The informal, unofficial nature of these meetings, made possible by
Kettering making the arrangements as well as financing most costs, was
an important ingredient to their success. In Singapore, Kettering
co-hosted with the IORC regional office, and in Nairobi with ICIPE. The
Ford Foundation Nairobi office picked up travel costs of several
participants and participated in the meeting.
This is a very good league to be in, and ISTC should find ways to
keep itself associated with these institutions in the minds of its
professional collaborators in developing countries. IDRC, SARAC, the
Ford Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation are very well known and
highly regarded by the kind of people who participated in the meetings.
Time and again, participants mentioned that their own institutions had
benefited greatly from these sources of finance; in many cases the
institutions were established largely with foundation funds.
Several suggestions were made at the meetings that would retain
ISTC's association with these respected donors. It was proposed that
similar regional meetings be held after two or three years to review the
track record of the ISTC. These could be arranged again by Kettering or
another private foundation to ensure impartial selection of participants
and a neutral forum for frank comment. In addition, both groups
suggested that IDRC, Ford Foundation and Rockefeller Foundation be
consulted on candidates for Advisory Committee membership and for the
In another context, ISTC may also be able to cooperate with U.S.
private foundations with respect to work in China.
Bill Shaw of Kettering chaired both meetings and did a very effective
job. Some of the techniques employed may be useful in future gatherings.
After introductory remarks about Kettering's interests, Shaw said
something about his own professional and family background and invited
each participant to do the same. This was a very useful icebreaker; it
gave everyone a chance to say something clever and get acquainted with
one another before knuckling down to serious business.
He then invited ISTC participants, Luykx and Nelson in Singapore,
and Gruhn and Nelson in Nairobi, to describe the background to ISTC and
the current situation. This was followed by a brief general discussion.
Each topic was also briefly introduced by an ISTC participant. Shaw and
Willis, also from Kettering, would occasionally sum up and identify
subjects that had been passed over too quickly or omitted.
Another effective technique employed was to invited each
participant to offer one thought which he wished to be sure to
communicate to ISTC. This was quite productive, and the results will be
3. Participants. The Singapore meeting was very well balanced by
profession and regional distribution. The caliber of participants was of
an exceptionally high standard. The Nairobi meeting had a good general
standard, but Kenyans predominated and West Africa was lightly
represented. French-speaking Africa was also under-represented.
Agriculturalists tended to predominate. The imbalances were regrettable
but probably not particularly serious because I think much the same
things would have been said by a more balanced group, judging from the
Singapore meeting. It should be noted that the Nairobi meeting was much
more hurriedly organized and that participants had to be selected by a
group chiefly concerned with agricultural matters. That the meeting was
held at all is a real tribute to Tom Odhiambo and his staff at ICIPE.
Several of the participants were of the caliber ISTC should seek
for its Advisory Committee. A separate memorandum will be drafted
building. Not surprisingly, the intention of ISTC to help
build indigenous problem-solving capacity aroused the greatest
enthusiasm among participants and received the most discussion. The
discussion ran along familiar lines, touching training and equipment
needs, but some of the points stressed bear repeating.
Institutional development is a long-term process, and the
external assistance needs vary with the stage of development as well as
the wealth of the country. In Asia, many institutions have benefited
from sustained external support and have achieved what was termed a
“critical mass." They
are staffed with well-trained nationals or others from the region, have
solid basic equipment and a reliable core budget. External collaboration
and limited assistance is still required to enhance the effectiveness of
these institutions. Specific needs cited included:
special equipment needs;
upgrading skills in research management, research planning, and
re-tuning new PhDs to enable them to apply their fresh skills to
the needs of the country;
information exchange or networking with similar research
institutions in other developing countries (TCDC) as well as developed
In the lower-income countries, where the "critical
mass" generally does not yet exist (except in India and isolated
institutions elsewhere), the emphasis should be on developing trained
manpower and meeting basic equipment needs. In this regard, a number of
participants, including the one from India, cautioned against following
the India model. As Radhakrishna put it, India has the world's third
largest science community, and the world's largest poverty. Many people
are trained, in effect, for export because of the lack of a local market
for their skills, the producers of knowledge have poor communication
with the users of knowledge, training tends to be overly theoretical,
and the attitudes of the scientific community lack a development
Attitudinal problems were mentioned several times. ICIPE
considers the inculcation of problem-solving attitudes to be as
important in its training program as the transfer of knowledge and
skills. A Thai participant point out that it is not just the attitudes
of the scientists that are important. Thailand has 3000 PhDs, more than
any other country in Southeast Asia, but does not accomplish as much as
Singapore, where accreditation is valued less than performance. The
entire Singapore society, beginning with its top leadership, is
technology-minded. ISTC should, he suggests, concern itself with the
spirit of science and technology among the populace and especially the
Among the means suggested to avoid the apparent defects of
India's scientific and technological development were:
where possible, offer training opportunities within the country
ensure that there are employment opportunities for those trained;
orient research to real local problems and follow problems
through to field testing stage;
integrate training and practice (work-study).
