Two short items of note, courtesy of Nature, about science policy outside of this blog’s usual haunts.
The lower house of the Argentinian legislature has approved a bill (en Español) that would require research results funded by the government be placed in institutional repositories once published. There would be exceptions for studies involving confidential information and the law is not intended to undercut intellectual property or patent rights connected to research. Additionally, primary research data must be published within 5 years of their collection. This last point would, as far as I can tell, would be new ground for national open access policies, depending on how quickly the U.S. and U.K. may act on this issue. Additionally, there should be an announcement from the European Union on open access requirements for its Horizon 2020 program (what would have been Framework Programme 8). The expectation is that open access will be highly incentivized for research receiving Horizon funding.
The Argentinian law still needs to be approved by the upper legislative chamber and the executive branch.
Nature’s Middle East website has this commentary from Mohamed Abdel-Mottaleb, director of the nanotechnology research center at Nile University, and a recent candidate in the 2012 Egyptian Parliamentary elections. In it he complains that the Supreme Council for Science and Technology has not been particularly effective in influencing policy during the two years it has been in existence. He describes the Council as having a “brief…to provide the government with sound scientific advice and to inform policymakers” but he wants the Council to serve a more active role:
“But despite having existed for at least two years, the council’s effectiveness at influencing policy is still unclear. It has managed to communicate the government’s needs to scientists, but failed to engage scientists in decisions leading to the creation of policy. The council has created a top down effect. As it currently stands, different ministries, such as industry, agriculture and water resources, indicate their needs to the ministry of scientific research. The ministry, in turn, offers funding grants for potential research to meet these needs.”
While the general thrust is similar to the urges of many to see scientists helping make policy, Abdel-Mottaleb seems focused on developing research agendas connected to national goals rather than implying that scientific evidence leads to particular policy choices.
“Such a crude approach [how the research ministry crafts research calls] – with no clear technical specifications provided nor a roadmap for applications – is short-sighted. Such issues must be addressed in future calls for proposals.
“Secondly, scientists should interact with policymakers to help set future goals and work on achieving them. For example, “providing 20% of fresh water needs from seawater by 2025″ could be set as a national goal. This would involve fabricating water desalination membranes with specific efficiency and providing the required energy to drive such process, preferably from renewable sources. Resources should then be allocated to achieve this goal. Milestones and potential technologies should be discussed and set out between policymakers and scientists. The policymakers would be able to establish national priorities and formulate policies required to realize them, while scientists advise on what is possible, how much would it cost and how long it would take. Such a process would offer a clear and detailed national roadmap for development. The roadmap would require continuous review and adjustment to meet changing requirements and new advances in science.”
Perhaps it’s just a different perspective colored by Egypt’s development needs, but I find it novel to see a scientist encouraging engagement with policy in the arena of national needs in a relatively specific fashion. I’m sure some in the U.K. may wish to sic Haldane’s ghost on him, but I’m not one of them. Depending on Abdel-Mottaleb’s future political aspirations, he may be in a better position than most to make his policy goals a reality. Egypt’s presidential candidates seem sympathetic, but like in the U.S., I don’t expect science funding to be a major priority for whomever takes office.