Speaking at the Science and Technology Committee’s Evidence session on Science and international development earlier today, Dr Beth Taylor, Director of Communications at the Institute of Physics (IOP), outlined IOP’s approach to supporting physicists and physics teachers in developing countries.
Following the session, Dr Taylor said, “Paradoxically, despite their success, our projects are too cheap to fit DfID’s usual funding model.
“The projects need more funding in order for them to be rolled out to meet local demand, but where we, as a learned society, think in the tens of thousands, we understand that DfID is mainly focused on funding major projects at the £1 million level.
“Our projects are having a real impact, particularly for science teachers and science entrepreneurs in developing nations, but now that we know the formula works we would like to start rolling the projects out, and for this we need more resources. It would be great if DfID was able to introduce more flexible grants to allow small scale pilots with successful outcomes to be scaled up.”
Within its Physics for Development programme, IOP partners with national physical societies in developing countries to help them to support their members’ scientific careers, and offer them the same opportunities that are available to members of IOP.
IOP also runs two training projects that are in high demand: IOP for Africa – a project which has seen the development of teacher training hubs across seven countries in Sub-Saharan Africa – and a series of entrepreneurial workshops in developing countries around the world, which aim to equip scientists and engineers with the tools to take their research to market.
Dr Taylor continued, “Learned societies, in whichever field, can act as a sort of self-help group – a network which supports scientists in their careers and drives the way in which science is actually done. Over our 100 year history in the UK, we have built up expertise which our partners in developing nations can draw on in ways that meet their individual needs.
“Expertise, whether it’s teaching, business or academic, needs to be shared in order to reap the greatest benefits. Learned societies, in the UK and overseas, are ideally placed to facilitate that sharing.”