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Essence of science in society

BY: Dr W. B. Owusu
Picture credit: Pixabay
Picture credit: Pixabay

Our contemporary world is facing challenges such as threats from health emergencies, unpredictable changes in weather patterns and diminishing biodiversity that require timely, effective, and integrated intervention.

Generating and applying useful knowledge about them is required for success in this bid.

This task falls largely in the domain of the physical, biological and medical sciences. Ideally, practitioners in these fields naturally generate data through functional research to form the basis for public policy formulation and evaluation.

This interface highlights the worth and credibility of the need to forge strong interdisciplinary collaboration.

Achievements

It is noteworthy that Ghana has a policy on Science, Technology and Innovation [STI] (MEST, 2010).

Much has been done in the development and application of science since independence.

Examples of these are manifest in the establishment of various science departments in schools, the institution of science resource centres, the conduct of popular national Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) quiz competitions and workshops for schoolchildren and students.

These are meant to expose children to science early and entice them to remain and develop in the discipline.

Further, we have experienced the phenomenal evolution of full-fledged colleges of science in our universities.

This is in addition to the specialised institutions under the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research [established by Research Act 21 (1958), NLC Decree 293 (1968) and CSIR Act 521 (1996)].

We have the Ghana Science Association (GSA), Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences (GAAS), Ghana Atomic Energy Commission (GAEC), among others.

These are commendable. However, the fact is that we have not achieved as much as we could have realized in this endeavour.

That makes it imperative for us to engage in thorough impact assessment and innovation to be more purposeful in finding avenues to improve further

Research triangle

I admire regular meetings among groups of people and institutions with compatible operational mandates.

The most recent of these was the 5th interphase between academia, industry, and government organised by the UG Institute of Applied Science and Technology (IAST), Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research (NMIMR), and the government last month (April 21-22). This “triangular” relationship is vital and must be encouraged.

It is symbiotic because as the primary purpose of academia is teaching, research and dissemination of results, graduates from such institutions often find themselves as employees in industry (private and/or public sector) to apply their acquired knowledge and expertise to help sustain business and boost the national economy.

The government’s usual central role has been to provide a conducive atmosphere for these activities.

In some instances, it provides or facilitates to securing of funds for research in alignment with public needs.

Gains, obstacles

While admitting that certain situations have obviously improved (e.g. computer availability and expanded communication facilities, health care, potable water and electricity supply, transportation, architecture, among others, over the past decade) we are still faced with basic problems that can be managed with the application of science and technology.

For example, we are still faced with under-nutrition even though there is great potential for agricultural productivity and diversity; we have serious problems with environmental sanitation and their associated preventable infectious diseases; we are yet to make maximum possible use of solar energy to diversify our sources of energy both for domestic and industrial applications, etc.

Solving these basic problems require an adequate appreciation of our crucial circumstances, available resources (both human and material), and how they can be appropriately developed and optimally applied to achieve desired results.

These, I believe, constitute the essence of science and technology in our society.
Science is knowledge-driven and ideas-dependent. These ideas usually are formed though observation and/or theoretical grounding in a particular specialty.

The mention of science should necessitate deep thoughts about the art of teaching it. This is because children (and older students) will be attracted to it if they are interested in it in the first place. For this to be achieved, the relevant information and instruction must be provided in attractive, affordable and comprehensive packages [NB: I am fondly reminded of the existence of the UCC-based Ghana Association of Science Teachers (GAST)].

Virtues, scientist

Dear reader, let us be reminded of the tacit moral codes in the teaching and practice of science – attentiveness, humility, innovativeness, honesty, purposefulness, perseverance, transparency, curiosity, consistency, courage, perseverance, meticulousness, scepticism, truthfulness, trustworthiness, reasonable simplicity, hard work, teamwork, objectivity, and frankness.

The writer is a Harvard-trained freelance writer on science and public health matters. E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.