History of the MSI

The Millennium Science Initiative came into being over the course of several years, building on previous efforts to build S&T capacity in the developing world. Prior initiatives included programs of TWAS, UNESCO, ICSU, the European Union, private foundations, Scandinavian aid organizations, and the World Bank.

The specific concept for the MSI represents the confluence of two initiatives. First, in 1997, World Bank president James Wolfensohn was exploring ways in which the Bank might incorporate science and technology into its development strategy. Mr. Wolfensohn, who also chaired the Board of Trustees of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, sought the advice of Institute Director Phillip Griffiths.

Meanwhile, the leaders of Chile, Brazil, and Argentina — Presidents Frei, Cardoso, and Menem, respectively — discussed building S&T capacity in their countries at a summit meeting in 1997. All three presidents were approaching the end of their terms, and they agreed that, as a legacy, they would aim to leave their positions having strengthened scientific capacity in their respective countries. The Science Advisor to the President of Chile was, by coincidence, a part-time Member of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. He approached Prof. Griffiths to discuss ways in which his President's objective might be realized.

These approaches came together at a major convocation in Santiago, Chile in 1998, supported by the Government of Chile and Carnegie Corporation of New York. At this convocation an international panel of leading scientists, government officials, representatives of the private sector, and World Bank officials co-designed the Millennium Science Initiative. The first concrete result was the formal implementation of an MSI in Chile.

The Science Initiative Group (SIG) was established in 1999 to ensure adequate representation of the international scientific community in the MSI, to provide scientific guidance, and to coordinate the efforts of the many groups whose participation was essential for successful program implementation.