Chandra Soysa made the point that capacity requirements of a
country relate not just to the nature of its problems, but also to its
potential at a given time. Appropriate technology requires a proper mix
for a given country at a given time. Lee Kum Tatt also stressed the need
to be realistic about human, financial, and political constraints in
planning for S&T development.
area priorities. The discussion of priorities was somewhat
less focused and less useful in both meetings than the discussion of
process topics. The reason for this is probably that it is difficult to
have a meaningful discussion of the broad range of problems
perfunctorily described in the Summary Report. In-depth discussion of
any one of the problems would have been too time-consuming.
The only problem area listed that was rejected was the population
problem, and that only at the Nairobi meeting. ICIPE had distributed the
October 13 draft plan in which the population issue was discussed less
sensitively than in later versions, and the African participants found
Chandra Soysa of Sri Lanka found the list of problems in the
Summary Report to be uninspiring. He believes a major initiative by a
major power should be more innovative. He pointed out that many
innovative programs are underway in Asia which merit attention,
including a study of the possibilities for sharing traditional
technologies, which is underway at MARGA.
Most of the rest of the discussion dealt with elaborations of the
items on the list and, in a few cases, additional topics were proposed
such as urban problems and rural electrification. At the same time, the
Nairobi group concluded that there were too many problems cited for
adequate attention within the ISTC budget.
A general concern was that activities selected under the broad
problem headings be viewed from a regional perspective. This was
particularly stressed at the Nairobi meeting where it was feared that a
disproportionate share of ISTC activities might be conducted in Asia and
Latin America where research capacities were more developed.
A related point was given a good deal of airing at Singapore; it
could be characterized as the "Winged Bean Phenomenon."
A number of participants felt that the winged bean has become a
fad in U.S. circles, and it is being promoted in developing countries
with too little regard for the interests of the countries themselves. A
Thai alleged that international markets for the bean are inadequate, and
that the crop is not of priority interest to his government.
Nick Luykx convincingly argues that the winged bean got a bad rap
in Singapore, and that its potential benefits and markets were
thoroughly explored before the crop was popularized through U.S. and
international efforts. Precisely because work on the winged bean has
been of high quality, the Singapore discussion poses a problem for the
When the ISTC selects a problem area for priority attention, it
may very well appear to leaders in developing countries to be another
U.S. fad, no matter how careful the selection process. At both meetings
the message was clear that scientists and technologists are resistant to
working on priorities established by developed countries; they wish to
establish their own priorities and then invite cooperation. Yet they
generally do not have a clearly defined set of priorities in mind.
The only solution to this conundrum that occurs to me is to
ensure heavy participation of developing country scientists in the
priority-setting process. This will be time-consuming and expensive, but
it is likely to be essential if the ISTC is to be welcomed as a truly
The IDRC and SARAC were widely praised at both meetings for their
responsiveness to local needs and their willingness to fund individual
and institutional research projects with minimal interference or
controls. But those organizations are not trying, in most cases, to
mount a coherent international attack on a particular problem. ISTC will
have a much more difficult time establishing its credibility with
scientists from developing countries, in part because it is an
institution based in a major power, and in part because of its problem
The scientists are not opposed to a problem orientation per se. Indeed, they
recognize the need to make their own institutions more effective in
identifying and dealing with problems. But they are concerned that the
problems selected be on their own list of priorities and that the
activities supported be consistent with their own needs and
process. To introduce this subject, I outlined Ralph
Smuckler's paper on the programming process. The response in Singapore
was primarily in terms of ensuring the participation of scientists from
developing countries, as discussed above. Questions were raised as to
who would do the "state-of-the-art" papers, and how do the
developing country viewpoints become integral to the process?
