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East African Quaternary Research Association (EAQUA) Inaugural Workshop

I have spoken to one of the organizers of the above workshop (which is scheduled for 7-8th June 2007 in Kampala) which is under INQUA, informing him that I will be representing WAYS-Africa at that meeting, as assigned in the first executive committee meeting. I am yet to finalize the details of requirements for participation. I will keep you informed of the developments.

Thanks.
Kenneth.

Challenges of Science Education in Africa; the Ugandan Scene.

Introduction

The development of a modern civilization has a lot to do with advancement of science and technology. The quality of science education directly impacts on the extent of growth and development of science and technology. Consequently, it becomes evident that the amount of resources a nation or country puts into science teaching and research determines, to a fair extent, the level of scientific and technological advancement. Quality teaching of practical science is expensive. It is even more expensive to conduct research in science. In Africa, the private sector is not financially up to the task of execution of quality cutting edge research in science. It requires interplay of a strong private sector and keen interest and support from government. It is therefore important that African countries critically review their positions, support and involvement in programs that enhance science and technology.

The brains to excel in science are nurtured right from the early stages of learning. Africa has, over the years, produced these problem-solving brains. Some of them have their education completed here. Others have their advanced studies done in the developed countries. A good number of them leave Africa in search of greener pastures. It is important that the education system, instruction materials and teaching staff in Africa are of high quality. Working conditions that stimulate cutting edge science research need to be put in place to reduce brain drain. This can be possible with support from highly enthusiastic government organs that are charged with ensuring quality education and advancement of science. This presentation gives a brief overview of the state of science education in Uganda and gives a few suggestions to the way forward for science in Africa. This is based on the assumption that African countries and, indeed, most of the developing countries have a lot in common with the Ugandan situation.

Challenges of science in Uganda’s education system

Primary Education

The primary section is comprised of seven levels/years/forms of study. This is uniform in all government aided schools, except for private schools which may have nursery/kindergarten in addition. The curriculum mainly consists of Mathematics, English, Science and Social studies. Science at this level is mainly if not exclusively theoretical. The recent introduction of Universal primary education saw the teacher to pupil ratio greatly reduced. The increase in enrollment is not commensurate with the existing infrastructure. In some schools, make-shift classrooms have been improvised due to lack of proper and sizable buildings. These problems, coupled with poor remuneration of teachers lead to inefficient teaching and learning. Whereas some pupils make it to the good schools, most of which are privately owned, the majority of the Ugandan pupils are from poor families and can only access public schools which are less equipped to cater for the large numbers of pupils. For a large fraction of the primary going pupils, the development of scientific skills is crippled at an early stage in their academic life due to problems such as those highlighted above.

Secondary School Education.

The education system, especially in secondary school, is characterized by teaching a wide range of subjects in the ordinary level (up to 19 in some schools). This leads to a more theoretical coverage of subject material. The situation is not improved by the low teacher to student ratio, especially in most of the public schools.

The few teachers on the government payroll are poorly remunerated. As a result, most of them take up part-time employment or private business enterprises in order to make ends meet. This sees their commitment to the teaching of science (which demands for sacrifice) greatly reduced. Therefore, even the few available resources for teaching of science are not put to use.

There are few science laboratories in secondary schools. A good number of these are ill equipped. Most private schools do not seriously handle science disciplines. All these do not only deny the students the chance to acquire scientific practical skills, but also kills their interest in science disciplines. The other disheartening issue is the fact that the national examination board assumes an ideal situation and sets the same national exam without regard for the local conditions of study in each school.

University Education

The above scenario translates into a very small percentage of students joining University for science courses. A small percentage of these students are on government sponsorship.

University science education in Uganda is not devoid of problems that hamper the effective imparting of knowledge and practical skills to these few science students. A few of these problems include the following:

There is poor remuneration of university staff and simultaneous deliberate attraction of the same staff into politics. This creates “internal brain drain” leaving departments with limited highly skilled manpower to train other scientists and engage in research. Other staffs seek greener pastures which in most cases are not geared towards science development. This means that the number of research projects going on in the university is greatly reduced.

