Monday, October 15, 2007
PROF. ADDY CALLS FOR DEV OF SCIENCE CULTURE
A fellow of the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences (GAAS), Professor Marian Ewurama Addy, has advocated a radical reform of the country’s science and technology enterprise, with greater emphasis on the development of a science culture and a more effective governance structure for the enterprise.
She urged the President to establish a politically independent science unit to manage the entire science and technology system, comprising the educational system dealing with science, including Mathematics, service and regulatory institutions and the sciences and technology associations.
Delivering a Golden Jubilee Lecture on the topic, “Research, Science and Technology as indispensable Strategic Elements in Development”, she said. “This science unit should not be a Ministry, for fear that the funds will be used more for the remuneration of a minister, his or her deputies, a Minister of State, a chief director and others, instead of the funds being applied to the core business of science, research and technology for development.”
She explained that such a unit should, among others manage the government’s research, science and technology investment, provide policy advice on research, science and technology issues and encourage innovations and the commercialisation of scientific and technological knowledge and ideas.
She said there was also the need to separate the science section from the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences.
“Should the science section of the academy separate and begin a formal relationship with all research institutes in the country, the country will have the beginnings of a structure which is better poised to lead the science enterprise in this country in an independent, effective and efficient manner,” she explained.
Professor Addy said although the Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) had a mandate which included advising the government on scientific and technological advances likely to be of importance to national development, it might not be effective because a number of research institutes were not under its mandate.
According to her, although the country’s research institutes had chalked up some successes with some impressive research findings, such findings were not being utilized.
She cited the example of the pozzolina cement and a herb extract being developed by the CSIR to treat urine retention and said, “We in Ghana must be jokers if we have found a herb which can cure a disease that affects approximately 70 per cent of men over 70 years of age world-wide and are not giving this research result the serious attention that it deserves.”
She also wondered why it was not possible to have an edict from the government to the effect that all government buildings should use pozzolina cement.
“We have something that can put Ghana on the world map in a big way. However, because it is not soccer or boxing, we are dragging our feet, seeming not to know how to proceed. In research institutes and in universities, there is almost always the inability to continue ‘leading’ research results,” she bemoaned.
Prof. Addy wondered whether that was the result of the country not having enough people with the necessary knowledge and skills to take research results further.
“I believe the answer to each question is yes, and this means that the challenge is capacity, both human and financial,” she observed.
She says although the private sector is the engine of growth, private organizations move into industry when there is evidence that a lot of money would be generated by that industry, hence the need for initial research to be publicly funded.
“Someone has to dig the tunnel at the end of which the light will shine. That someone is the public or the government. It is for this reason that a Science Foundation is a must,” she said.
She expressed worry that suggestions by individuals, Ministers of State and organizations for the establishment of a Science Foundation had been to no avail.
Throwing spotlight on science and technology education in tertiary education institutions, she said data available at the National Council for Tertiary Education (NCTE) showed that among students in all public universities, the number of students offering science programmes kept falling.
Prof. Addy who is also a professor of Biochemistry at the University of Ghana, said the percentage of students offering science programmes fell from approximately 44 per cent in 1999/2000 to 36 per cent in 2000/2001, stayed in the mid-thirties through to 2006 and went up slightly to 38 per cent from 35 per cent the previous year.
She added that at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), the percentage decreased from 77 per cent in the 2000/01 academic year to 62 per cent in the 2006/07 academic year, noting that the situation was no different in the polytechnics.
She lauded Dr. Kwame Nkrumah for devoting a lot of attention and resources to science and technology and said although subsequent leaders did not follow up on his commitment, there was still hope.
Prof. Addy challenged President Kufuor to leave a legacy of the most effective and appropriate governance structure for the science and technology enterprise which, long after he was gone, would give the country the necessary boost or push for development through research, science and technology.
“I believe there are signs. He is the only President who hosted the GAAS during the academy’s Founder’s Week celebrations honouring Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah. Upon request, he has granted the Anglican Church property with excellent facilities which will enable the church to start its University College of Technology in the very near future,” she said.
Daily Graphic Monday, October 15, 2007 Page: 13