knowledge for Development:

The evolving knowledge system and its IC technological system base

The information and communications technological system has been evolving quickly for the last half century. Certainly telephones, radios, primitive television, and punched card machines existed before 1950, but we have seen personal computers, the Internet, satellite communications, the software industry, fiber optics, and the entire consumer electronics industry develop since 1950. With the technological inventions, and the reduction in ICT prices, the infrastructure has grown enormously.

Donor agencies are organizations that share the organizational culture of developed nations. Like large organizations everywhere in the developed world, they have adopted ICT, invested in ICT infrastructure, and linked to the global information infrastructure. Indeed, their dependence on international communications may have made the donor agencies even more apt to adopt some ICT innovations than the domestically oriented neighbor organizations.

As the cost of ICT plummeted, the cost of activities using the ICT went down, and presumably the cost-effectiveness went up. One would expect that the now more cost-effective approaches and activities would be more frequently done; once cost-ineffective activities of the agencies that have now become cost-effective by automation would now be undertaken.

Such a process is probably largely self-organized, taking place in many places in an organization, implemented by many actors, with little overall coordination. It is to be expected that some observers would seek to explain such a process by means of a model ascribing purpose to organizations and treating organizations as rational entities in pursuit of such purposes. That the (internal or external) observers would come up with a phrase such as “knowledge for development” is not surprising. But one should not confuse such a rationalization of historic experience with reality.

There is also an issue of organizational inertia. On the one hand, there has been a great effort in restructuring development assistance and reengineering donor agencies. On the other hand, large organizations have considerable resistance to change. Indeed, it has been suggested that one can estimate the age of an organization by consideration of its structure and processes. Organizations are thought to freeze structure and process unless faced by real threats to their survival; those organizations that change and survive show new structures and processes, and those that don't survive take their structure and process with them. Thus donor agencies may not have faced the survival threat that would have been necessary for them to adopt 21st century organizational principles based on ICT and knowledge.

King and McGrath seem bemused that so little progress has taken place, so little of the potential in the information and communication technological system has been utilized to improve development. I am surprised that so much increase in utilization has occurred in the past 15 years. It is more that 500 years since the invention of the movable type printing press has occurred, and the potential of that innovation still has not been fully realized. The information technology revolution has barely started.

K4D as a slogan

“Knowledge for Development” is a slogan, and an effective one. To oppose K4D, slogans such as “Ignorance for Development” or “Superstition for Development” come to mind. Of course much of development is done despite large and important areas of ignorance and superstitious (often false) beliefs -- combined with ideology and habit. That is unavoidable, but not something of which to be proud! So people go forward, with their K4D slogan, asking for funds for new computers, new intranets, and new development projects and programs.

Don’t get me wrong. There are clearly lots of situations where a little knowledge (like Mighty Mouse) “saves the day”. (This is good, because so often we have only a little knowledge.) Email, intranets, and PCs are good investments for organizations seeking to use their high-priced staff efficiently! ICT makes rapid assessment possible and affordable, allowing better policy making and better implementation. Getting the right person to the right place at the right time with the right knowledge sometimes averts disaster or brings triumph. Automating computation can make previously impossible analyses easy and timely. And sometimes slogans are the right means to good ends, but slogans should not be confused with validated statements of fact.

Questions that perhaps should have been but were not asked:

King and McGrath don’t ask about the cost-effectiveness of K4D innovations. Yet we know that most large-scale ICT projects fail. USAID had a major failure years ago in trying to construct an agency-wide, integrated information system costing tens of millions of dollars, but yielding nothing. Donor agencies might have been expected to do extensive cost-effectiveness analysis before and while spending millions of dollars on information systems; but if they did so King and McGrath have not described the results of those analyses.

Indeed, even more ambitious cost-benefit analyses of the K4D approach might have been suggested. Has all the money spent on K4D paid off in more rapid social and economic development, and more rapid poverty alleviation, than would have occurred without those investments, or with other kinds of investments?

I think the questions are real. Of course, it is intuitively obvious that some investment in K4D is justified. But some, such as the USAID fiasco, has clearly been a poor investment. There may be diminishing returns to K4D investment, and some agencies may have passed the point of justified returns.

Unfortunately, our limited knowledge about effects or benefits of K4D investments means we are unable to answer such questions. This is especially true in that the efforts today can be seen as investments in systems and approaches that will yield as yet unforeseen benefits in the future. The failure of today may provide the experience needed for success tomorrow. Indeed, it has been argued that early investments in ICT can be regarded as building organizational capital. That is, win-or-lose they build intangible assets that will in the future generate benefits, such as better programs or lower costs.

Muddling through

I suggest that Knowledge Based Efforts in the case of K4D must be understood in the way we understand Knowledge Based Development. On the one hand, we should bring high quality knowledge whenever possible to the field. This has generally been done in the sense that investments in ICT have incorporated state-of-the-art technology for the major donor agencies, and those agencies have been a source of transfer of state-of-the-art ICT to developing nations. I would also suggest that donor agencies have often depended on and transferred professionally warranted scientific and technological knowledge. Unfortunately they have also frequently depended on bureaucratic or political knowledge that was of doubtful quality.

I would also suggest that, like the rest of us, folk in those agencies are muddling through, doing the best they can with the knowledge and tools they command. Bringing high quality knowledge to bear when possible is part of the muddling through process.

The earlier comments in this series can be accessed by clicking on the links below:

Comment 1
Comment 2
Comment 3
Comment 4
Comment 5
Comment 6
Comment 7
Comment 8
Comment 9
Does extensive analysis pay off in reducing poverty?
Comment 10
Comment 11

Saturday, December 25, 2004

King and McGrath’s Knowledge for Development: Comment 11

Still more on reading King and McGrath’s JICA chapter.

It is useful to be reminded that not only has Japan assumed the role of the world’s largest development assistance donor, but that its foreign aid program goes back 50 years. Now, like Western development assistance, the early history of Japan’s aid program is outside the direct experience of the people implementing that program. It is also nice to read about an aid program that focuses on person-to-person transmission of tacit knowledge. And it is interesting to read about a program from Asia that seeks to meet the expectations of the people who pay for the program, and is increasingly concerned with informing its domestic clients of the work being done and the progress it encourages. That JICA has policy differences with the European views of development assistance is not surprising, and should give pause to both those holding European views and those holding the dominant Japanese views. The approach of JICA, depending on the expertise of the sectoral ministries of government, is one that served USAID well, but seems less used now that in the past.

King and McGrath are more quantitative in this chapter than in the previous ones, giving figures for the staff of JICA, and the experts that JICA deploys overseas in short and long term assignments. I think the numbers suggest that the cumulative impact of the largely-self-organized thousands of experts actually serving in developing nations is probably much greater than that of the knowledge products, each produced by a small number of people.

I am especially impressed by the concept of wakon yosai (Japanese spirit, Western technology). This is apparently something that stems back to the Meiji period in Japanese history, when the country was finally opened to trade and technology transfer from the West.

Years ago I read a paper that traced the decline of Australian aborigine culture to the gifts of steal axes by missionaries, to replace the stone axes used in the past. People interested in cutting firewood preferred the steal to the stone for obvious reasons. But, according to the theory of the paper, the most important implements of the tribes had been the stone axes, and they had been controlled by the elders of the tribe. Devaluing the stone axes and introducing steal axes resulted in devaluation of the authority of the elders, and increased authority for the missionaries. Lacking authoritative elders, the tribes social structure and process deteriorated.

This story is illustrative of the fact that knowledge gained by importing information or technology has social repercussions. Wakon josai represents a very visible and important movement of a (then) developing country to proactively select technology that met its economic development needs, and to control the social impact of the technological innovations. The idea is, I think, to manage technological and social change into paths that are acceptable within the deeper ethical and cultural framework. Of course, limited rationality keeps such efforts from working as well as one might like, but the approach seems attractive.

I understand that Japan is now seeing moves by some parties to reinterpret the wakon yosai slogan, and to recognize that the spirit must also learn. Values too change. Where physical strength was very highly valued in a time where much work was physical, mental strength has risen in value in this time where much work is intellectual. But it would be nice to see people using knowledge and best efforts to guide change (which appears inevitable) in Japanese spirit into channels that are consonant with the best aspects of Japan’s deepest values.

I wonder whether Japan is able to implement a program using Philippine or Sri Lankan spirit and Japanese technology.