Their few organizations in the private sector which support research in science. There is no government sponsorship for postgraduate studies. Government puts in little or no effort to solicit for funding for research projects. Individual researchers struggle on their own to obtain sponsors for projects within the researchers’ interests. Because sponsors provide limited funds specifically for the research project, it is increasingly difficult to develop capacity to create continuity within departments. There are minimal efforts by government to establish schemes for this capacity development.

Institutions do not enthusiastically promote collaborative research, be it interdepartmental or interuniversity within the country, region or even further. This in effect reduces the quality of research done in these institutions.

Students study to get degrees and seek jobs. There hasn’t been much emphasis on publication of research findings. This impedes quality research and dissemination of knowledge to the international community. Therefore we have more theses/dissertations than publications from the work they do.

Other challenges to science development in Uganda include the following:

The presence of internal and external conflicts, such as wars, has led to the resources allocated to education and research to be greatly reduced. The allocation of resources is further influenced by politics which in most cases never consider science development and research. A look at budget allocation to the ministry of education for the fiscal years 2003/2004 and 2004/2005 (Table below) confirms the limited support for University education to conduct meaningful research.

Table 1. Education Sector Shares By Sub Shares By % FY 2003/2004 – 2004/2005

Sub sector FY 2003/2004 FY 2004/2005
Primary Education 68.4% 66.2%
Secondary Education 14.9% 16.7%
BTVET 3.9% 3.7%
Tertiary Education 9.9% 10.8%
Other (including universities) 2.9% 2.6%

Source: Ministry of Education and Sports, Planning Department.

NB: During the financial year 2004/2005, the education sector budget share of the GDP was 24.1% while the education sector share was 31.2% of the national discretionary recurrent budget.

Due to varying socio-economic situations in different parts of the country, it is difficult equally implement the same educational programs in these parts. For example, Karamoja (north eastern Uganda) has the “Alternative Education for Karamoja” deemed the best suitable for this region. Some of these factors make it extremely difficult to have quality education, later on quality scientific principles.

The inability for government and the responsible authorities to ensure optimum operating conditions that support the smooth conducting of research e.g. constant electric power supply.

There is misappropriation of funds by people in positions that are meant to foster science research and technology. This is not helped by the lack of vigilance, on the government side, in combating such behaviors.
It is my hope that the situation will improve sooner than later though there are few signs of a bright near future. What’s the situation in other African countries???

What is government doing to support science?

Government though is not entirely silent on improving the science education. The following are some of the attempts by government to promote science in the country:

With effect from 2006, the government made the study of science subjects, namely; physics, chemistry, biology and mathematics compulsory for ordinary level of secondary school. Although this is a good idea, it is still difficult to be done efficiently given the limited resources available for science instruction in most of the schools.

Government plans to construct central science laboratories for secondary school education. These are to be optimally equipped with apparatus chemicals and staff so that schools with poorly equipped laboratories can access these central laboratories for practical lessons. However it remains to be seen whether this plan will be implemented since there is no timeline set.

In his budget speech for the fiscal year 2006/2007, the minister of Finance, planning and economic development, Dr.Ezra Suruma mentioned that government has prioritized the provision of support to scientists who are undertaking research and innovations related to the country’s production processes. In the budget, Shs 8 billion was provided towards research in banana development, fruit juice processing, and malaria research. He also mentioned that in addition, Government had negotiated a five-year US$ 30 million project under the Millennium Science Initiative funded by the World Bank, to support research, education and training in science and technology with linkages to the industry. He said that work on strengthening the Uganda Industrial Research Institute, under this project had already started.

Government has recently (2006) accepted to increase on the salary of the academic staff in public universities. This was, however, after the academic staff at Makerere University had gone on strike, leading to a temporary closure of the University. So if remuneration of the staff is to be improved after such scenarios, then we cannot expect the output of similar quality and magnitude to that of a well motivated staff.

Government is in the process of establishing technical colleges and polytechnics to impart practical skills to school leavers so that they can be economically productive.

What can/should be done?

Government should take a leading role in promoting scientific research in higher institutions of learning. This can be through project sponsorship, scholarships to science students, and loan schemes for postgraduate students engaged in science research. They should help solicit for research grants on behalf of research organizations to supplement the efforts of the individual researchers.

