APEC Science Ministers have agreed to undertake a program of research to identify the causes and seek solutions to the apparent shortfall in science and technology skills in the global economy.
In their Joint Communiqué following the 4th APEC Ministers' Meeting on Regional Science and Technology Cooperation, Ministers have also drawn attention to environmental and sustainability issues relating to science and technology development.
Ministers noted in the Communiqué: "Some evidence suggests that most economies face difficulties in training and retaining people with the needed science and technology (S&T) skills. We ask that Industrial Science and Technology Working Group (ISTWG) and other APEC working groups including the Human Resource Development Working Group (HRDWG) work together and consider how to promote further research on the supply and demand of needed science and technology skills within APEC economies.
"The focus of this study should be whether there is a world-wide shortage of S&T skills, or a mismatch between available skills and changing demands.
Depending on the results of this work, topics that could be considered for information exchange and further study by the two working groups are:
The demand for S&T skills in relation to the capacity of economies to educate and train researchers, scientists and secondary & tertiary teaching staff.
The main factors that encourage people to study and work in the S&T field (or discourage them from doing so).
The key factors behind skilled S&T staff moving across borders, either within APEC or to other countries.
"We underscored the need to ensure the workforce within APEC economies is equipped to meet the scientific and technological needs of today and the challenges of the future, and that it draws on the widest pool of talent, now and in the future."
Drawing attention to environmental and development issues, Ministers recognized that "the concept of sustainable growth is very broad, and extends well beyond the responsibilities of science portfolios.
"However, we are well aware that science and technology will play a pivotal role in APEC's ability to deliver sustainable growth," the Communiqué stated.
"We have noted the potential of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies to improve the region's energy, environment and economic security, and that the Energy Working Group is developing a framework document on hydrogen and fuel cell technologies as directed by APEC Leaders.
"We ask Industrial Science and Technology Working Group and the Center for Technology Foresight to continue to collaborate with the APEC Energy Working Group in its research on the hydrogen economy."
Ministers also made a series of recommendations on sustainability that will be considered by other APEC Ministers throughout the year. These include a call for business leaders to take an increasingly sustainable approach to business practices.
The Communiqué stated: "Business leaders within APEC be encouraged to adopt a positive approach towards sustainability concepts as a way of establishing goals that will release the creativity of engineers and scientists."
Throughout their meetings on March 10-12 in Christchurch, New Zealand, a common theme has been the recognition of the link between globalisation and the development of new technologies.
The communiqué recognizes that: "Globalisation has profound implications for S&T. As economies become increasingly knowledge-based and subject to international flows of goods, services, people, investment and ideas, governments have a critical role in encouraging collaboration among universities, research institutions and business."
The Joint Communiqué and recommendations from Science Ministers will now be presented to other APEC Ministerial Meetings and APEC working groups.
The Communiqué specifically calls for Education Ministers to consider the issues arising in science and technology education at the APEC Education Ministers meet in Santiago, Chile, in April.
The Final Communiqué from the 4th APEC Ministers' Meeting on Regional Science and Technology Cooperation is available online at: www.apec.org