More on a key case relating to human subject protection in biomedical research done in Afica.

The New York Times > Washington > Judge Limits Protections Allowed to Federal Whistle-Blowers (Registration required.)

Dr. Jonathan Fishbein is among several employees of the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) who raised concerns about treatment of participants in a study in Africa involving the AIDS drug nevirapine. He was hired by the institutes in 2003 to help improve AIDS research practices.

Dr. Fishbein was hired under Title 42 of the federal code, which allows the government to give competitive salaries to research and medical experts. The law is intended to help the government compete against high-paying private industries. Dr. Fishbein was paid $178,000 a year, slightly more than the $175,700 that members of President Bush's cabinet receive.

Dr. Fishbein told the wistle-blower protection board that he was being fired because he had raised concerns about sloppy practices that might endanger patient safety. NIH said that he was being fired for poor performance and that he had failed to complete his two-year probationary period successfully.

The court ruled that Dr. Fishbein was not covered by the law, because he was a Title 42 employee and therefore enjoyed "no appeal rights" during his probationary period. The ruling is being appealed.

Kris Kolesnik, executive director of the National Whistleblower Center, an advocacy group in Washington, said: "This is a major setback for drug safety. Many of these employees, such as Dr. Fishbein, hold sensitive health- and safety-related positions. Without protections, these employees will not blow the whistle."

More than 3,900 Title 42 employees work for the national institutes, according to the Department of Health and Human Services, the agency's parent.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Sveiby Knowledge Management

Sveiby Knowledge Management

This is an interesting website. It is for an international network of consultants working in the area of knowledge management. The "Library" on the site has many links to downloadable papers and reports on knowledge management.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

King and McGrath’s Knowledge for Development: Comment 10

I felt, on reading King and McGrath's chapter on JICA, that it might be useful to give some thoughts to the description of knowledge used for development. I suspect that often one can not make generalizations that cover all useful knowledge, but that it is possible to make statements that cover a class of knowledge. So what are some of the dimensions that are used to describe knowledge?

1. Explicit versus implicit;
2. How the knowledge is embodied – in peoples minds, machines, books, supplies (e.g. seeds of improved cultivars embody knowledge gained in the research that lead to the improvement, medicines embody knowledge gained in the development and testing of the product), organizational processes, informal institutions, etc.;
3. The complexity of the bundle of goods, services, and disembodied knowledge needed to effectively utilize a specific item embodying knowledge;
4. How the knowledge is used – for policy, technology, strategy, organizational operation, public awareness, etc.,
5. The processes by which the knowledge was constructed and warranted: legal, political, scientific, traditional, professionally technological (e.g. by engineers or doctors practicing clinical medicine)
6. Locally or generally applicable;
7. By source;
8. By channel of communication;
9. By users;
10. By complexity of local context;
11. By complexity of communication.

Let me just comment on a few of these items.

Complexity of the knowledge bundle: Agriculturalists learned the hard way that you have to consider the whole knowledge package. It does little good to give someone an improved variety to plant, if you can not provide the water, fertilizer, pesticides, and training needed to utilize the variety well. Irrigation was a key to the green revolution, and one can think of the knowledge needed to build and operate an irrigation systems as embodied in the dependable supply of water it provides. Similarly, a lot of knowledge is embodied in the pesticides that keep a crop protected against disease, insects, birds, rodents, and other perils. If these are not available when needed, the crops is damaged, as it is if the farmer doesn’t know when and how to use them.

Locally or generally applicable: King and McGrath seem quite impressed with arguments that all knowledge has to be contextualized to local circumstances. I think the crop-improvement people have made a valuable distinction, suggesting that the International Agricultural Research Centers do the more fundamental R&D, creating varieties with important new properties. These are then adapted to national needs by National Agricultural Research Services. Knowledge is further localized by National Agricultural Extension Services. In the health field, there is similarly basic knowledge that is globally useful, and adaptation of that knowledge for national health services, and ultimately for patients. Even in the social sciences, there is knowledge that is globally useful, even though societies and economies differ one from another, and require localization of sociological, economic, and other forms of social science knowledge.

Complexity of communication: The communications for development professionals have sensitized us to the reality that some knowledge can be communicated by simple messages, and some requires more complicated information transfers. Thus, the use of oral hydration therapy is so simple that it can be communicated to an uneducated mother through a short radio message. The performance of neurosurgery involves such complicated knowledge that it is transferred through years of face-to-face training and education required to train a neurosurgeon.

Does extensive analysis pay off in reducing poverty?

"The World Bank’s Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper Approach: Good Marketing or Good Policy?"

Very good paper, that makes the point that the extensive investments in Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers have not been subject to cost-effectiveness analysis. Is there a better way to use the resources involved in the PRSPs to get more reduction in poverty?

King and McGrath in their book, Knowledge for Development, point out that the Japanese government has resisted buying into the PRSP process.

Jim Levinsohn, in this April 2003 paper, does point out that the World Bank and IMF have reserved for themselves approval of the PRSP's (of which there may eventually be 70 different national versions.) This would seem likely to expand the power of the Bank and IMF if governments and other donors continue to fall in line.

Transfer, not use, of some technologies needs US licence

SciDev.Net: Bush Administration Limits Training foreign students in laboratory equipment use and maintenance:

"In October, SciDev.Net provided a link to a news article in Nature, which said that scientists from 'countries of concern' might need to obtain a licence to work with US laboratory equipment (see Foreign scientists may need special US licence).

Writing to Nature in response to the original news item, Peter Lichtenbaum, assistant secretary for export administration at the US Department of Commerce, says that in fact the licenses would be required for the transfer of skills, not the use of equipment."

African scientific research council proposed


"[CAIRO] Egypt's Ministry of Scientific Research has proposed that the African Union should set up an African Council for Scientific Research (ACSR) to help promote technology-based economic development across the continent."

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

UNESCO: A World of Science

October-December 2004 edition.

This is the latest edition of UNESCO's Natural Sciences Program's Quarterly Newsletter.

World Water Assessment Programme (WWAP)| The UN World Water Development Report (WWDR)

World Water Assessment Programme (WWAP)| The UN World Water Development Report (WWDR):

"The World Water Development Report (WWDR) is a periodic, comprehensive review giving an authoritative picture of the state of the world's freshwater resources, and aiming to provide decision-makers with the tools for sustainable use of our water."

Science in Africa

Africa's First On-Line Science Magazine, Home Page:

"Science in Africa: for the latest in science from across the continent. "

BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Huge rocket makes maiden flight

BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Huge rocket makes maiden flight:

"Commentators say the vehicle could eventually be modified to form the basis of the launcher system that succeeds the shuttle when it retires."

"WHO Adds More "1918" to Pandemic Predictions"

Science -- Enserink 306 (5704): 2025b -- WHO Pandemic Predictions

The World Health Organization has published conservative estimates of the mortality from the coming pandemic of Asian flu.

"The next pandemic strain may just as well be highly virulent, like the one that caused the 1918-19 Spanish flu, which claimed at least 20 million lives and perhaps many more. WHO's earlier numbers are 'rather ridiculous,' says Michael Osterholm, director of the University of Minnesota Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy in Minneapolis. In a 25 November e-mail to Stöhr, Osterholm pointed out that given today's world population, a 1918-like virus could kill at least 72 million. 'World leaders need to get this message,' Osterholm says. On 29 November, a similar message was sounded by Shigeru Omi, director of WHO's Western Pacific Region Office in Manila, who broke ranks by saying publicly that the toll could be as high as 20 million, 50 million, or 'in the worst case,' 100 million."

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

2005 could be a big year in the fight against poverty | Poverty (Subscription required,) This is the lead editorial in the year end double edition.)

"“WE HAVE the cash, we have the drugs, we have the science—but do we have the will? Do we have the will to make poverty history?” That is quite a question: big, crucial and—so long as “we” is defined broadly—entirely valid. And it is a question to which—according to Bono, the rock star and modern-day prophet who posed it—the coming year will go a long way towards providing an answer."

More Funding Needed for Science in Africa

SciDev.Net: World Bank official backs more science for Africa:

"The World Bank's vice-president for Africa, Gobind Nankani, has urged rich countries to increase their support for strengthening scientific and technological capacity in Africa and other developing countries. "

TWAS Awards

SciDev.Net -- TWAS Awards:

"Soil scientists from Brazil and Iran are among the winners of the 2004 TWAS Prizes, announced last month in Trieste, Italy."

