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A resolvable contradiction

“Boston…is America’s science town,” began David Baltimore at a breakfast buffet this morning. He was speaking to a room full of journalists in the Hynes Convention Center with the intention of giving a taster of his formal address later this evening. Before he started I had just got a quick introduction with the few other people at my table. On my right, a retired local freelancer who wrote, not to make ends meet, but to “pass the time”. On my left, my colleague Liz Kalaugher from, and beyond her a couple of excitable Georgian reporters.

Baltimore’s brief talk centred on the growing amount of science research being performed in developing countries; potentially bad news for the US as the current leading research nation. Home to almost half of the world’s population, China and India have a long-term advantage over the West if they are to benefit from a research-driven economy. Last year, China produced a million science graduates. “Europe and the US will lose our advantage if we don’t pay attention to development in the future,” Baltimore said.

So which is more important: having a stronger global scientific community, or having that community strongest in the US? “It’s not an irresolvable contradiction,” he went on to explain. In essence, Baltimore advocates the encouragement of scientific research both nationally and globally — presumably as long as the bias stays right. “The world has gotten flatter, but it is still tipped toward the West,” he added.

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