Government should appropriately remunerate academic staff at institutions of learning.
Institutions should engage in collaborative research. Researchers should establish forums, such as WAYS, ANCAP, NUSESA e.t.c, through which they could share knowledge and experiences. South – south and north – south collaboration is important and it would be much easier if our governments took keen interest in supporting these issues. This could enable one to gain access to better technologies easily and cheaply without necessarily having to own them.

Regular meets, fellowships and conferences offer a unique experience in as far as dissemination of knowledge is concerned. Scientists involved in research should frequently organize these meets. Efforts should be made to improve access to high impact science journals, especially to universities and research organizations.

It is important that young scientists in Africa get to have the passion to do quality research and efforts should be made to attract as many as possible since the future of science in this naturally gifted continent largely depends on the activity of the young generation.

Conclusion

One can only reap where he sows. The excellence of science research and technology requires excellent training in scientific skills. This calls for concerted efforts between the private sector and government to greatly improve the education system right from the primary level to the tertiary level. The teaching of science and research are expensive ventures which require governments to try as much as possible to improve the systems. Sharing of information and instrumentation is vital for the development of science in Africa. This justifies the need for collaborative research, conferences, training workshops and networks such as WAYS e.t.c. through which experiences can be shared. It is upon us the young scientists to strive to uplift the standard and frequency of such fora for the future of science and technology is largely dependent on the performance of our generation.

References:

The National Report on the Development of Education in Uganda at the Beginning Of The 21st Century: Report to the 47th Session of the International Conference on Education, Geneva, Switzerland 8th-11th September 2004; Ministry Of Education And Sports, Uganda.

Budget Speech; Financial Year 2006/07, delivered at the Meeting of the 1st Session of The 8th Parliament of Uganda at The Parliament Buildings on Thursday, 15th June, 2006 by Honourable Dr. Ezra Suruma Minister of Finance, Planning and Economic Development.
UGANDA: Changing attitudes to education in Karamoja; UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, IRIN News.org.
Margarita Focas Licht (2000); Alternative Basic Education for Karamoja (ABEK) – Uganda. EENET Newsletters : Newsletter 4 Contents.

Newspaper (Mauritius) article in french for WAYS AFRICA

"LES AFRICAINS SE SAUVERONT EUX-MÊMES" !
Gérard Cateaux

Le 6 mars 1957, voila 50 ans jour pour jour, le Ghana devint le premier Etat africain indépendant sous l'impulsion d'Osagyefo Kwame Nkrhuma. Et cet apôtre de l'idéologie pan-africaniste devrait ouvrir la voie à toutes les colonies africaines vers leur indépendance.

Nkrumah a été l'inspirateur de ce grand mouvement de progressistes qui voulait en finir avec la colonisation, gommer la période lourde et chargée de l'esclavage africain. Il a inspiré les Aboubakar Tafewa Balewa du Nigeria, Sékou Touré de la Guinée, Milton Obote de l'Ouganda, Julius Nyerere de la Tanzanie, Kenneth Kuanda de la Zambie, Ben Bella l'Algérien, Philibert Tsiranana le Malgache et Seewoosagur Ramgoolam le Mauricien, pour ne mentionner qu'eux...

Cinquante ans après, le continent africain se cherche encore une voie quant à son développement. La misère se multiplie, de même que les pandémies. Les anciennes puissances coloniales continuent à exploiter les matières premières qui s'y trouvent. On y installe de nouvelles colonies avec la complicité de nouveaux dirigeants qui ont fait de la corruption leur fond de commerce. L'ex-empereur auto proclamé centrafricain possédait, de son vivant, des châteaux en France. Idem pour l'ancien président malgache Didier Ratsiraka.

L'Afrique a été un continent spolié avant et après l'indépendance des États qui la composaient. Et, pourtant, elle dispose d'un vaste réservoir de ressources naturelles et humaines. Le Plan d'action de Lagos disait ceci : "L'atout majeur de l'Afrique étant constitué par ses ressources humaines, la mobilisation pleine et entière et l'utilisation efficace de la main-d'œuvre (hommes, femmes et jeunes formés ou non) devraient être un instrument de premier ordre au service du développement national et du progrès social."

