Mini-TWASes in the future?

Jacob Palis (FINEP/Marcos Araújo)

TWAS president Jacob Palis says decentralisation is the way forward for the organisation, now headquartered in Trieste, Italy.

Palis envisages the present regional offices in Brazil, China, Egypt, Kenya and India evolving into regional headquarters at some point, each raising part of their resources locally and developing their own programmes.

So each regional office would be a ‘mini-TWAS’ of sorts. “This is very symbolic,” he told SciDev.Net on Wednesday (20 October).

And while central headquarters would continue to convene its annual meeting each year, the regional offices would be encouraged to hold more frequent meetings, echoing South Africa’s science minister’s calls for more regular academy meetings and science collaborations.

Much of the new thinking is in view of the growing science and technology capacity and strengths of some of the emerging economies within the developing world – especially, Brazil, China, India and of late, South Africa. This “raises new questions and challenges” for TWAS, Palis said.

The organisation could use this growing capacity to decentralise its operations to regional offices, and also to address critical social issues in developing countries.

While the emerging developing countries are independently building up their science and technology capacity and “could go alone” in their efforts, they are also keen to show their solidarity with other developing countries and share their research capacity with them, he observed.

The existing regional offices as well as emerging developing countries are already promoting several fellowships, exchange programmes and training for researchers.

Irrespective of a mega-TWAS or several mini-TWASes, building scientific capacity in Africa specifically, and least developed countries in general, continues to remain a priority for TWAS. “Africa is a prioirity,” Palis says.

Towards this, TWAS has instituted visiting professor grants to scientists to work in Africa for up to one year and is encouraging more good-quality scientists from the continent to join the organisation.

The organisation also offers three-year grants of up to US$30,000 to support the work of excellent small groups of researchers in least developed countries.

T V Padma, South Asia regional Coordinator, SciDev.Net

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