Guyanese scientists must pool their efforts for the good of the country

Dear Editor,

Recent letters to your paper, including ones from us, demonstrate the interest in, and willingness of many Guyanese to actively contribute to the development of Guyana. This most public dialogue has managed to raise a number of issues related to the importance of science and technology in Guyana and has actually created an opportunity to expand upon. Our own recent experience, however, may serve to highlight how public pronouncements in the media can result in potentially damaging opinions being established in the publics eye about individuals, without the benefit of open dialogue. For example, after Dr Maya Trotz’s letter in Stabroek News (SN 8/11/07), Dr Narine, Dr Maya Trotz, and Dr Ulric Trotz (Maya’s dad and former Director of IAST) have had a chance to dialogue. Contrary to the assertions made, Dr Narine had indeed consulted Dr Ulric Trotz about IAST’s future and its institutional memory. However, because of the impasse we found ourselves in, which was a barrier to dialogue, this was incorrectly reported in the Stabroek News. This whole experience has also managed to reconcile our own dispute and focus our energies instead on the multiple tasks needed to engage Guyanese, from the primary school student to the retired worker, from the lab technician to the single mother, from those physically here to those in the diaspora, on this topic. As scientists, we recognize the importance of creating avenues for good science to be developed, shared and implemented in a way that is accessible and acceptable by all. And in the context of Guyana, both past and present, in a way that carefully avoids laying claims of ownership or blame that are politically associated. If our own experience is any indication, escalating public debate in the media is simply not a sensible, constructive way in which to arrive at meaningful compromises and solutions to the many challenges that face us in the science and technology sector in Guyana.

When we left high school in 1990 it was our experience and knowledge of the challenges we faced as a country that motivated us to pursue our degrees in science and engineering. Now that we are both faculty in foreign lands, those challenges have changed somewhat, but still there is the motivation and commitment to form coalitions and collaborations to solve them in ways that integrate science and engineering and in ways that can take advantage of our specialized training and access to resources. It is our hope that the discussion can focus on constructive mechanisms for all to be engaged.

In an effort to create an easily accessible, free online forum, for at least some of these discussions to begin, we have opened a “Guyana Science and Technology Group” on www.facebook.com. Whilst not perfect, it is a site that offers services that can host this discussion and at the same time take advantage of the existing Guyanese networks on there. We encourage those interested in this discussion to join and share their views/resources/information. After signing up for a facebook account, search for the group and join. Examples of discussion threads are: Analytical Facilities in the Country, Potential Funding Opportunities, Working with International Donor Agencies, Informal Science Education and Participation, Collaborations at the University Level, Collaborations at the Primary and Secondary School Level, Collaborations at the Training Institutes and Labour Colleges, Community Involvement, Potential Private Sector Collaborations. Again, these are just a start.

Hopefully this initial effort will yield more substantive and sustainable plans for actual involvement of communities throughout Guyana and the diaspora. Since many Guyanese in Guyana do not have access to a computer, public discussions in which communities can be engaged to speak with each other on questions of science etc. as they affect daily lives in Guyana will be needed, and we will look forward to developing ways of effectively enabling this dialogue. In closing, we want to reiterate: respect and compromise are the two most important parameters in forging change. Let us not restrict ourselves to the petty horizons of cheap political constraints, and focus instead on the challenges that are more than sufficient to occupy the significant scientific talents here in Guyana, and the Diaspora.

Yours faithfully,

Professors Suresh Narine

and Maya Trotz

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