Don't distort policy in the name of national pride: Dyna Rochmyaningsih offers a lesson from Indonesia on what can go wrong when governments use research to make a country look good

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Date: July 16, 2015
From: Nature(Vol. 523, Issue 7560)
Publisher: Nature Publishing Group
Document Type: Article
Length: 888 words
Lexile Measure: 1330L

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Countries have long tried to capitalize on scientific achievements by celebrating them as a source of national pride. From the state sponsorship of polar expeditions a century ago to the statements earlier this year from the Iranian government that its nuclear programme was developed to gain prestige, politicians recognize the powerful and popular pull of success in research. In a 2002 survey, for example, more people in the United States said that they were "very proud" of the nations achievements in science and technology than in any other field, including sport, economics, and art and literature. And in 2013, the BBC devoted a series of television documentaries to the "Wonder of British science".

For a developing nation such as Indonesia, advancing its science and technology is therefore a convenient way for the government to encourage its people to feel better about their country and its place in the world. But what happens when nationalism drives, rather than merely celebrates, science? The results from Indonesia suggest that priorities can become skewed and rigorous scientific assessment ignored. This is a valuable lesson for all countries.

The development of science and technology in Indonesia has accelerated in recent years, with help from US scientific diplomacy in the Islamic world. In May, the Indonesian Academy of Sciences, with support from the United States, launched a fund...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A422328500