Joint Session of Bioethics Committees

Joint Session of the International Bioethics Committee (IBC) and the Intergovernmental Bioethics Committee (IGBC) :

"IBC and IGBC will hold a Joint Session at UNESCO Headquarters, in Paris, on 26 and 27 January 2005." Documents for the meeting are available from this website.

Who Should Tell History: The Tribes or the Museums?

The New York Times -- EDWARD ROTHSTEINWho Should Tell History: The Tribes or the Museums?:

"Museums always make use of the past for the sake of the present. They collect it, shape it, insist on its significance. When that past is also prehistoric, when its objects come to the present without written history and with jumbled oral traditions, a museum can even become the past's primary voice.

"But what if that prehistoric past is also claimed by some as a living heritage? Then disagreements about interpretation develop into battles over the museum's very function."

This is a basic issue on the nature of knowledge. My answer of course is that both the members of the living culture and outsiders bringing social science to the study of a cultures history should express their views, and credibiiltiy should be assigned to these views by others according to the needs of the situation.

Google's Proposed Electronic Library

The New York Times: The Electronic Library: (registration required.)

"Google says it will take six years to scan some 15 million books. It will take even longer to understand the cultural implications of admitting everyone with Internet access to the contents of the world's great research libraries.....

"At the outset, this project will be limited to books that are old enough to no longer be under copyright. This is as it should be. It will serve as a demonstration of the immensity - and the immense cultural value - of works in the public domain, and could well kindle a new appreciation of the significance of the public domain.....

"Beginning with older books will also give Google, the libraries and book publishers time to sort out the problem of creating a comprehensive digital library of books that are currently under copyright."

UNDP -Annual Reports

UNDP -Annual Report 2004

The United Nations Development Program, with total annual resources exceeding US $3 billion, provides an annual report. This website allows the 2004 report to be downloaded directly, and links to the sites providing reports back to 1999. Press freedom | Liberation technology:

"Radio, however, is a different tale. The number of independent radio stations is exploding, as costs and regulatory barriers fall. The World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters, which had 1,200 members in 1990, now has 3,000. Marcelo Solervicens, the secretary-general of the association, guesses that the number of unaffiliated stations has expanded equally fast, and that there are now 10,000-15,000 across the world, of which about half are in poor countries.

"To set up a basic radio station now costs half as much as a decade ago, reckons Matt Buck, the head of Globecom, a South African company that specialises in doing just this. The necessary equipment is also much less bulky, and can be operated without an engineer on call. A transmitter that fits in a suitcase and broadcasts for a kilometre or a mile may cost as little $2,000, says Mr Solervicens. Something bigger, with a range of up to 100 kilometres (62 miles), would be $20,000-40,000, says Mr Buck. Probably most community radio stations in Africa get some support, financial or otherwise, from disinterested donors, but as prices continue to tumble, more will become profitable.

"Another change is the advent of the wind-up radio, which is powered by a hand crank and so needs no batteries. This makes a huge difference to the poorest, who cannot afford even 20 cents for six hours of listening. In families with battery-powered radios, the husband often pockets the batteries when he goes out to work, so that he can listen longer to the football when he gets back.

"Wind-up radios allow women and children to learn about the outside world, sometimes for the first time. This is no exaggeration. Peasants in very poor countries, or even in remote parts of richer countries, can be isolated in a way that media-saturated westerners find hard to imagine. For many, radio is the only way of hearing a weather forecast, or finding out what price their crops might fetch in a distant town. Educational programmes provide teachers who are never late and never die of AIDS."

Monday, December 20, 2004

Science, Technology, Engineering and Innovation for Development

OAS: Science, Technology, Engineering and Innovation for Development

This report discusses the role of science, technology and innovation in increasing competitiveness in the productive sector; the status of scientific and technological development in the Americas; the role of science and technology for social development; and policy recommendations for implementation. The Report was prepared by the Office of Education, Science and Technology, Organization of American States in preparation for a high level meeting on science and technology that took place in Peru November 11-12, 2004. It containes statistics on R&D expenditures. (PDF, 88 pages.)

Reuters AlertNet - US threatens UN agency funds over report - writer

Reuters AlertNet - US threatens UN agency funds over report - writer:

"The lead writer of a U.N. report on freedom and governance in the Arab world said on Saturday the United States was threatening to cut off funds to a U.N. agency if the United Nations releases it (The Arab Human Development Report).

Nader Fergani, the Egyptian social scientist who has worked on the last three Arab Human Development Reports, told Reuters defying the United States could cost the U.N. Development Programme (UNDP) about $100 million a year."

Sunday, December 19, 2004

European Competitiveness Report 2004

IANIS - Innovative Actions Network for the Information Society:

"The European Commission?s Enterprise Directorate-General has recently published its 8th 'European Competitiveness Report'. The report looks into the development of productivity, innovation and public spending on research and development in EU Member States. It also contains chapters on the performance of the EU health sector, the European automotive sector and challenges stemming from China's rising economy. The report states that 'the public sector matters in productivity growth and, therefore, it is important to consider the influence of its structure, size, strategy, quality and the efficiency of its activities that impinge upon decision to produce, work, modernize and innovate in the EU.' (Source:DG REGIO News)"

R&D tax subsidies key to increasing private research investment, finds report

IANIS - Innovative Actions Network for the Information Society:

"The 2004 edition of the Commission's annual report on European Competitiveness has concluded that direct government funding of private research and development (R&D) as well as tax incentives for research both have a 'significant and positive impact on business R&D spending in OECD and EU countries.' The special theme of the 2004 report concerns the impact of public policies on economic performance, including a section on the role of public sector research spending. Overall, the report notes a significant increase in private R&D spending in OECD and EU countries between 1981 and 2002, but says that this trend is more likely the result of a general shift towards more R&D intensive industries than thanks to public research policies or spending. The report does underline the positive impact of public research expenditure, however, noting that: 'Expenditures on R&D performed by universities and public research organisations are significantly positively related to business enterprise sector expenditures on R&D, indicating that public sector R&D and private sector R&D are [complimentary].' (Source: CORDIS News)"

Day for South-South Cooperation

Cooperation among poor States is vital for reaching MDGs

Without a partnership between the industrialized and developing countries, otherwise known as the North and the South, the United Nations goal of halving extreme poverty by 2015 will not be reached, “but deeper South-South cooperation is also vital,” UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said on the first Day for South-South Cooperation today.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Post-Kyoto climate talks end on a low Post-Kyoto climate talks end on a low:

"Kyoto will cut emissions in industrialized countries by 5 percent from 1990 levels, a first small step. The EU believes it will have to reduce its emissions by at least half by mid-century and mandatory cuts are the preferred method.

"The EU came to Buenos Aires wanting to narrow differences with the United States, the source of 25 percent of the world's heat-trapping gases, and the large developing economies excluded from Kyoto like China and India.

"But it soon became clear that Washington was sticking to its 2001 decision to bow out of Kyoto for fear of the impact that mandatory emissions curbs would have on economic growth. Moreover, the delegation reiterated that it would be 'premature' to negotiate for after 2012."

Summit fails to progress on climate change

Swissinfo: Summit fails to progress on climate change :

"The World Climate Conference has drawn to a close in Buenos Aires without any agreement on how to replace the Kyoto protocol on greenhouse gases." News - Latest News - Climate Change Summit Ends with 'More Talks' Plan News - Latest News - Climate Change Summit Ends with 'More Talks' Plan:

"A United Nations conference ended today with a vague plan for informal new talks on how to slow global warming, but without a US commitment to multilateral negotiations on next steps, including emissions controls.

"'The Americans reached a good agreement with the Europeans,' Argentine diplomat Raul Estrada Oyuela said of the plan, which he helped broker in long hours of late-night talks in Buenos Aires.

"Others described it as at best a small step to keep the multilateral process moving on climate change. 'It's a finger-hold, like hanging on by your nails,' said Michael Zammit Cutajar of Malta, a veteran climate negotiator."

Iranian Winner of Nobel Peace Prize Not Able to Publish in the U / News / Boston Globe / Opinion / Op-ed / Iranian has a story to tell, but she can't sell it here

The book is to be a memoir, and was intended "help correct Western stereotypes of Islam, especially the image of Muslim women as docile, forlorn creatures."

