Andree Carter

To start the debate, Andree Carter spoken to UK experts to collate some ideas to challenge short term thinking on science for development and to build a picture of ‘the shape of things to come’.

Having a long term view of where science for development should be going is no easy task.  Much has been said about what the world might look like in the future and tools such as horizon scanning, foresight,  futures analysis and predictive modelling have all helped to derive scenarios of the political, social and environmental state of the planet such as John Beddington’s Food, energy, water and the climate: a perfect storm of global events?

But what does all this mean for the UK science base and those who are interested in international development?

My discussions about future collaboration with government departments and research funders are often constrained, to some degree, by factors such as the comprehensive spending review, political party priorities and decisions of governing bodies.

‘Low hanging fruit’, ‘quick wins’, immediate results and impacts are often the natural preference given the political and public pressure associated with this government’s ring fences for the budgets of both UK science and international development.

Coming up with something new that requires long term insight, commitment and investment is not always popular!

To start the debate, I’ve been talking to a number of UK experts to collate some ideas that could challenge short term thinking on science for development and to build a picture of ‘the shape of things to come’ – my title is stolen from Lawrence Haddad who blogged on the topic recently.  We will present the thinking to the UKCDS board 24 September with a view to prompting discussion on issues such as:

  1. The future of aid and the ‘Beyond Aid’ agenda – what will come out of the UK International Development Committee enquiry and will the key role of science technology and innovation be embedded or even recognised in any new approach?
  2. Will the UN Post 2015 goals, the successor to the Millennium Development Goals dominate research funding priorities and strategies?
  3. Will new research funding partners and funding mechanisms, e.g social bonds, impact prizes, change the way science and innovation are delivered and the type of outcome achieved?
  4. The poorest people in the world no longer live in the poorest countries so we need to rethink where and how research can address poverty alleviation in the future e.g. funding research on the eradication of poverty in fragile and conflict states and research to understand how better governance can alleviate poverty?
  5. The rapidly changing geopolitical landscape – many former low income countries are ‘emerging’ and building substantial research and innovation capacity.  How can the UK still be ‘a partner of choice’ and maintain its high ranking given the number of potential competitors and collaborators.  Are we keen to develop diplomatic relationships through science and development?
  6. Development challenges for the future – Climate change, conflict, migration water shortages, food security, diseases – what have we missed?  Will the Domesday ‘Perfect Storm’ be inevitable or can science and technology save the day?
  7. Given all of the above will the UK funding and research architecture be fit for purpose – can we coordinate effectively to address global challenges or will national interests always override global needs?

A senior official in the UK Government recently pleaded for better communication between scientists and politicians. Communicating uncertainty and clearly articulating problems

On 24th September, we will be meeting with the UKCDS board with a view to starting a debate around this. It’d be great to hear any comments on the above to inform that debate so please let me know what you think!

Many thanks to those who have already contributed.