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For any scientist or professional, regular participation in conferences or congresses is mandatory. To think or say otherwise is to sound provocative, nonsensical or even absurd. However, in the South, the area of the world of concern to us, attending a conference is rather like running an obstacle course, on account of the drastic lack of funding for such activities. Organizing a conference is just as difficult.

In the first, more usual, occurrence, travel, bed and board, registration fees, socializing have all to be paid for. Corporations (“labs”) are unenthusiastic about picking up any or all of these costs, because no returns can be expected on the investment. Governments do very little, because they often find themselves, financially, in intensive care. So, the conclusion : the expenditure required far exceeds the resources available to the typical practitioner from the South, whose monthly income, in the best of cases, is not over $ 500.

Thus, whether our introductory axiom is all that valid deserves to be considered. Calmly. It is indeed absolutely necessary for professionals, scientists and science workers to have and take advantage of continuing medical training opportunities, if they want to remain in the mainstream of professional excellence. The financial challenge has to be faced, though the battle on that front be already lost, since there are no funds available.

Unfortunately, there are no pat solutions, and the problem may be stated thus : “to go” or “not to go”. The first option implies heavy sacrifices. The possible effects of its financial consequences on family survival are so deleterious that the dilemma is a cruel one. The matter may even get to an almost existential stage, something like the famous “to be or not to be”.

Here are some suggestions: Conferences could be filmed and reproduced free of charge on the internet. CD-roms could be used, in particular those given to medical schools in the South; they would be accessible and affordable for everybody. Conference speakers could agree to give a repeat conference for colleagues who requested one and would, in exchange, be housed and fed. The educational benefits of this would be considerable, if one considers the teaching time devoted by the colleague, that would be much more than the standard 5-10 minutes granted a speaker at a conference or congress. Live teleconferencing could be used. Also, short-term grants providing specific training in a quality establishment would be undeniably useful A combination of all these means is certain to promote scientific exchanges and information sharing, since science, as we know, is nobody’s preserve, but the property of mankind.

Gilbert Dechambenoit

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ISSN: 1992-2647