Ellen Goodman writes, "let's take the bungled case of Shirin Ebadi, the first Muslim woman ever to win the Nobel Peace Prize. This Iranian dissident is being prevented from publishing her memoirs in the United States because of regulations that prohibit 'trading with the enemy.'"

King and McGrath’s Knowledge for Development: Comment 9

Thoughts while reading the SIDA chapter in King and McGrath’s Knowledge for Development

I have long been under the impression that the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, SIDA, is a leader in building knowledge capacity in developing nations. SAREC, the research and development component of SIDA, also seems to me to be a leader in the field of science and technology. I think King and McGrath would agree.

SIDA, and especially SAREC, is portrayed as continuing to support research and higher education when other donor agencies moved into other programs. I would note that donor agencies seek niches in which they have comparative advantage, can work, and can have cost-effective programs. SIDA may well have found research and higher education such niches just because they were relatively poorly supported by other agencies.

Knowledge and culture

King and McGrath do not note, but in my experience it is true, that donor agencies have different "knoledge cultures" in their different geographic bureaus. In USAID, for example, the approaches used in Africa were different than those used in Latin America, which were different again than those used in Central and Eastern Europe. I suspect that the differences come in part from the differences in client cultures and in economic conditions among those geographic regions, but they may also result from the growth of sub-organizational cultures over decades within the donor agencies themselves. Thus the need for Spanish speaking officers in Latin America versus the need to work in French and English in Africa leads to officers tending to specialize in one or the other region, and to allow differences in organizational cultures among bureaus to accumulate.

I wonder if the fact that SIDA differs from USAID in part because Swedish is a language that few in developing nations understand, while English is very widely spoken?

There are also cultural differences in approaches toward knowledge among the sectors. It has been thought that the knowledge system in agriculture is more developed than that in health, which is in turn more developed than that in environmental programs. The agricultural sector has a very clear knowledge structure built around the International Agricultural Research Centers (IARCs) which tend to do the more fundamental research, and the National Agricultural Research Centers (NARCs) which tend to adapt improved varieties to local conditions in their countries. The health sector has largely avoided the creation of a network of international biomedical research centers located in developing nations (the IDDRC-B being an exception). When the Tropical Disease Research (TDR) program was created, it explicitly selected an approach making grants to research labs within developing country universities and government research organizations, rather than building new, internationally-financed medical research institutes.

It was fun, when I was involved with peer review of research proposals to see the differences in panels from different sectors. I really think that agricultural scientists tend to talk more slowly than do biomedical researchers. There is kind of a "good old boy" persona among the aggies.

There is a theory that institutional patterns relate to the zeitgeist at the time the institution solidified. The first of the IARCs dates from the 1930’s, while (as I recall) the TDR dates from the 1970s. It may be that the difference in knowledge systems in these sectors reflects in part the dominant cultures in the research and development community at the time they came into being. On the other hand, crop improvement R&D has a logic based on the nature of crops and farming, while biomedical research has a different logic based on the nature of disease and medicine. The institutionalization of sectoral knowledge systems must have some relationship to these realities. Similarly, the advent of biotechnology and the changes in intellectual property rights are driving the shift of crop improvement R&D into the private sector in developed nations, and away from the public sector where such R&D had in the past been seen as producing public goods.

I wonder also whether Swedish culture, which appears to me to be quite rational and valuing knowledge (as compared with other national cultures, especially those of nations with low levels of formal education) affects SIDA’s apparent emphasis on knowledge.

How new is K4D?

King and McGrath focus primarily on SIDA in the last 15 years. They seem to accept statements made in SIDA publications from that period at face value, and as a result seem to me to fail to appreciate how long some of the ideas mentioned have been circulating in the development community.

For example, there were U.N. conferences on science and technology for development in 1979 and in the 1960’s, and the creation of the science program of UNESCO goes further back. The 1979 conference seemed to express much of the thought attributed to SAREC in the last decade and a half. Indeed, SAREC was created in 1975, when the UNCSTD thinking was much in the air, and abolished as a separate agency in 1995 (when it was incorporated into SIDA).

The U.S. major initiative for UNCSTD was the Institute for Scientific and Technological Cooperation (ISTC). In fact, due partly to a change in Administration, the U.S. Congress never funded the ISTC, but did authorize and fund the creation of a Program of Science and Technology Cooperation (PSTC). PSTC operated from 1981 to the late 1990’s, funding research grants primarily to laboratories in developing nations, believing that the best way to build capacity to do research is to do research. It, like key USAID higher-education programs of the period, stressed linkages between developing country organizations and U.S. counterparts, and sought to avoid creating long term dependency. In these way its approach appears to have been similar to that of SIDA.

Institutional development

King and McGrath suggest that SIDA’s emphasis on capacity and institutional development traces to Douglas North’s work dated to 1990 (page 141). I am sure North was influential, but I note in Melvin Blasé’s 1973 book, Institution Building: A Source Book, he traces the coining of the term “institution building” more than 20 years earlier.

Indeed the term in USAID is associated with the codification of experience in building institutions of higher learning in developing nations, especially agricultural colleges. This had been a major focus of U.S. development assistance in the 1960’s. Social scientists in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s tried to develop a framework for the understanding of this experience. Let me quote from Milton Esman, one of the founders of the movement, from a paper titled “Institution Building as a Guide to Action”:

Institution-building may be defined as the planning, structuring, and guidance of new or reconstituted organizations which a) embody changes in values, functions, physical and/or social technologies, b) establish, foster, and protect new normative relationships and action patterns, and c) obtain support and complementarity in the environment. (1966)

The thinking sounds pretty contemporary to me. And indeed, the concern for building institutional capacity in key knowledge organizations in developing nations remains today.

Development Assistance changes with development

In Latin America and Asia, there has been great development of universities and of government research laboratories over the decades. Moreover, private universities and corporate R&D labs have in some cases grown to rival or to supplant public institutions in some developing nations. In the 1950's and 60's, there was indeed a need for bricks and mortar – building the physical infrastructure. Not surprisingly, for those countries that developed, the needs for assistance have changed. Now a lot of the help comes in the form of higher education for their citizens who will (often) return to their countries to work in the knowledge industries, and international higher-education has grown enormously. Development agencies in these cases have changed support mechanisms due to changing needs, not changing ideologies.

On the other hand, many countries have not experienced development, and it has become apparent that efforts using traditional techniques to build knowledge institutions in such countries are often futile. So too, development agencies have sought new alternatives for institutional development in the poorest countries.

Thus, the shift in programs and paradigms is in some cases responsive to a shift in the situation, and in the priority needs that the donors seek to address.


A major change has occurred in knowledge related donor assistance since 1990 due to the improvements in information and communications technologies, and the massive expansion of the information infrastructure, even in poor nations. The United Nations Computer Center, first conceptualized as a computer serving the poor nations of the world, was transformed into the International Bureau for Informatics, which eventually died. I think these were very early responses to a situation not yet ripe.

Le Centre Mondial Informatique et Ressource Humaine, created in Paris about 1980, contemporaneous with the advent of the IBM PC, was relatively short lived, as the infrastructure and technology still would not yet support its ambitious objectives. The U.S. Agency for International Development spokesperson testified before Congress at the time that the government did not believe that ICT sectoral programs were appropriate, and that all that needed to be done was to introduce PC’s appropriately into client government agencies in the agricultural, health, and other sectoral programs. At the time he may have had some justification for that position.

A few people in donor agencies thought differently, and indeed the National Academy of Sciences published a series of books on microcomputers for development during the 1980's and early 1990's. In the early 1990’s, the advent of the Internet could be seen as a benchmark for the changing attitudes. When I organized a meeting in USAID in 1991 on networking and its development potential, it generated great interest, and about that USAID made its first Internet grant, supporting what eventually became an Internet backbone for Central America.

But the Leland Initiative, infoDev, and other initiatives in the late 1990’s and after indicated that the ICT sector had finally arrived in donor consciousness.


I have great respect for the work that the Rockefeller, Ford and Carnegie Foundations have done in building knowledge systems over the decades. It is too bad that King and McGrath did not include the foundations in their report. The foundations have, I think, often pioneered research and development programming in international development. Carnegie has been in the forefront of efforts to support policy research in technology and health. The Freidrich Ebert Siftung (Foundation) in Germany, perhaps in keeping with its roots in a political party, has shown great leadership in building media capacity in developing nations.

