Imbibing culture of science

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

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The generation and application of useful knowledge about such challenges are 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.

Achievements

So much has been done in Ghana and elsewhere to consistently develop and routinely apply science in our daily lives since our political independence.  This is epitomised in the promulgation of the national policy on Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) (MEST, 2010).

Convincing comital examples of these are the establishment of more science departments in schools, the institution of science resource centres, the renewed zeal in prosecuting the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) component of basic and secondary education curricula, the conduct and patronage of popular national quiz competitions and the organisation of science workshops seminars, and clinics for teachers, 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) and the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission (GAEC), among other such institutions. These are commendable.

However, we have not achieved as much as we could have realised in this endeavour. That makes it imperative for us to engage in more thorough impact assessment and innovation to be more purposeful in finding avenues to improve further.

This can be achieved through regular interactions, through both scheduled and informal meetings among groups of people and institutions with compatible operational mandates and professional desires.

Admiringly, this culture has increasingly been honoured through research conferences, annual research meetings and biennial meetings, among a variety of others.  One of the most recent of these was the 7th Industry-Academia Interaction Series organised by the Institute of Applied Science and Technology (IAST) at the University of Ghana on

May 16 and 17, 2024, under the theme: “Partnerships”.

This gathering has historically been an imaginary “research triangle” to foster the crucial interphase among academia, industry and government. It is symbiotic because with the primary purpose of academia being teaching, research and the dissemination of results, graduates from such institutions often find themselves as employees in industry 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 the 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, etc.,), 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 the maximum possible use of solar energy to diversify our sources of energy both for domestic and industrial applications, etc.

Solving these basic problems requires 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. 

Science is knowledge-driven and ideas-dependent. These ideas usually are formed via careful observation and/or theoretical grounding in some field(s) of endeavour. 

Teaching

The mention of science should necessitate deep thoughts about the art of teaching it. This is because pupils and older students will be attracted to it if they are interested in it in the first place.

This necessitates the delivery of relevant and timely information and instruction in attractive, affordable and comprehensive packages. My reflection(s) on these always fondly remind me of the Teaching Practice Lessons available at UCC, and the existence of the UCC-based Ghana Association of Science Teachers (GAST).

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Virtues 

The learning, teaching and practice of science have virtues that must be revered and applied. The core of these tacit moral codes and values are characterised by:  Truth and trustworthiness, objectivity, curiosity, humility, honesty, consistency, attention to detail, innovation, perseverance, purposefulness, transparency, level-headedness, courage, positive scepticism, reasonable simplicity, teamwork and frankness.

The writer is a Harvard-trained freelance writer on science and public health matters. 
E-mail: [email protected]

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