As a medical student, I am in direct contact with the past, present and future of science. Sometimes, for instance, I read books concerning the history of medicine that bring me back to how diseases were diagnosed and treated a hundred years ago. Bloodlettings, leeches, herbs, and venoms.
It’s amazing to see how medical science has progressed since then. It’s only been a hundred years. We have gone from the discovery of Penicillin to the complete sequencing of the human genome in less than a century. And I wonder, how was that possible? The obvious answer: research.
It was through the application of scientific method that brilliant minds like Robert Koch, Alexander Fleming and Louis Pasteur made earth-moving discoveries. Breakthroughs that made possible to eliminate several pandemics that threatened humanity and that could have continued decimating the earth. However, thanks to research, great men discovered antibiotics and vaccines.
Reviewing the list of Nobel Prize winners, it is clear that most are researchers from “developed” countries, which make up only one third of the world population. Imagine the speed that scientific advances could reach if the rest of the world, including developing nations, had access and the funds required to conduct research. This opportunity or desire is called research globalization.
It is no secret that in developing countries there is little or no investment in research. The government prefers invest in health, security or education. After all, these are more urgent issues. However, it is shown that research not only offers innovation, but also economic benefits. According to Economists John Williams and Charles Jones of Stanford University, the National Bureau of Economic Research, and the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, the return of investment for publicly funded scientific research and development is somewhere between 30 percent and 100 percent, or more. Therefore, money invest in research is retrievable and in a short term.
To make research a globalized activity, international research organizations must be the nexus between developed and developing countries. This way, knowledge, technology, financial support, and human resources can be thoroughly directed to develop and implement strategies, policies and actions that allow diffusion of research throughout varied regions. To name a few, Global Knowledge Partnership, International Development Research Center, and United Nations University play an important role in this regard. Only though the cooperation of these three key players, we can continue making advances to eradicate diseases, heal more patients or discover new drugs.
Research is the only way we can continue advancing to a better future. A future where emphasis to research is given from primary school. A future where the next Nobel Prize winners belong to our regions. A future where most diseases have a cure, a vaccine, or at least a palliative treatment, that allows people to live their last days in a dignified manner.
That’s why we need to start researching today. Not tomorrow, not in a year, not in a decade. Today. It is today, when a child dies from malaria every 30 seconds, or due to HIV every minute. Situations could be avoided if we, the young people from developing countries, put our minds together to investigate with the help of governments and international organizations. It is the only way we can move forward on a highway to the future.
Wilson Castillo Tandazo is a medical student.