Are Evaluations Useful: Cases from Swedish Development Co-Operation

Are Evaluations Useful: Cases from Swedish Development Co-Operation

This report evaluates Sida's evaluations, finding that they are less influential, or influential in different ways than the evaluators themselves appear to have envisioned. The authors find that stakeholders influence the evaluation findings, that the evaluations form part of an ongoing dialog, and that they may be used in support of preexisting decisions or by outsiders to challenge such decisions.

It seems to me that they should have realized these things without needing to do the study. It is very refreshing to see evaluators taking evaluators to task, however!

By Jerker Carlsson et al., Sida Studies in Evaluation, 99/1, Sida, 1999. (PDF, 78 pages.)

Friday, December 17, 2004

SCI-BYTES: Public Health & Health-Care Science: High-Impact U.S. Universities, 1999-2003

SCI-BYTES: Public Health & Health-Care Science: High-Impact U.S. Universities, 1999-2003:

"Ranked by average citations per paper, among the top 100 federally funded U.S. universities that published at least 75 papers in Thomson Scientific-indexed journals of public health and health-care science between 1999 and 2003."

The New York Times > AP > International > WHO Urges Preparation for Flu Outbreak

The New York Times > AP > International > WHO Urges Preparation for Flu Outbreak:

"Governments must brace for a future flu outbreak because one will strike inevitably, the World Health Organization said Wednesday.

"'Influenza pandemics are natural phenomenon, like earthquakes,'' said Klaus Stohr, coordinator of the global flu program at the WHO. 'The problem is bad preparedness.''

"Influenza is highly contagious and has killed millions over the past 100 years. It has traditionally moved in cycles, and some scientists say a major outbreak is already overdue." Awards 2004 Awards 2004

" today announced its list of the Top Ten Most Embarrassing Moments in Health and Environmental Science for 2004. The list spotlights individuals and organizations that -- through exaggerated claims, bad judgment, and/or hidden agendas -- have most egregiously undermined public confidence in the scientific community’s capacity to conduct sound and unbiased research." / World / UK - Report calls for more scrutiny of actuaries - Report calls for more scrutiny of actuaries: (Registration required.)

"The UK actuarial profession, which exerts enormous influence over how people save for the long-term, is to be regulated for the first time under proposals unveiled on Friday..........

"'An actuary who, in the early 1990's, persisted with forecasts of inflation and interest rates that in the event turned out to be correct would at that time have lost a substantial among of credibility,' Sir Derek (Morris, leader of the government inquiry) said.

"By the late 1990's and early 2000, it had become more widely apparent that low investment returns and inflation were here to stay for some time, and the profession reacted far too slowly, he concluded.

"'Actuaries, as the relevant experts, were too slow to adjust to the changing circumstances; were, with some exceptions too inflexible to consider or reflect sufficiently on the likelihood or the consequences of large adverse movements,' and therefore painted a rosier view of events than turned out to be the case, he said."

I suspect I have not paid enough attention to the actuarial certification of knowledge, especially demographic and financial knowledge. It is important, and I suspect that actuaries have a very hard job. If the UK's regulation of actuaries is deficient, what must the regulation be like in developing nations? - FDA staff concerned - FDA staff concerned:

"About two-thirds of Food and Drug Administration scientists are less than fully confident in the agency's monitoring of the safety of prescription drugs now being sold, according to an FDA internal survey. And more than a third have some doubts about the process for approving new drugs."

Indo-U.S. Science and Technology Forum

Indo-U.S. Science and Technology Forum

Remarks by Ambassador David C. Mulford at a meeting of the Indo-U.S. Science and Technology Forum in New Delhi, December 3, 2004.

"Our two governments have agreed to support the Indo-U.S. Science and Technology Forum. This is a center of creative energy where the vision and ideas of individuals can flourish. It is deeply satisfying to see the Forum offices open for business.

"This is especially so because we now see that the U.S. and India are more committed than ever before to creating the institutional framework that encourages, indeed promotes, the power and genius of our nations' scientists. We already share, as two great nations, an abiding interest and faith in science and technology. We are natural partners here and together can create opportunities beyond our present imaginations for growth, prosperity and a better life for all our peoples."

Thursday, December 16, 2004

THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN: Bush Administration Holding Up Arab Human Development Report

New York Times/THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN: "Holding Up Arab Reform": December 16, 2004 (Registration required.)

The third Arab Human Development Report was due in October. "It was going to be pure TNT, because it was going to tackle the issue of governance and misgovernance in the Arab world, and the legal, institutional and religious impediments to political reform. These are the guts of the issue out here. I waited. And I waited. But nothing.

"Then I started to hear disturbing things - that the Bush team saw a draft of the Arab governance report and objected to the prologue, because it was brutally critical of the U.S. invasion of Iraq and the Israeli occupation. This prologue constitutes some 10 percent of the report. While heartfelt, it's there to give political cover to the Arab authors for their clear-eyed critique of Arab governance, which is the other 90 percent of the report.

"But the Bush team is apparently insisting that language critical of America and Israel be changed - as if language 10 times worse can't be heard on Arab satellite TV every day. And until it's changed, the Bush folks are apparently ready to see the report delayed or killed altogether. And they have an ally. The government of Egypt, which is criticized in the report, also doesn't want it out - along with some other Arab regimes.

"So there you have it: a group of serious Arab intellectuals - who are neither sellouts nor bomb throwers - has produced a powerful analysis, in Arabic, of the lagging state of governance in the Arab world. It is just the sort of independent report that could fuel the emerging debate on Arab reform. But Bush officials, along with Arab autocrats, are holding it up until it is modified to their liking - even if that means it won't appear at all."

King and McGrath’s Knowledge for Development: Comment 8

More thoughts occasioned by reading King and McGrath, Knowledge for Development.

Discarding false beliefs

I believe many concepts to be true.
One of the concepts I believe to be true
Is that some of the concepts that I believe to be true
Are not true.

One definition of knowledge might be “concepts believed to be true that are true”. Concepts believed to be true which are not true might be termed “false beliefs”. How important are false beliefs of concepts? Consider the apparently false belief by the Bush Administration that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq -- a belief which lead to invasion and an estimated 100,000 extra deaths so far.

An important form of learning then is the degrading of confidence and ultimately the discarding of false beliefs. Any consideration of the history of development assistance suggests that many of the beliefs on which such assistance was based have been degraded and/or discarded with time. Thus “top down” development was replaced by “grass roots” development, which in turn fell to “participatory development”, “structural readjustment”, and so on, and so on.

Patterns of Knowledge/Selection of information/Selective Learning

Donor agencies can’t know everything. There is some truth in the analogy that trying to absorb information these days is like drinking from a fire-hose. At a minimum, agencies have to have knowledge about the countries in which they work – their economies, political systems and politics, cultures, languages, etc. The agencies have to have knowledge about the development programs in those countries, and the ways those programs are supported by other donors. They have to have knowledge about development theory and practice, and about the sectors in which they work. Agencies need knowledge about the real world – the environments, resources, and infrastructure of the countries in which they work. The list goes on and on. The potentially useful knowledge base includes, importantly, knowledge of the agency's constituencies in the developed nation’s that the Agency serves, and the interests, preferences, power, and authority of those various constituencies. Information is being generated rapidly on many if not all of these topics, overwhelming the absorptive capacity of agency staffs.

The ability to acquire, organize, and utilize knowledge is clearly limited. Thus (according to OECD figures) the UK, with annual official development assistance (ODA) of US$6,282 in 2003 may be assumed to have more staff and more “knowledge for development” capacity than Sweden, with ODA in 2003 of US$2,400, but less than that of Japan with ODA that year of US$8,880. On the other hand, much of these nations’ ODA is provided through multilateral channels, and thus less closely supervised by their governments than the bilateral assistance provided by DfID, SIDA and JICA. The World Bank is, I think, the largest donor agency in terms of staff and facilities, and thus might be expected to have more “knowledge for development” capacity than the bilateral agencies. But even that capacity seems small as compared with the flood of information flowing in the world today.

I suggest that a critical issue for donor agencies is somehow to selectively acquire information and to develop a pattern of knowledge and knowledge activities that best meets their needs. Let me give an analogy. I had a college friend who spent some ten years as an undergraduate, changing majors from year to year. He acquired a great deal of knowledge, but it was rather shallow knowledge about a large variety of subjects. In ten years, it would have been equally possible to finish undergraduate and graduate training to the doctoral level. I that case, my friend might have acquired an equal (or perhaps lesser) quantity of knowledge, but in a pattern that was deeper but more specialized. He might have gained valuable expertise in a field such as medicine or science. So too, a donor agency (especially a small agency) might do well to specialize geographically and by sector, gaining expertise but giving up some areas of knowledge in the process.