Ce dont souffre l'Afrique, depuis trop d'années, c'est cette insuffisance en personnel de professions libérales et scientifiques, en cadres, en gestionnaires et en techniciens qualifiés. Quand ils ne vont pas ailleurs. Une dépêche de presse nous apprend qu'il y aurait davantage d'infirmiers, d'infirmières et de médecins Ghanéens en Grande-Bretagne qu'au Ghana...

Je voudrais vous référer à un ouvrage de Jean-Paul Benoît qui, dans son ouvrage intitulé Indispensable Afrique, une nouvelle politique de coopération, nous offre une piste de réflexion. Il est d'avis que : "Parmi les impératifs qui s'imposent, celui d'un effort de maximum sur la formation des hommes est vital. L'Afrique a besoin de cadres administratifs, économiques, d'ingénieurs, de spécialistes de l'agriculture, d'animateurs ruraux. C'est dans cette voie qu'il faut s'engager en commun. Les Africains se sauveront eux-mêmes..."

The Scholar Ship /WAYS - AFRICA

Dear EC members,

I have already sent a proposal of the project for preliminary discussions in the Spider board. I will keep you posted of the resuls.

Archana

Report of Launching

Dear EC members could we complete the report by 04 April as discussed in Pretoria.
But first Shadrack has to re-write the document and post it on the wiki.

Archana

Nigerian Community of Young Scientists

As vantage stakeholder in the development of our respective economies, we have created a new network for Nigerian young scientists across the globe. Please visit www.nicoys.net.ng to know what the "NIgerian Community of Young Scientists" is all about.
regards,
Idowu Ola
www.nicoys.net.ng

YASMIN discussion on culture and nanotechnology, art and climate change

greetings

I am an astronomer and one of the moderators
of the YASMIN network of artists, scientists
and engineers around the mediterranean ( I
live in Marseille)

http://www.media.uoa.gr/yasmin

we are tring to involve researchers or cultural
professionals in our ongoing discussion about culture and
nanotechnology, and also art and climate change

we would welcome participation from WAYS researchers

roger malina
rmalina@prontomail.com

publicity

Dear EC
I will prepare a brief summary/description of the WAYS Africa launch/regional assembly for posting to the ICSU Africa website.
Henry, I can organise for Linda Nordling of Research Africa to interview you telephonically.
I will be out of the office until after Easter.

Hope the Easter bunny brings you all plenty of chocolates!
Janine

Training Workshop on How to Write Fundable Resaerch Proposal

Dear Collegues, today I am of the opinion that, for science to show impact in human development, there must be some serious scientists devoted their career in scientific research. Even the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) recorgonize the importance of scientific research. Yet scientific rsearch are very expensive in terms of materials acquisition and time expenditure. This brings in the issue of costs associated with scientific research and thus calling for financial assisstance to be able to carry out scientific research. Where can such financial assisstance be obtained is obvious from donors or international organizations. To be able to secure funds from such organization you must have the necessary skills for writing fundable research proposals. I am therefore throwing this idea to my collegues so that we can think of how we can organize such an important training to build capacity among ourselves and thereby securing necessary resources for research.

Training Workshop on How to Write Fundable Resaerch Proposal

Dear Collegues, today I am of the opinion that, for science to show impact in human development, there must be some serious scientists devoted their career in scientific research. Even the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) recorgonize the importance of scientific research. Yet scientific rsearch are very expensive in terms of materials acquisition and time expenditure. This brings in the issue of costs associated with scientific research and thus calling for financial assisstance to be able to carry out scientific research. Where can such financial assisstance be obtained is obvious from donors or international organizations. To be able to secure funds from such organization you must have the necessary skills for writing fundable research proposals. I am therefore throwing this idea to my collegues so that we can think of how we can organize such an important training to build capacity among ourselves and thereby securing necessary resources for research.

