What is Science for?

Science_for_humanity_logoThe impact of science and technology on our lives can hardly be overstated, and yet this is not universally applicable, and the differences between the developed and developing world are vast and growing further apart every day. And yet we are sleep walking into unprecendented levels of inequality between the technology have’s and have-nots according to Susan Greenfield, speaking at Nesta launch of Science for Humanity last night.

She goes one to state that all scientists love solving problems, but then asks why these problems are often very narrowly focussed and, for university based researchers at least, stifled by the every increasing complexity of securing grant funding and the RAE. A great believer in the equalling power of science, she questioned why scientists cannot have more opportunity to apply their problem solving skills to some of the most challenging issues facing humanity. By her own admission she is possibly naively optimistic, however better that than a cynical bystander.

The idea behind this project was first published in her book Tomorrow’s People and has now taken shape as this new network of individuals and organisations seeking to use their knowledge and experience to help create solutions to some of the world’s most urgent social problems.

We also heard from Sir Gordon Conway, the Chief Scientific Adviser at the Department for International Development, who also gave numerous examples illustrating the case for science to tackle issues of the developing world and the millenium development goals.

The immediate task of Science for Humanity is to build the network of both scientists and NGOs to register their interest and areas of interest, with a view to creating models for collaborative innovation which turn science into solutions that make a real and sustainable difference to the lives and livelihoods of billions of poor people in developing countries.

The Practical challenges in implementing this vision should not be underestimated and yet the buzz in the room was palpable and the interest and expectation is now there to deliver a more outwardly engaged and purposeful science community. Further ideas on how this could and should happen would be very welcome.

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