In Africa, the response was that the system as outlined is much
too heavy and time-consuming. There was some confusion in that several
participants thought each project would have to go through such a
process, but there was a consensus that the system was too elaborate.
Several pointed out that UN agencies such as WHO have been quite good at
identifying priority problems, but weak on generating action to pursue
the problems. The African group would prefer more action on priorities
already identified and less work on priority definition. The Singapore
group also commented on the amount of international discussion already
taking place regarding most of the problem areas, and the tiny amount of
effective action that ensues. One criticism was that so many funds are
devoted to staff salaries in international organizations that not much
is left for program action.
Council. Chandra Soysa strongly urged ISTC to seek Advisory
Council members from developing countries who have varying outlooks,
worldviews, and disciplines. He cautioned against selecting only people
who think as we do. Social scientists, in particular, should be
Both meetings rejected the idea of seeking nominations from
regional organizations, except that the Nairobi group thought the AAASA
would be a good source of candidates with an agricultural background.
Jingjai, the IDRC representative, said that legitimacy of the ISTC
selection need not be a problem; IDRC picks its own board members and is
not criticized for doing so. The Nairobi group urged ISTC to consult the
Ford and Rockefeller Foundations and IDRC on names because they know the
region as well.
Both groups warned against picking people who are so prominent
that they can't spare the time to attend meetings. The point was also
made that it is important to keep Advisory Committee members informed of
ISTC activities between meetings so they are better prepared to
contribute during the meetings.
Both groups urged ISTC to have informal advisory groups at the
regional level in order to guide the field offices and to follow program
activities in the region.
The availability of well-qualified candidates for the position of Fellow
was a subject that divided the Singapore meeting. Those from the
lower-income countries felt that a two-to-four year absence from their
parent institution would definitely be damaging to careers. In the
middle-income countries this appears not to be the case. Although
sabbaticals and extended leaves have not been a common practice, it is
increasingly recognized that outside experience in research management,
proposal design, and priority analysis is greatly needed.
In Africa, the present practice of selecting scientific
administrators directly from the ranks of practicing scientists was
recognized to be deficient and the experience of the Fellows program
would be valuable. Manpower shortages may constrain availability,
Both groups felt that it would be easier to get people from
universities than from research institutes or government service, but
Lee said it would not be advisable to draw only from universities. Both
felt that the experience would be valuable to scientists in the 30-45
year age range making the transition from bench to administration if
they gained management and policy analysis exposure.
In Africa, the practice of advertising for posts is well
established and recommended but candidates should be thoroughly
evaluated, interviewed, and references checked. Both groups suggested
that the foundations and IORC could be helpful in identifying and
Three months lead-time was considered minimal and the general
opinion was that few qualified candidates would be found to begin as
early as January 1980.
Both groups agreed that Fellows should be selected from
institutions to which they could be expected to return, rather than from
the ranks of political exiles or perennial post-docs.
9. Field offices. Both groups strongly affirmed the importance
of field offices. Among the points made were the following:
Strong field offices with authority to act are essential to
successful regional projects;
Field offices should have some staff from the region, as does
IDRC, and be able to mobilize talent from the region as well as outside
Field Offices are important for the purposes of communication,
project identification and initial vetting, and liaison with the nation
and regional scientific infrastructure;
Work on complex, interdisciplinary projects requires in-depth
knowledge of the culture and of ways of operating in it;
Field office staff must be of very high quality in order to gain
the respect of local professionals;
Field offices should stress regional problems and play a role in
organizing training on a regional basis;
Human contact is important; also field staff should help in
Field offices should have a heavy role in project monitoring and
Concerning the location of field offices, the following points
The site chosen should have good air, telex and phone
The host country should have a substantial population and an
active science community but a country with a lower-income per capita
should be preferred to higher;
Africa should have at least two field offices and one should be
in a French-speaking area;
Not all staff members should be in the same country.