Lutte contre le paludisme au Bénin : Point et perspectives

Situé au premier rang des principales maladies au Bénin, le paludisme est retrouvé chez quatre malades en moyenne sur dix consultés. On estime à 108%o l’incidence du paludisme simple au Bénin avec des chiffres beaucoup élevés chez les enfants de moins de cinq ans. Depuis quelques années, le paludisme est devenu tout comme d’autres maladies une grande priorité pour la communauté internationale en générale et le Bénin en particulier, depuis lors des initiatives se sont multipliées pour venir à bout de ce « meurtrier », mais depuis 2002, des études ont démontré que la lutte contre le paludisme est confrontée à trois défis majeurs :
 La résistance des parasites aux antipaludiques, notamment la Chloroquine (Taux d’échec thérapeutique de 35,20%) et la Sulfadoxine-Pyriméthamine (Taux d’échec thérapeutique de 22,80%) ;
 La non réimprégnation systématique des moustiquaires par les communautés ;
 La résistance du vecteur (Anophèle) aux insecticides utilisés (la Perméthrine).
Face à ces défis, le Programme National de Lutte contre la Paludisme (PNLP) a adopté une nouvelle politique dont l’objectif est de réduire (d’au moins 50 % par rapport à 2001), la morbidité et la mortalité imputables au paludisme d’ici à 2010.
Au nombre des stratégies retenues pour la nouvelle politique on retrouve le remplacement de la chloroquine et de Sulfadoxine-Pyriméthamine par les combinaisons thérapeutiques à base d’Arthémisinine (CTA) pour le traitement du paludisme simple. Les CTA retenues au Bénin sont : L’Arteméther-Luméfanthrine (COARTEM) et l’Artésunate-Amodiaquine (ARSUCAM) utilisés en cas de non disponibilité ou en cas d’intolérance au premier et chez l’enfant de moins de six mois ;
Par ailleurs la quinine est recommandée pour le traitement pré transfert du paludisme grave. Par rapport à la prévention, outre les méthodes traditionnelles, les responsables de lutte prônent l’utilisation des Moustiquaires Imprégnées d’Insecticide de Longue Durée d’Action (MIILD) et l’adoption du Traitement Préventif Intermittent (TPI) à la Sulfadoxine-Pyriméthamine (SP) chez la femme enceinte. Ce programme n’occulte pas bien sûre la surveillance épidémiologique et entomologique, la recherche et la communication intégrée aux initiatives à base communautaire.
Mais, il demeure dans les formations sanitaires le problème de la disponibilité du COARTEM pour la prise en charge correcte des cas de paludisme simple, la pénurie de sang dans les unités transfusionnelles et l’insuffisance des moyens financiers des parents. Une évaluation a d’ailleurs montrée que l’incidence du paludisme (simple+grave) semble plus élevée dans les départements du Littoral (182 ‰), de l’Ouémé (169 ‰), du Borgou (148 ‰) et de l’Alibori (162 ‰). D’autre part, la létalité pour le paludisme grave reste en progression. Ceci pourrait s’expliquer par les raisons sus énumérées et l’amélioration du système de notification mis en place par le PNLP Bénin qui en outre, depuis quelques années met l’accent sur la formation du personnel, la promotion des bonnes pratiques au sein de la communauté et l’approvisionnement en médicaments et consommables. Toutes ces difficultés montrent la nécessité d’une plus grande mobilisation de tous les béninois et amis du Bénin afin d’assurer l’accès universel aux interventions de traitement et de prévention et obtenir un impact sur la morbidité et mortalité. La lutte contre le paludisme contribuerait à réduire le taux d’absentéisme et par conséquent améliorer la productivité et le développement de notre cher et beau pays : le Bénin.

Par Dr Soliou BADAROU

A theoretical imaging method for the photodetachment of H− near a reflecting surface

Total photodetachment cross section of H− near a reflecting wall was studied
recently by Yang et al using closed-orbit theory (2006 J. Phys. B: At. Mol.
Opt. Phys. 39 1855). The main effect of a reflecting wall was shown to induce
an oscillation in the cross section. In this paper, we study the photodetachment
of H− near a reflecting wall using a theoretical imaging method, which is
very different from the method of closed-orbit theory. The theoretical imaging
method enables us to derive the total and differential photodetachment cross
sections in a straightforwardway. We considered both a softwall case and a hard
wall case, they differ by the values of phase loss when reflecting the detachedelectron
waves. The result of Yang et al for the total photodetachment cross
section is the asymptotic limit of our formula for the soft wall case. We also
calculated the detached-electron flux distributions on a screen placed at a large
distance from the negative ion. The distributions display strong interference
patterns. Such interference patterns are similar to those in the photodetachment
microscopy experiments.

