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Right to Science Exemplars: Development

The following exemplars demonstrate the steps that governments can take to ensure the "development" of science as required by Article 15.


Incentives for Innovation

The importance of innovation in driving scientific and technological development in order to address societal needs is widely recognized, but strategies for encouraging innovation vary. One of the poorest countries in the world, Burkina Faso, has implemented a long-term program for fostering innovation through the National Forum of Scientific Research and Technological Innovations (FRSIT), a government division that includes the Education Ministry and the Ministry of Trade and Commerce. FRSIT is responsible for managing a series of cash prizes for innovation in specified areas of societal need, and has instituted seven rounds of the innovation prize since the inaugural edition in 1994. In 2006, a total of 28 prizes were awarded for innovations ranging from the invention of a bike pedal-driven turbine used to pump water in desert regions to the development of nine new rice varieties to combat hunger and poverty.

Feeding a nation through cutting edge technology

Food is one of the most basic necessities of life, but many people, especially in developing countries, cannot obtain enough food to survive. One way in which states can utilize scientific and technological knowledge to help their citizens obtain sufficient nutrition is by developing crops resistant to particularly harsh and destructive environmental conditions, as Kenyas government has strived to do.

Although wheat is considered the second most important cereal in Kenya after maize, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations deems only 11.9% of Kenyas 56.9 million hectares as having high potential for wheat growth on account of the arid and semi-arid nature of Kenyan land. Also threatening the effective farming of wheat is a destructive fungus known as wheat rust, which has been identified as a global threat and which is causing significant damage to wheat crops throughout Africa. The significance of this fungus and the harm it causes are of particular concern given the increase in demand for wheat due to higher household incomes and the adoption of mechanized baking.

The Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI), a semi-autonomous government institution, was established in 1979 in accordance with Kenyas Science and Technology Act of 1977. Funded by the government, as well as regional and international partners, KARI manages research activities for government and private groups. In 1986, the Kenyan government acknowledged its responsibility to meet the basic food needs of its people in a Sessional Paper, and KARI was enlisted to help address the impending food crisis.

KARI successfully developed over 146 new forms of crops between 1985 and 2000. In 2001, KARI released Kenyas first drought-resistant wheat variety, called Njoro-BW1. Even on dry terrain, farmers harvesting Njoro-BW1 in 2001 reaped 20 bags of wheat for each planted acre, far surpassing the average in Kenya of 12 bags per acre. The high yield and durability of Njoro-BW1 in arid climates has made it popular to grow, and it has demonstrated some resistance to the wheat rust fungus destroying other crops. Njoro-BW1 is now grown on 10,000 hectares, and KARI is struggling to keep up with farmers requests for seed.

Science education

A strong research infrastructure can be critical in the rapid development of a country, and the creation of such an infrastructure requires the provision of quality science education at all levels. In the case of Korea, science and technology were key to rebuilding the post-war educational system in 1953, and to its rapid economic growth.

Park Chung Hee, leader and President of South Korea from 1961 until 1979, firmly believed in science as an integral part of the countrys development. Parks five-year plan, from 1962 1967, led to the development of the Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KIST). Founded in 1966, KIST was created to provide expertise in areas of research and innovation valuable to Korea both domestically and for export, but was not designed as a teaching institute. Following his five-year plan, Park shifted focus to securing intellectual resources. At the time, Korea was spending very little on research and development (R&D)  less than one half of one percent of its GNP  and the lack of jobs for science and engineering students created a brain drain, as students chose to study abroad and remain there. Pursuing Parks vision, the Economic Planning Board targeted these problems with tax breaks on R&D spending and greater fiscal investments in public research institutions, including the Korea Advanced Institute of Science (KAIS).

Founded in 1971, KAIS received USAID funding, as well as support from the Ministry of Science and Technology, the Economic Planning Board, and President Park. After consultation with American educational experts, Korean government officials, and Korean industry executives, it was decided that the mission of KAIS would focus on areas considered vital to the economy, including mechanical, chemical, and industrial engineering, and electronic sciences. The program began slowly. A two-year masters program accepted 100 new students each year, with the government covering tuition and a small stipend. KAIS sought faculty from among Korean scientists working in the US, offering incentives such as periodic sabbaticals, housing subsidies, and salaries four times the Korean average. KAIS built a strong relationship with industry, which was encouraged to contribute equipment and fellowships, while KAIS offered training to employees, summer programs, and, most crucially, a cohort of qualified graduates.

The impact of KAIST (as KAIS was renamed in 1981 after a merger with KIST) has been enormous. It now has 33,380 scientists as alumni, including heads of successful start-up ventures such as Medison and Qnix. On a larger scale, it has shown Korean industries that spending on R&D is a sound investment (in 2006 South Korea ranked seventh among nations in terms of R&D spending with US$24 billion), fueling innovation that contributed to an average annual economic growth rate of almost 10% from 19631993. In turn, the number of citizens emigrating from Korea has declined steadily over the past few years, from 15,917 in 1995 to 8,277 in 2006.