The consensus seemed to be for Kuala Lumpur in South East Asia
and Nairobi for East Africa.
Jingjai commented that when IDRC began operations there was some
frustration among field staff because their roles and authorities were
not clearly defined. At the beginning, field offices were expected to
play the limited role of eyes and ears for Ottawa. A Treasury Commission
review of IDRC has recommended that more authority be granted to field
offices. On an experimental basis, the Singapore office is now
monitoring projects and field program representatives have more
authority. This experiment will be reviewed after two years.
David Smock described the Ford Foundation system in which the
field offices have a great deal of autonomy. He said that Ford
Foundation is not as problem-oriented as the ISTC Intends to become, and
is better at training and institution building than at problem-solving.
One advantage of the Ford system is that field-based officers are more
likely to be able to identify young scholars, with good research
potential. Disadvantages include relatively high costs and limitations
on sharing information worldwide.
Odhiambo commented that the Ford method of having independent
field offices seems preferable to the Rockefeller method of attaching a
field office to a university.
of Interaction. In both groups there was surprisingly strong
resistance to the notion of spending funds abroad through U.S.
institutions, such as universities. A number of complaints were made
about the way the system apparently worked in the past. A recurrent
point was that in cooperative programs, too much is spent on staff
salaries and perks. Also, there is a tendency for the U.S. institution
to "colonize" its partner, using the institution for a field
research base, sometimes working on subjects over the head of, or
impertinent to, the local scholars. U.S. links were not flatly ruled
out, but a strong preference was expressed for the local institution to
choose its own collaborator and to control the funds.
In the Africa meeting, much was made of the need for mutual
trust. SARAC has a particularly high reputation for letting local
scholars define their interests, handle the funds, and account for them
later. Strings or controls will be widely resented.
There was recognition that some aspects of a particular problem
may need to be addressed in developed country labs, but the provision of
U.S. experts to staff or advise local research institutions seems passé.
This is not to say that U.S. experts aren't required for field office
functions, which as noted above may involve tendering advice on research
design and proposal preparation.
The African group placed great importance on the desirable
ability of ISTC to fund non-U.S. training, personnel and equipment. They
placed surprising weight on the equipment item and mentioned a project
in Tanzania where the use of a $1 million AID grant was greatly
facilitated by a $10,000 Ford Foundation grant for equipment which was
not tied to U.S. sources.
A summary of the responses to Bill Shaw's invitation to state one thing
ISTC should be certain to learn from the meetings follows.
Look ahead 15-20 years and set goals, perhaps working on as few
as three problems in the first five years;
Emphasize training in developing
Exchange information around the world;
ISTC should concentrate on manpower development and on specific
problems of a country, and should encourage Recognize that capacity
building is a long-term effort; don't focus too narrowly; develop
Social sciences are key in implementing known technologies;
Strengthen self-reliance of developing countries;
Industrialization should be stressed;
Don't just solve immediate problems, build capacity;
Work on challenging problems with a 3-5 year time frame, but
beware the winged-bean phenomenon.
In appointing Fellows and non-U.S. field officers, look for young
Autonomy must be reflected in simplified decision-making;
If research is problem-oriented, users will be waiting for it;
Improve existing local research and management;
Emphasize capacity building;
Combine problem-solving and capacity building;
Be flexible in implementation;
Pay special attention to Africa;
Geography should influence the selection of priorities;
Stay with research. to the point it can be carried out with local
funding and talent;
Mutual trust is essential;
Social science role should be built into every project;
Don't stop before pilot testing;
Support collaboration among developing countries;
Be a catalyst in building science policy capacity (but don't try
to shape policy);
Support local and regional training.
I was impressed at the time that neither group placed much stock
in “breakthroughs.” They
see the need to be the gradual strengthening of local competence. In
most cases, the basic institution-building phase is over. The main task
now is to help institutions be more effective in defining and achieving
pertinent objectives. Attention to training in the region, and
networking will be important.
12. Conclusion. The participants were very positive about the
creation of the ISTC. Not one questioned the need for such an
institution. In addition, they were enthusiastic about being consulted
during the planning phase before the organization has jelled. They will
be watching carefully, and perhaps critically, as ISTC gets underway.