Science without borders

The full scientific potential of emerging economies has yet to be realized.
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Credit: Taj Francis

If a researcher’s goal is to improve people’s lives, they should look to the world’s poorer nations. Low- and middle-income countries — customarily grouped by the broad and flawed umbrella term ‘the developing world’ — are where the greatest gains can be found.

These nations commonly lack the wealth and resources needed to access and act on the world’s scientific knowledge. What they do not want for is talent. And with more than half of the world’s population growth between now and 2050 expected to come from low- and middle-income countries, it is more pressing than ever that their young people realize their talent.

As a country’s population grows, the problems that it faces change. Non-communicable diseases such as diabetes are placing an increasing burden on health systems. In countries as far removed as Peru and India, the capacity to address these new priorities is being built (see page S65).

One threat to capacity-building in emerging economies is brain drain. Many budding researchers leave Africa to study in Europe and North America, and not all come back. And those who do return often find themselves unprepared for the challenges that await them (S58).

Not all the hurdles young researchers in low- and middle-income countries must overcome are unique to those locales. From the 68th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting in Germany this June came a call for a global commitment to support science (S64). Those assembled also discussed the central importance of researchers maintaining the trust of the communities in which they work (S62). Few Nobel prizes for science have gone to researchers from low-income nations. It falls on these countries’ young researchers, and anyone with the power to assist them, to redress the balance.

We are pleased to acknowledge the financial support of Mars, Incorporated in producing this Outlook. As always, Nature has sole responsibility for all editorial content.

Nature 562, S57 (2018)

doi: 10.1038/d41586-018-06970-5

This article is part of Nature Outlook: Science without borders, an editorially independent supplement produced with the financial support of third parties. About this content.

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