The onion model for organizational knowledge

As I write this, I sit at my computer in my office. I use my personal knowledge, internalized (presumably in my brain but also in skills such as typing that are perhaps not totally cerebral). I draw on information already in my computer, especially frequently in the software that knows how to spell (since I don’t have much of that knowledge). I also draw on several hundred books and other publications surrounding me. I frequently use the Internet to access information that I don’t have immediately at hand. I sometimes ask people questions, in person, by phone, or by email. I find it useful to conceptualize this process with an “onion” model. There is an inner core for knowledge and information processing, but there are layers on layers of external sources of knowledge and information upon which I draw.

In like manner, one can conceptualize an organization as having an inner core of knowledge and information, and layers upon layers of external sources. A donor agency’s inner corps might be its staff, and the knowledge embedded in its organization, processes, data bases, libraries, etc. Agencies can augment that inner corps of knowledge and information, drawing on former employees, consultants, contractors, other donors (through collaborative processes and links), academics, clients, NGOs, etc. Indeed, I suspect that the most important knowledge capacities lie in the abilities to locate, tap and utilize well knowledge available to but outside of the core of the agency staff.


I mentioned above, it is important for an organization to stop using false beliefs, and one might consider this a form of forgetting. But more generally, if knowledge is internalized information, then one should not be concerned only with learning (or the internalization process) but also with forgetting, or the loss of knowledge or the availability of knowledge. Consider three different forms of forgetting:

· Inability to immediately recall information. As I get older I have more experience of temporary inability to access knowledge that I still have. I know a name, but it may take a few minutes or longer to bring it to mind. So too, organizations may have knowledge internalized somewhere, but be unable to bring that knowledge to bear for a decision for which it would be useful. A staffing change might, for example, remove a person to country B who has the knowledge needed for a decision in country A, replacing him with a person without that knowledge and without the ability to obtain advice from the person in country A. Similarly, the agency might have an ongoing relationship with a consultant with the relevant knowledge, but be unable to link the consultant with the decision where the knowledge is needed.

· More generally, the “onion” model of organizational knowledge described above suggests that organizations often must find that the transaction-cost of bringing knowledge available to them to bear on specific decisions exceeds the benefits that the added knowledge would bring to the decision process. Perhaps even more likely, agency staff may not realize that they have access to relevant knowledge in the outer shells of the agency’s knowledge system, or even that there is relevant knowledge that would improve decision making. In these cases, it might be considered that the organization has forgotten that knowledge, or has “forgotten” how to access the knowledge.

· Permanent forgetting: Of course, sometimes knowledge is lost permanently to an organization, either not available at all or needing to be relearned. Unfortunately, not all that is forgotten is false belief, much is useful knowledge. Indeed, I have heard development agencies described as having two or three years experience, repeated ten or twenty times.

Knowledge as capital/depreciation of knowledge

It is sometimes useful to regard knowledge as a form of capital. It certainly requires resources to create new information and to embody that information in forms that make it accessible to an organization. Appropriate utilization of the knowledge over time result in a stream of benefits that (ideally) repays the initial investment.

But knowledge has a limited useful lifetime. Let me give an example. Each year, there is an agreement as to the proper flu vaccine to produce. The effectiveness of the vaccine is only learned after hundreds of millions of doses have been administered, and the incidence and seriousness of the year’s flu epidemic have been measured. But the immunization campaign and the flu epidemic result in evolutionary change in the population of flu viruses and change the susceptibility of the population to the various flu strains, The next year, a new vaccine will almost surely be needed. Occasionally, as in 1968, health officials will guess wrong, and millions will die of flu. The knowledge of the effectiveness of a vaccine is outdated before it is fully reaized!

Some knowledge lasts a long time, Newton’s theory comes to mind as having a useful lifetime measured in centuries. But in many other cases, knowledge has a useful lifetime measured in years. Social, economic, political, environmental and other situations change, outdating formerly useful knowledge. It is important that organizations forget this outdated knowledge, shifting to new knowledge that is useful and avoiding use of formerly useful concepts that have become false beliefs.

I think the analogy between an organization investing in machines and investing in knowledge is instructive. There is an up-front investment needed to buy a machine, or to acquire knowledge. Some machines are useful for a long time, some wear out quickly; some knowledge remains useful for a long time, some loses value quickly. Resources are needed to maintain machines, and to maintain knowledge. Machines are sometimes replaced not because they are not useful, but because a more cost-effective machine has become available, and so to some knowledge should be replaced, not because it is false, but because better knowledge has become available. And forgetting is in some sense analogous to the deterioration of equipment, resulting in a depreciation of an organizational asset.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

NIH Reveals Problems with Nevirapine anti-AIDS drug tests in Uganda

The New York Times: U.S. Officials Knew of AIDS Drug Risks:

"The government's research on using an AIDS drug to protect African babies was so flawed that health officials had to use blood tests after the fact to confirm patients got the medicine. Ultimately, they had to acknowledge the study broke federal patient protection rules........

"Ultimately, NIH did stop the Uganda research for 15 months -- from the spring of 2002 to the summer of 2003 -- to review the science and take corrective actions..........

"they acknowledged their Uganda research failed to meet required U.S. standards and have asked the National Academy of Sciences to investigate..........

"Though the White House was never told of the problems, they were serious enough that the U.S. Health and Human Services Department sent a nine-page letter to Ugandan officials identifying violations of federal patient protection rules by NIH's research.......

"In 1997, NIH began studying in Uganda whether it could be given safely in single doses to stop mother-to-baby HIV transmission. That research showed it could reduce transmission in as many as half the births.

"But by early 2002, an NIH auditor, the agency's medical safety experts and the drug's maker all disclosed widespread problems about the U.S.-funded research in Uganda.......

"Boehringer and NIH auditors cited concerns such as failing to get patients' consent about changes in the experiment, administering wrong doses and delays and underreporting of ``fatal and life threatening'' problems.

"'It appeared likely, in fact, that many adverse events and perhaps a significant number of serious adverse events for both mother and infant may not have been collected or reported in a timely manner,'' Westat Corp. found in March 2002. Westat is a medical auditing firm hired by NIH to visit and audit the Uganda site.

"Westat reported there were 14 deaths not reported in the study database as of early 2002 and that the top two researchers in Uganda acknowledged thousands of bad reactions that weren't disclosed."



The International Technology Education Association is a professional educational association and information clearinghouse devoted to enhancing technology education through experiences in our schools (K-12). Its website states that ITEA "represents more than 40,000 technology educators in the U.S. alone who are developers, administrators, and university personnel in the field representing all levels of education." ITEA currently has locations in 13 countries "where information is available about the association and its benefits. Each of these locations has an ambassador who may be geographically closer to you or speak your language." The Association has developed Standards and Benchmarks for Technological Literacy in primary and secondary schools. It has also developed Student Assessment, Professional Development, and Program Standards (AETL) . While the large majority of the U.S. population appears to think first of ICT when the word "technology" is mentioned, ITEA correctly views technology in a larger sense, including for example, health and agricultural technologies. Of course the U.S. standards would not be directly transferrable to other nations, but the approach to defining standards and benchmarks is, and the ITEA approach might be emulated widely.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Yahoo! News - Rice genome fully decoded by international science team

Yahoo! News - Rice genome fully decoded by international science team:

"An international team of scientists has fully decoded the rice genome, a feat that could help breed new varieties of grains more resistant to diseases and the elements, a Japanese researcher revealed."

"Takuji Sasaki said that the group had completed mapping some 370 million -- or 95 percent -- out of 390 million base pairs of genome with an accuracy of 99.99 percent.

"The ratio of 95 percent is the upper limit that is technically possible under current techniques, he said Monday.

"The new research follows a December 2002 announcement from the consortium that it had deciphered the genome after mapping of 92 percent of it, an event hailed then as 'as epoch-making as the decoding of the human genome' by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi."

Pentagon Weighs Use of Deception in a Broad Arena:

The New York Times: Hearts and Minds: Pentagon Weighs Use of Deception in a Broad Arena: (Registration required.)

"The Pentagon is engaged in bitter, high-level debate over how far it can and should go in managing or manipulating information to influence opinion abroad, senior Defense Department civilians and military officers say.

"Such missions, if approved, could take the deceptive techniques endorsed for use on the battlefield to confuse an adversary and adopt them for covert propaganda campaigns aimed at neutral and even allied nations."

The New York Times: Cheers, and Concern, for New Climate Pact

The New York Times: Cheers, and Concern, for New Climate Pact: (Registration required.)

"With the United States keeping to the sidelines, delegates from more than 190 countries have gathered here both to celebrate the enactment of the Kyoto Protocol, the first treaty requiring cuts in greenhouse gases linked to global warming, and to look beyond 2012, when its terms expire.

"Many delegates and experts concede that the pact, negotiated in 1997, is deeply flawed and that years of delays in finishing its rulebook mean that many adherents may have trouble meeting their targets for emissions cuts.
Its impact will also be limited because it exempts developing countries, including fast-industrializing giants like China and India, from emissions restrictions, and lacks the support of the United States, the world's dominant source of the heat-trapping gases."

Vaccines vs. bednets: the malaria dilemma

SciDev.Net: Vaccines vs. bednets: the malaria dilemma :

"There are few clearer examples of the need to combine high-tech solutions to development issues with the reality of problems as experienced and perceived on the ground than the challenge of designing an international strategy to combat malaria."

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Foreign Policy: NGOs: Fighting Poverty, Hurting the Poor

Foreign Policy: NGOs: Fighting Poverty, Hurting the Poor

"The World Bank’s predicament is part of a larger conundrum that bedevils globalization. In many of the world’s rich capitals, and especially in Washington, public policy is decided by a bewildering array of interest groups campaigning single-mindedly for narrow goals. A similar army of advocates pounds upon big international institutions like the bank, demanding they bend to particular concerns: no damage to indigenous peoples, no harm to rain forests, nothing that might threaten human rights, or Tibet, or democratic values. However noble many of the activists’ motives, and however flawed the big institutions’ record, this constant campaigning threatens to disable not just the World Bank but regional development banks and governmental aid organizations such as the U.S. Agency for International Development. If this takes place, the world may lose the potential for good that big organizations offer: to rise above the single-issue advocacy that small groups tend to pursue and to square off against humanity’s grandest problems in all their hideous complexity.....

"The fight is not over yet. The NGOs that campaigned against the Camisea project are pushing the IDB to adopt new environmental safeguards at least as tough as those of the World Bank—safeguards which NGOs can then use to block future projects. If they win, the IDB will have embraced the agenda of the environmental movement, to the possible detriment of poor borrowing countries."

Consortium Hopes to Map Human History in Asia

Science -- Normile 306 (5702): 1667a -- "Consortium Hopes to Map Human History in Asia": (subscription required.)

"Researchers from 11 Asian countries and regions have forged a landmark agreement to study genetic diversity throughout Asia. Describing their goal as a 'genetic map of human history in Asia,' they intend to collect blood samples from their populations and analyze them for single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs)--sites where a single nucleotide in the genome sequence varies from one individual to another. In addition to hinting at the patterns of migration and settlement throughout the continent, the map could be a step toward identifying genetic characteristics associated with certain diseases.

"'We are aware that scientifically, the impact of this work may be considered by some as incremental. But we are convinced that this heralds the rise of Asian biosciences,' says Edison Liu, executive director of the Genome Institute of Singapore and one of the key organizers of the effort."

India, China Vie for Best Look at the Moon

Science -- Bagla 306 (5702): 1666a -- "India, China Vie for Best Look at the Moon": (subscription required.)

"Last week, at an international meeting here* on lunar exploration, Chinese scientists presented details of the country's planned lunar orbiter mission, named Chang'e, to be launched sometime in 2007. Not to be outdone, Indian space officials revealed at the same time that they have added an impactor probe to the suite of instruments aboard Chandrayaan-1, which is headed to the moon the same year. The increased attention to Earth's closest neighbor is not lost on space scientists from other countries."

U.S. SCIENCE BUDGET: Science Agencies Caught in Postelection Spending Squeeze

Science -- Lawler and Mervis 306 (5702): 1662 -- "U.S. SCIENCE BUDGET: Science Agencies Caught in Postelection Spending Squeeze": (subscription required.)

"An Administration determined to hold down spending in all but a handful of priority areas imposed its will on a lame-duck Congress shortly before the Thanksgiving holiday (Science, 26 November, p. 1453). The result was a turkey of a 2005 science budget for the majority of researchers--and the odds are that next year's menu will feature more of the same.

"Homeland security and defense research came away the big winners in the budget for the 2005 fiscal year, which began on 1 October, with NASA getting a last-minute boost and the Department of Energy's (DOE's) science programs doing surprisingly well. The National Science Foundation (NSF), on the other hand, took a cut despite promises of lofty growth, while the formerly high-flying National Institutes of Health (NIH) eked out a small increase for the second year in a row."

The Omnibus Bill Isn't Only About Dollars

Science -- Bhattacharjee et al. 306 (5702): 1663 -- "The Omnibus Bill Isn't Only About Dollars":

"- H-1B visas: The omnibus bill allows the State Department to grant 20,000 additional H-1B visas every year to foreign nationals with a master's or a Ph.D. from a U.S. university. Business and academic organizations lobbied for the legislation after this year's quota of 65,000 H-1B visas--open to skilled foreign workers regardless of educational qualification--was reached on 1 October, the first day of the fiscal year. A previous cap of 195,000 expired in 2003.......

"- NIH management: The omnibus bill drops provisions added by the House of Representatives that would have barred funds for two psychology research grants opposed by conservatives and imposed a 50-person limit on NIH attendance at foreign meetings. The bill also tells NIH officials to consider all the comments on its proposal to increase public access to NIH-funded research papers and to provide Congress with a cost estimate."

NIH Public Access Policy

Science -- Zerhouni 306 (5703): 1895 "NIH Public Access Policy": (subscription required)

"The National Institute of Health's proposed public access policy will create a stable and permanent archive of peer-reviewed, NIH-funded research publications. This archive, described in the Policy Forum by Elias Zerhouni, will enhance NIH's ability to manage its research portfolio and to provide the public with access to published findings. It will also augment the ability of scientists to exchange information more effectively, while preserving the critical role of journals and publishers in peer review, editing, and scientific quality control."

Yahoo! News - Livewire: News and Info Junkies Take New Look at RSS

Yahoo! News - Livewire: News and Info Junkies Take New Look at RSS:

"Users say the simple utility of RSS is its greatest strength. Popular demand, together with higher-capacity networks and a crop of RSS-related readers that make it easier to keep track of massive amounts of incoming information, have lately caught the eye of venture capitalists.

"'What's old is what's new again,' said Jim Pitkow, president and CEO of Moreover (, an early RSS supporter that in 2000 snagged $21 million in venture funding........

"Internet media company Yahoo Inc. (Nasdaq:YHOO - news) has offered RSS feeds for two years on the news section of its site, and recently added RSS to My Yahoo in a bid to make it easier for individual users to pick the news they want to receive."

This blog has an RSS site feed.

(You can also use Bloglines to get your RSS feeds combined.)

WHO | Estimating the impact of the next influenza pandemic: enhancing preparedness

WHO | Estimating the impact of the next influenza pandemic: enhancing preparedness:

"Even in the best case scenarios of the next pandemic, 2 to 7 million people would die and tens of millions would require medical attention. If the next pandemic virus is a very virulent strain, deaths could be dramatically higher.

"The global spread of a pandemic cannot be stopped but preparedness will reduce its impact. WHO will continue to urge preparedness and assist Member States in these activities. In the next few weeks, WHO will be publishing a national assessment tool to evaluate and focus national preparedness efforts. WHO will also be providing guidance on stockpiling antivirals and vaccines. Next week, WHO will be convening an expert meeting on preparedness planning. WHO is also working to advance development of pandemic virus vaccines, and to expedite research efforts to understand the mechanisms of emergence and spread of influenza pandemics.....

"WHO believes the appearance of H5N1, which is now widely entrenched in Asia, signals that the world has moved closer to the next pandemic. While it is impossible to accurately forecast the magnitude of the next pandemic, we do know that much of the world is unprepared for a pandemic of any size."

