Sunday, September 30, 2007

Anil Gupta on 'How local knowledge can boost scientific studies'

Anil Gupta of Honey Bee Network (see hereand here for descriptions of some of their work) talks about how local innovations can help scientific research:
"Local innovations could help inform scientific research, if only scientists would invest the proper resources into exploring them.

Scientists do not respond as enthusiastically as they should because they are often sceptical about the value of traditional knowledge. There are few opportunities for understanding the real potential of grassroots innovations and the rewards of validating or further developing them may seem limited.

Peer pressure can push scientists to focus on high-impact research with wide visibility and students shy away from work that won't guarantee them a successful career. Sometimes there is simply a lack of encouragement, or even authorisation, from research heads for such work.

A bias towards chemical-intensive technologies can also exist and often researchers are put off because the protocols for validating non-chemical grassroots innovations require different approaches.

Lastly, the pressure from local innovators and traditional knowledge holders to influence policies is feeble, fragmented and easy to ignore.

Providing incentives

Yet in my more than 25 years of experience serving on scientific committees, I have not found a complete lack of awareness of the need to work on grassroots innovations. So why has it taken so long to build the bridges between formal and informal science?

The NIF — set up by the Department of Science and Technology in 2000 to provide institutional support for scaling up grassroots innovations — works with the Honey Bee Network and has an annual budget of about US$300,000.

Having sold products developed by grassroots innovators across five continents, the NIF has proved that there is space in the global market for these types of goods. But the speed, scope and scale of these markets can become much bigger with the addition of formal scientific research."

No comments: