There are not enough scientists in developing countries. It must change.
An important point to be able to use scientific knowledge to achieve the SDGs is the ability to produce it all over the world. As the authors of the report The Future is Now, it is not the case today. That will also be an important theme of IYBSSD 2022: no part of the world should be outside of basic sciences production. There are of course equity reasons. But also, basic sciences are not produced out of context, and new fields of knowledge will necessarily emerge as different people, in different natural and cultural environments, produce science. Moreover, countries from the Global South, were scientists are today less numerous, are also where the younger minds are, and will be more and more: young brains, correctly educated, will undoubtedly produce most of the knowledge we need for the SDGs.
Around 8 million researchers are now active worldwide, but the global distribution of this scientific capacity is highly unequal. The OECD countries have about 3,500 researchers per million inhabitants, 50 times the rate in the least developed countries, where there are only about 66 researchers per million inhabitants. That low number of researchers, coupled with a lack of science tradition and funding and little access to published science, seriously hampers research systems in the global South. It also puts those countries at a disadvantage in negotiating and implementing the 2030 Agenda.
Another reason to boost the scientific capacity in the Global South, is to avoid making the same catastrophic errors the countries of the Global North have made during at least the past two centuries, with their unsustainable development pathways.
Least developed countries urgently need context specific knowledge and support so as to break away from the historical association between economic development and environmental degradation, and instead build solid social foundations and environmental stewardship in tandem with economic development.