ESSAY Competition: Young voices in research for health

Young voices in research for health

The Global Forum for Health Research and The Lancet are sponsoring their second joint essay competition on the occasion of Forum 11, the 2007 annual meeting of the Global Forum for Health Research in Beijing, People's Republic of China, 29 October to 2 November 2007.

Entries relating to some aspect of the overall theme of Forum 11: Equitable access, research challenges for health in developing countries are invited from young professionals working in or interested in the broad spectrum of health research for development.

Deadline for submissions: 20 APRIL 2007

For rules, guidelines, principles, timeframe and prizes see:

http://www.globalforumhealth.org/ShLinks/Essay07.php

Scientist Without Borders: new initiative from NYAS

New York Academy of Sciences has announced its plans for a new initiative, in support of the Mellennium Development Goals (MDGs), to launch an ambitious project entitled Scientist Without Borders.

For details, please see the following links:

http://app.bronto.com/public/?q=message_preview&fn=Key&type=tracking&id=...

http://www.nyas.org/programs/borders.asp

Here are the stated goals:

"To generate synergies where they often don’t exist, Scientists Without BordersSM will create a simple but powerful tool—an online database that will consolidate contacts and information about the location, goals, needs, and other attributes of research-based and capacity-building projects, as well as a list of individuals and institutions that want assistance and a roster of experts who are willing to help. In so doing, we will tackle three major under-addressed opportunities in the developing world:

1. Aligning the many capacity-building efforts that take place in close physical proximity to one another, but without meaningful contact, thus losing out on advice and assets that could enhance and/or complement activities.
2. Creating connections among scientists, organizations, and funding agencies to match needs with available resources.
3. Linking individuals with institutions or projects that would welcome their expertise."

Bleak future for life science research in the US

Here is a very interesting article about the plea of US scientist to the current administration to increase research funding. Most young scientists are turning away from research to the deterimant of US innovation and discovery. This affects young scientist most severly, but business, law, and other fields are enjoying the benefits of this highly qualified talented pool of eager employees.
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New report: America's scientific and medical progress threatened by flat funding for NIH

Leading US universities call for increased NIH funding to protect health, retain nation's scientists, shore up US global leadership in research

(Washington, D.C.) – Years of stagnant budgets outpaced by inflation threaten the progress of biomedical research and could thwart advances in treatments that are within reach, nine of the nation's most preeminent scientific and medical institutions told Congress today. In a new report on the status of U.S. medical research and its funding, the group explained how perennially flat funding of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has halted promising research in mid-stream, challenged seasoned researchers to continue to achieve scientific progress, and threatened the future of young investigators pursuing careers in academic research. And, if left unaddressed, these problems could undermine U.S. global leadership in biomedical research, the report warns.

"When scientists have to spend most of their time trying to get funded, caution wins out over cutting-edge ideas, creativity sacrifices to convention, and scientific progress gives way to meetings and grant applications," said report contributor and infectious disease expert Robert Siliciano, M.D., Ph.D., at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. "Right now, very, very productive scientists are doing too little research. Instead, they are spending their time trying to get their labs funded again," he said.

The report was co-authored by The University of California, Columbia University, Harvard University, The Johns Hopkins University, Partners HealthCare, The University of Texas at Austin, Washington University in St. Louis, The University of Wisconsin Madison, and Yale University.

The group says that to fulfill the promise of previous investments by Congress the country needs to provide more consistent and robust funding of NIH. According to the report, Within Our Grasp—Or Slipping Away? Assuring a New Era of Scientific and Medical Progress, the doubling of NIH's budget between 1998 and 2003 enabled advances in basic research that transformed understanding of diseases affecting millions of Americans. But the NIH budget has been virtually frozen since 2003 and has shrunk by at least 8 percent after inflation is considered, with recent estimates up to 13 percent. Most recently, a small increase approved by Congress in the 2007 budget would be virtually wiped out by the Bush Administration's proposed 2008 budget, continuing the downward spiral in inflation-adjusted dollars. The implications are far-reaching for science, medicine, the economy and U.S. leadership in biomedical science, they add.

The 21-page report says that the country reaped a strong pay-off from previous years of robust funding of basic biomedical research, achieving progress in treating and preventing many devastating diseases and conditions. But the American public will ultimately pay the price for slowing the pace of research as scientists downsize their laboratories and abandon some of their most innovative work.

The report argues that research momentum gains have slowed, and in some cases may be lost, if flat funding continues. For example, in the fight against cancer, "The number of drugs moving into the pipeline that are based on our new, more profound genetic and molecular understanding of cancer is extraordinary—and there's no money to handle the testing of these compounds," said Joan Brugge, Ph.D., who chairs the Department of Cell Biology at Harvard Medical School.

A similar situation faces the quest to cure spinal cord and brain injuries. "Ten years ago, the search for treatment of spinal cord injury was a daunting and hopeless task," said Stephen Strittmatter, M.D., Ph.D., a professor of neurology and neurobiology at Yale University's School of Medicine. Today that is changing, in part due to the discovery of NOGO, a molecule that prevents regeneration of spinal cord nerves. Scientists are investigating whether the molecule can be inhibited, allowing the spinal cord and neurons in the brain to repair themselves.

"The neurological sciences are on the launching pad of a revolution," according to Strittmatter. "We are at a juncture where we can begin identifying multiple molecular targets for the neurological diseases that have stymied us for so long. Without funding, they may go undiscovered, and we will have only weakly effective therapies."

The Threat to Future Scientific Endeavor

Despite the great push forward that accompanied the doubling of the NIH budget, subsequent flat funding has put many projects at risk. Today, eight of ten research grant applications are unfunded, according to the report. Those that are funded often require multiple submissions and suffer lapses in funding. Certain NIH institutes, such as the National Cancer Institute, report that they can only fund 11 percent of research project grant applications, rejecting many of exceptional quality.

The effects are being felt by both principal investigators and young researchers new to the field. For young researchers, the decreased funding contributes to another problem: a multi-year wait for receiving their first grant. In 1970, the average age recipient of a first grant was 34.2 years; today it is 41.7.

"Our product is not just our technology or medical breakthroughs," said Dr. Brent Iverson, Ph.D., The University of Texas at Austin. "Our College of Natural Sciences alone puts 1,000 undergrads in research situations in labs, most with NIH funding. That is a catalyst for creating innovative new scientists," he added.

Consequently, senior scientists fear that young people will turn away from science because the funding situation is so bleak. Scientists report that many of the brightest young minds no longer see the promise of a career in science, choosing law, business, and other professions. Losing young scientists today will cost the U.S. a lot later, the report warns. "That will have a generational impact that will take 15 years to fix," said Richard Davidson, Ph.D., University of Wisconsin-Madison.

In addition, scientists are increasingly having to abandon some of their most innovative and promising research in favor of more conventional projects with more predictable results that are more likely to be funded. Principal investigators also must spend enormous amounts of time fundraising and writing grants rather than conducting research.

Others are following research dollars overseas, to countries in Europe and Asia that are making investment in biomedical sciences high national priorities and actively recruiting star U.S. scientists, according to scientists interviewed for the report.

Said Nobel Laureate Eric Kandel at Columbia University Medical Center, who contributed to the report: "The scientific community is one of the driving forces of the economy. In biology, it helps drive the pharmaceutical industry, and helps people live longer in a productive way. Now, the rug has been pulled from under science in this country. We'll lose scientific manpower to European countries, and to India, China and Japan."

The funding problem is so great that the NIH's 2007 "Fiscal Policy for Grant Awards," urges decisionmakers to consider "the goal of not losing outstanding laboratories," as they allocate limited funds, says the report.

The group says that addressing the funding crisis now is imperative given the demographics of the population. "Medical treatments take decades to develop," says Harvard's Dr. Brugge. "If we wait until the baby boomers retire to find the most effective means for prevention and treatment for diseases like Alzheimer's and cancer, we will break the bank."
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