Alan Leshner’s little collection

David Dickson

Aisling Irwin
News and features editor, SciDev.Net

What do you collect?

Some acquire works of art. Others have more abstract interests that won’t gather dust – for example, I collect intriguing reasons from journalists for not filing copy on time. Alan Leshner, chief executive officer of the American Association for the Advancement of Science collects something equally non-material but arguably more valuable: heads of state (or senior government ministers) who have asserted, in his presence, that they are putting science at the heart of their policymaking.

Unlike these paintings, Leshner's collection won't gather dust. Credit: Flickr/clumsy_jim

His tally so far is 27, and it’s going up increasingly fast.

“It’s large countries, small countries, countries from the North, from the South, so-called developed countries, so-called developing countries,” he said in his keynote address this morning.

“It’s phenomenal,” he told me later when I asked him about the rate of increase. “It’s an incredible thing. It’s countries like Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, China….”

“People have realised that, particularly if they don’t have natural resources, their resource is people.”

But why are they realising this now? He is more vague on this, citing enlightened individuals scattered across governments and also, more tangibly, a rise in the number of scientists and engineers being elected to govern.

“More and more countries have realised that for them to prosper they have to invest in science and in building science capacity,” he told the audience.

Nice collection. Still, I doubt it’s as good an ice-breaker as some of the lovingly crafted statements in my own anthology.


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