ABC News: Islamic Countries Commit to Reforms

ABC News: Islamic Countries Commit to Reforms:

"Officials from more than 20 Islamic countries said Saturday that political, economic and social reforms must go hand in hand with steps toward settling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict......The United States, a driving force behind the conference, sees the changes as a way to make these societies less of a breeding ground for political extremism. At a news conference after the discussions, Secretary of State Colin Powell said he was not disappointed that the Muslim delegates insisted on linking internal reforms to the Mideast dispute."


"Much of the discussion, conducted mostly in private, focused on raising the low literacy rates in the region and on ways to provide equal treatment for women. Economic development also was on the agenda. Treasury Secretary John Snow said the region's unemployment rate is about 50 percent. 'The best development program is a job,' Snow told reporters. 'And a job comes from growth.'"

Guardian Unlimited/Special reports -- Warning as bird flu crossover danger escalates

Guardian Unlimited/Special reports: Warning as bird flu crossover danger escalates

Thousands of Asians have had their livelihoods devastated because their poultry has become infected by the H5N1 varient of the bird flu virus. Tens of thousands of ducks and chickens have been infected and tens of millions have been culled this year in a bid to stop the disease spreading. Economists believe this price tag for China alone has been 31 billion British pounds. The figure for the whole of South-East Asia is double that.

Health officials, however, for they are desperate to stop the disease spreading - not just to other poultry but to humans. The farms of South-East Asia, where humans and animals live beside each other in tiny yards and huts, have become a vast reservoir for the H5N1 virus, and that chills not just local officials but the world's health authorities."

The lethality of the H5N1 virus is high in the few reported cases, it is believed there is little resistance in the world population to this new variety, and modern travel can make spread of viruses rapid.

The influenza pandemic of 1918-1919 killed somewhere between 20 and 40 million people.

Robin McKie, Jo Revill, John Aglionby and Jonathan Watts, The Guardian Unlimited, December 12, 2004

Saturday, December 11, 2004 |--Third-world biotechnology -- Third-world biotechnology:

"'THE future belongs to science and those who make friends with science,' Jawaharlal Nehru, India's first prime minister, observed. But cutting-edge research -- the stuff of shiny labs and brainy boffins'is seen largely as the preserve of Europe and America, not something to be found in poor places such as India. Yet India, China and several other developing countries have shown they can move beyond western imitation to homegrown innovation in certain fields, such as telecommunications and information technology"


"There is also plenty of scope for poor countries to work with, and learn from, one another. Last month, scientists from 11 Asian countries formed a consortium to study genetic variations in their populations. Farther afield, Heber Biotec, a Cuban operation, is working with Indian and Malaysian companies to manufacture and market its biotechnology products. Rich countries should pay attention, too. Dr Singer (Peter Singer, director of the Joint Centre for Bioethics at the University of Toronto) argues that donors would do well to consider investing in biotech, and encourage their private firms to establish partnerships with research centres in poorer places, as part of their overseas-aid packages. A few countries, such as Canada and Britain, are placing more emphasis on science in their foreign assistance, but there is room for development. For poor countries, a little biotech could be just what the doctor ordered." -- Genome sequencing -- Genome sequencing:

This week, researchers led from the Beijing Institute of Genomics, have published in Science the genome of Bombyx mori, the domesticated silkworm. The first avian genome sequenced, that of the chicken, was also announced this week, in Nature. Dr Wong's team from the Beijing Institute also made a significant contribution by comparing the genome of the wild red jungle fowl of South East Asia, the ancestor of the domestic chicken, with several agricultural varieties.

"The sequencing of new genomes is now becoming so commonplace that in one sense it scarcely merits reporting. But the addition of these two to the repertoire is important for two reasons. First, it confirms China's rise to prominence as a power in the world of genomics. Second, it allows biologists to start comparing species from related, but not too closely related, groups of organisms. The line that led to birds separated from the one that led to mammals some 310m years ago. The separation of the moth line from the fly line happened at about the same time." -- Famine insurance -- Famine insurance:

"The (World Food Program) WFP could buy an insurance policy that paid out when, say, the rainfall in Ethiopia was below a certain level. Or it could issue 'catastrophe bonds'. In years of good or mediocre rainfall, the WFP would pay interest, out of its income from donors, but when drought came, bondholders would lose their principal. Should disaster strike, the WFP would have ready cash. The WFP thinks its ideas would be cost-effective, though you might think investors would demand a stiff return for what looks like a high risk of losing money. Big reinsurance firms in rich countries may be tempted because they currently have very little exposure to the weather in the southern hemisphere, and it is always wise to diversify one's portfolio. Richard Wilcox, the man at the WFP assessing the scheme's feasibility, says he thinks it could be up and running by 2007."

I recall that USAID created a crop insurance/reinsurance program for Central American nations (in the 1980's I think.) It would be interesting to know how that worked out and how it compares with the WFP proposal.

King and McGrath’s Knowledge for Development: Comment 7

Comments on King and McGrath’ Knowledge for Development continued.

Monitoring and Evaluation

King and McGrath include the monitoring and evaluation programs of donor agencies in their discussion of knowledge systems within the agencies. This raises some questions in my mind.

Do monitoring and evaluation, as practiced by donor agencies, produce knowledge? Should they be expected to? Indeed, do they produce more information than disinformation?

In my experience, projects and program evaluations are done most often by hiring people to interview people. Often the interviewers are not trained in interview technique. Those interviewed can be expected to believe that their responses will influence future decisions about funding the follow-on activities. Often the lack of understanding of methodological issues by those planning and carrying out evaluations go far beyond lack of interviewing skills.

I vividly recall a call going out in a donor agency for “reliable people” to do “impact evaluations”. I have always assumed that those people selected were those who could be relied upon to make the agency look good, not those who could be relied upon to produce the most unbiased, complete and accurate picture of the impacts.

Self evaluation is often asked of those whose interests lie in making their efforts look good -- be they donor agency officers, project implementers, or host government officials.

There are all sorts of epistemological problems with evaluations as they are commonly done. They tend to compare project efforts and accomplishments with project objectives stated in pre-project documentation. There seems to me to be little reason to believe that such objectives were intended to be accurate when produced, nor that they could be accurate when projecting complex processes years in advance. Attribution of causality is invariably difficult in the complex evolution of development projects and programs. Often the important factors in multicausal, statistically indeterminate models are not fully identified, much less measured and given just weight in analysis. There are grave difficulties in counter-reality estimates – needed to measure the differences between what would have happened without the intervention versus what actually happened.

Certainly there is no alternative for fiduciary prudence in program and project management to monitoring efforts in progress, and evaluating efforts ex ante, during and ex post the project/program. Still, some considerable care should be used in evaluating the quality of information much less that of knowledge produced by monitoring and evaluation.


There is an issue of the timeliness of knowledge that King and McGrath might have considered in more detail. Knowledge that is achieved too late is of little help. Knowledge that is achieved too early must be saved until needed, and may be lost in the process. Just in time knowledge is perhaps to be preferred by utilitarian criteria, but knowledge may be also given an intrinsic value less dependent on timeliness.

Learning for Tomorrow's World: First results from PISA 2003

Learning for Tomorrow's World: First results from PISA 2003:

PISA is the Program for International Student Assessment of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Learning for Tomorrow's World: First results from PISA 2003 presents initial results from the PISA 2003 assessment. "PISA 2003 is the second assessment in the Programme: the first survey was in 2000. Well over a quarter of a million students in 41 countries took part in a two-hour test in their schools, assessing their skills in mathematics, reading, science and problem solving. All 30 OECD member countries participated, as well as 11 partner countries.

Finland, where there are no wholly-private schools, showed higher scores on average than the top-ranking schools in Hong-Kong, Japan and Korea in math and science. The United States showed up in the middle of the countries tested, but statistically-significantly below the OECD average. Serbia, Uruguay, Turkey, Thailand, Mexico, Brazil, Tunisia and Indonesia were at the bottom of the list.

Want a Jolt of Literature? Try Textpresso

The Scientist :: Want a Jolt of Literature? Try Textpresso!, Nov. 8, 2004:

"A new open-source tool called Textpresso can find a single fact just by typing in a quick search entry. Paul Sternberg's lab at the California Institute of Technology designed Textpresso to organize papers on Caenorhabditis elegans. Unlike the popular PubMed online search tool, Textpresso does a full text search. And unlike other text-search devices, Textpresso bases its search on ontological relationships, thus increasing its precision."

"Now that Textpresso has been incorporated into the Generic Model Organism Database project, other model organism databases also are building search engines using the search tool."