A pill a day for Chinese future

February 25, 2013

Marina Lemle

Marina Lemle
Freelance journalist, SciDev.Net


One iron pill a day may lead to better school results and greater opportunities in life, heard the 7th IAP conference on Science for Poverty Eradication and Sustainable Development, held in Rio de Janeiro this week (24-27 February).

http://www.reapchina.org/The iron deficiency that affect one  third of the Chinese children who live in poor rural areas and lowers their concentration and capacity to study is not the only problem these kids face in their school life, but it might be one of the easiest to solve.

After taking 5 mg of iron a day from November 2008 to May 2009, rates of iron deficiency in students from 30 schools in Shaanxi Province were significantly reduced, while their mathematics tests results improved, in comparison to the control group of students from other 30 schools in the same region who did not take the daily vitamins.

The four-year research conducted by Linxiu Zhang and colleagues led to the launching, in October 30, 2011, of a new nutrition programme which provides US$2.5 billion per year to benefit 680 poor Western China counties for 10 years.

“With evidence-based results, we made our voice heard at the national level,” says Zang, professor at the Center for Chinese Agricultural Policy and the Chinese Academy of Sciences. She told the audience that when researchers provided these results to policymakers, Ministry of Education said it was a Health System’s problem. On the other hand, the Ministry of Health said: “Tell us how to solve te problem in a effective and cost efficient way”; whcih the researchers did it and the policy was implemented.

Zhang argues that China will need quality labour forces and adequate human capital to make the necessary transformations in order to develop itself and grow like South Korea, where wages rates are much higher. “It’s important to remember that today’s children are tomorrow’s workers and professionals.”

Higher education is the greatest gap in China’s education: in large cities, 70% of the students go to college, but in in rural areas less than 5% reach this level, and school-aged children in these areas represent 35% of the total. The drop out rate during grades 7, 8 and 9 of junior high schools is 38% in poor rural China. According to the researcher, the problems of underperformance start way before middle school at China’s underserved rural and migrant areas. Another problem, according to Zhang is that 20% of more than 30,000 children between 10 to 12 years old tested in Gansu and Shaanxi Provinces were shortsighted, but only 1 or 2% wore eyeglasses.

“Leaders in China need to realize that to overcome today’s human capital gap and tomorrow’s inequality gap the price tag is high, but feasible”, says Zhang. “Investing into science and technology innovation is necessary but not sufficient. We need to pay equal attention to address the missing link between research and policy.” For more information on the Rural Education Action Project (Reap) access www.reapchina.org or read the paper Nutrition and Educational Performance in Rural China’s Elementary Schools: Results of a Randomized Control Trial in Shaanxi Province.

This blog post is part of our coverage of 2013 Global Network of Science Academies (IAP) conference which takes place 24-26 February 2013, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. To read further news and analysis please visit our website.


Q&A with Peter Singer on links between science academies and Grand Challenges

February 21, 2013

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Marina Lemle
Freelance journalist, SciDev.Net



Ahead of the 2013 conference of Global Network of Science Academies (IAP) we asked Peter A. Singer, CEO of Grand Challenges Canada and director of Sandra Rotman Centre, what the conference is all about.

Here’s brief summary of what he had to say. For more reporting and analysis, please tune in again next week, when the conference starts.

What has the relationship between Grand Challenges and the IAP, and science academies, been like so far?

We surveyed science academies and many are tackling grand challenges without calling them that.

Some academies have formally used Grand Challenges such as US National Academy of Sciences Grand Challenges in Engineering.   IAP people such as the co-chairs have been closely connected to Grand Challenges efforts but there is no formal relationship between IAP and Grand Challenges.

This meeting is about the opportunity since there is much synergy between grand challenges, science academies, and IAP.

Do you think this conference can lead to strengthening this relationship?

Yes I do.  The intended outputs of the conference are to identify and discuss a listing of grand challenges through the challenge labs, show how the synergies might occur through the ‘Letter from Rio’ and possibly develop an online marketplace for grand challenges opportunities.  These outputs will in part be a focus of the meeting.

What are the key areas where science academies, especially the ones from the developing world, can help make an impact?

This will become clear through the challenge labs and subsequent discussion.  As you will see they span across sectors.

What do you hope the outcomes of the conference to be? Are there any official proposals for cooperation scheduled to be discussed?

In terms of ultimate outcomes I hope that the conference will lead to greater mutual understanding and cooperation between science academies and those who develop, support and solve global grand challenges.  For example, the talent of science academies members could be useful to solve these challenges; the identification of grand challenges can be useful to science academies as they advise their governments; and grand challenges can be useful to us all as we seek to work together to solve challenges.

This blog post is part of our coverage of 2013 Global Network of Science Academies (IAP) conference which takes place 24-26 February 2013, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. To read further news and analysis please visit our website.


Grand challenges ask for great solutions

February 21, 2013

Helen Mendes

Helen Mendes
Freelance journalist, SciDev.Net


What can science do to help in solving the world’s big and complex challenges? And, more importantly, what are those challenges?

With these questions in mind, the InterAcademy Panel (IAP) will promote the conference Grand Challenges and Integrated Innovations: Science for Poverty Eradication and Sustainable Development, which will be hosted by the Brazilian Academy of Sciences in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and will take place on 24-26 February.

IAP is a Global Network of 105 Science Academies, launched in 1993. The IAP Conference is held every three years, hosted by one of IAP’s member academies, and is followed by the network’s general assembly.

The opening ceremony will be on Sunday, 24th. The organisers expect to have a keynote speech given by Brazilian president, Dilma Rousseff, whose presence is yet to be confirmed. Brazil’s minister of Science and Technology, Marco Antonio Raupp, is also a keynote speaker.

The Conference aims to discuss the role of science in tackling global challenges, and to connect science academies from all over the world with Grand Challenge opportunities. To achieve that, the conference will have four general sessions, where participants will discuss topics related to sustainable development. Besides the general sessions, participants will have the opportunity to debate and interact with scientists in the “Challenge Labs” – six sessions with group discussions of the speakers’ ideas. Topics include science literacy, food security, safe water and sanitation and climate change.

According to Peter A. Singer, chief executive officer of Grand Challenges Canada and co-chair of the conference, the goals of the conference are “to identify and discuss a listing of grand challenges through the challenge labs … and possibly develop an online marketplace for grand challenges opportunities”.

Journalist Marina Lemle and I will be blogging and writing news stories from the conference. Stay tuned.

Presentation of the IAP Conference produced by the Brazilian Academy of Sciences:

This blog post is part of our coverage of 2013 Global Network of Science Academies (IAP) conference which takes place 24-26 February 2013, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. To read further news and analysis please visit our website.


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