The promise of science for development

Doherty Lecture by Dame Bridget Ogilvie urges Africa not to follow Britain’s example but rather to help its science and scientists to flourish.

The brain drain can be stopped and redressed in Britain as well as Africa. But two things must happen: one, governments must do more to create an environment where science can flourish; two, scientists and technicians must be nurtured, developed and rewarded for their talents and contributions.

This was the key message of Dame Bridget Ogilvie who delivered the Peter Doherty Distinguished Lecture on 24 November 2004, at the Nairobi headquarters of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).

Doherty Lecture Announcement Poster

Dame Bridget emphasized the importance of people development and career development in research institutes. She placed great importance on training and developing the scientists and graduates who do the work. The success of any research institute is dependent on the expertise of staff.

‘My first and my most important message to anyone interested in accelerating scientific innovation is the need to ensure that the appropriately trained, talented and supported workforce is available as nothing can happen without it.  My experience suggests that this is neither easy nor cheap to achieve, but it is essential.’

She recalled her work at the Wellcome Trust, which she directed from 1991 to 1998, and how difficult it was to entice veterinary graduates into research. Salary differentials of academic and practicing scientists created further challenges, so polices were introduced to increase salaries of the academics to stem any brain-drain. The UK has already witnessed this, and she urged Africans to learn from these mistakes and take proactive stops to nurture their intellectual capital.

In closing, Dame Bridget said: ‘The extraordinary scientific revolution…..will continue to bring great benefits to the public.  However, this will occur where governments not only provide the funds that are necessary but also exhibit leadership by providing the regulatory, social, fiscal and working conditions that make a nation an attractive place in which scientists and the innovative industries that depend on them can function well.’

ILRI’s Distinguished Lecture series is named after Australian Peter Doherty, 1996 Nobel Laureate in Medicine or Physiology, who from 1986 to 1992 chaired the program committee of the board of trustees of ILRI’s predecessor, the International Laboratory for Research on Animal Diseases (ILRAD).
Dame Ogilvie’s lecture is now available as a book, The Promise of Science for Development.

The electronic version is available in PDF format.

Printed copies are available from ILRI’s Addis and Nairobi InfoCentres: Requests can be made to InfoCentre Team