Scientific knowledge should be applied to articulate and support the goals of sustainable development, through scientific assessments of current conditions and future prospects for the Earth system. Such assessments, based on existing and emerging innovations within the sciences, should be used in the decision-making process and in the interactive processes between the sciences and policy-making. There needs to be an increased output from the sciences in order to enhance understanding and facilitate interaction between science and society. Science is a public commodity that not only brings about transformative change on the road towards sustainable development. It is in itself also a way of crossing national and cultural borders and thus helps lay the foundation for a sustainable world. An increase in the scientific capacity and capability to achieve these goals will also be required, particularly in developing countries. Of crucial importance is the need for scientists in developing countries to participate fully in international scientific research programs dealing with the global problems of environment and development so as to allow all countries to participate on equal footing in negotiations on global environmental and developmental issues. In the face of threats of irreversible environmental damage, lack of full scientific understanding should not be an excuse for postponing actions which are justified in their own right. Science may further democratic practices when results are freely disseminated and shared as well as made accessible to all. The critical thinking that comes with science education is vital in training the mind, understanding the world, making choices and solving problems. The precautionary approach could provide a basis for policies relating to complex systems that are not yet fully understood and whose consequences of disturbances cannot yet be predicted. Science literacy supplies the basis for solutions to everyday problems in uncontroversial ways, reducing the likelihood of misunderstandings and furthering common understanding. Science literacy and capacity‐building should be particularly promoted in low‐ and middle‐income countries, where both the appreciation of the benefits of science as well as the resources for science are lacking. This situation creates dependence on countries that are scientifically more literate and resourceful.
Science Development in India:
As clearly declared by the Science policy resolutions, Science and Technology is widely recognized as an important tool for fostering and strengthening the economic and social development of the country. Science and Technology has always been the most important capital in nation-building everywhere. As such, policy-makers attempt to align S&T from time to time along emerging national and societal priorities through policy statements on the same. The thrust of the Scientific Policy Resolution, 1958 was on capacity-building in advancement of science as the foundation for making a strong nation, which had just freed itself from the shackles of colonial domination. The SPR resolved to “foster, promote and sustain” the “cultivation of science and scientific research in all its aspects”. Technology was then assumed to flow from the country’s established science infrastructure. The SPR also emphasized the use of the scientific approach in all activities of the nation. The focus of the Technology Policy Statement, 1983 was attainment of technological self-reliance and building of national strength by reducing vulnerability in strategic areas. The Science and Technology Policy, 2003 launched a massive programme for attracting our best talents to the arena of research in basic sciences, so that India continues to earn respect in a competitive knowledge society. It emphasized the need for investment into R&D to address national problems. It called for integrating programs of socioeconomic sectors with the national R&D system. It also articulated the need for technological innovation and creation of a national innovation system. The world has changed vastly since then in all spheres of human activity. The Science, Technology and Innovation Policy, 2013 has put our science, technology and innovation (STI) system as the driver for faster, sustainable and inclusive growth. This policy envisages creation of a new STI ecosystem, which finds solutions to societal problems and facilitates the entire innovation chain from knowledge to wealth creation, while at the same time attracting best students to this area, ensuring a premier position for India in the scientific world. India has made significant progress in various spheres of Science and Technology over the years and now has a strong network of Science and Technology Institutions, trained manpower and innovative knowledge base. Following sustained efforts over period the since independence and a more focused thrust during the recent period in higher education, scientific research in various faculties of science, boosting space technology, defense, nanotechnology, synthetic biology and other fields, the country has attained a recognized potential to emerge as a global player in the scientific era.
Important aspects of Scientific Policy objectives:
• Promoting proliferation of scientific temper amongst all sections of society.
• Enhancing skill for applications of science among the young from all social strata
• Making careers in science, research and innovation attractive to the brightest.
• Establishing world class R&D infrastructure for gaining global leadership in some select frontier areas of science.
• Positioning India among the top five global scientific powers by 2020.
• Linking contributions of science, research and innovation system with inclusive economic growth agenda and combine priorities of excellence with relevance
• Migrating R&D outputs into commercial applications by replicating hitherto successful models as well as establishment of new structures.
• Facilitating S&T-based high-risk innovations through new mechanisms
• Triggering changes in the mind set and value systems to recognize, respect and reward performances which create wealth from S&T derived knowledge.
The STI Policy will foster data sharing and access. Tapping global resources and especially Indian diaspora for accelerating the pace of technology-led development would be pursued. Multi sectorial partnerships and alliances will be leveraged for up scaling national competitiveness in research and manufacturing. The new policy framework will enable strategic partnerships and alliances with other nations through both bilateral and multilateral cooperation in science, technology and innovation. Cooperation in areas like climate change and mitigating natural disasters are important and beneficial. Science diplomacy, technology synergy and technology acquisition models should be judiciously deployed based on strategic relationships.
Science as means to achieve Sustainable Development Goals:
Achieving sustainable development requires that its social, economic and environmental dimensions are addressed in a balanced manner. Therefore the targets under each SDG should ideally address all three dimensions of sustainable development. Further, all targets of the SDGs taken together should ideally address all dimensions of sustainable development in an equitable manner. In view of the interdisciplinary nature of science for sustainable development, the importance of more intensified cooperation of different fields of science and for further research, in order to appropriately address the challenges of sustainable development should be the need of the hour. Moreover, science can also assist in explaining the interrelationships between the findings of research in, and the practice of, different disciplines and areas of knowledge. Sustainable development requires taking longer-term perspectives, integrating local and regional effects of global change into the development process, and using the best scientific and traditional knowledge available. The development process should be constantly re-evaluated, in light of the findings of scientific research, to ensure that resource utilization has reduced impacts on the Earth system. Good environmental and developmental management policies must therefore be scientifically robust, seeking to keep open a range of options to ensure flexibility of response. The precautionary approach is important. Often, there is a communication gap among scientists, policy makers, and the public at large, whose interests are articulated by both governmental and non-governmental organizations. Better communication is required among scientists, decision makers, and the general public.
Objectives for Science as a means in Sustainable Development:
The main objectives can be classified as a means for science to be a pioneering faculty in achieving sustainable development can be studied as follows:
• Environmental and developmental policy formulation, building upon the best scientific knowledge and assessments, and taking into account the need to enhance international cooperation and the relative uncertainties of the various processes and options involved;
• The interaction between the sciences and decision-making, using the precautionary approach, where appropriate, to change the existing patterns of production and consumption and to gain time for reducing uncertainty with respect to the selection of policy options;
• The generation and application of knowledge, especially indigenous and local knowledge, to the capacities of different environments and cultures, to achieve sustained levels of development, taking into account interrelations at the national, regional and international levels;
• Large-scale widening of the scientific base and strengthening of scientific and research capacities and capabilities in particular, those of developing countries in areas relevant to environment and development.
• Improving cooperation between scientists by promoting interdisciplinary research programs and activities and participation of people in setting priorities and in decision-making relating to sustainable development.
• Supporting new scientific research programs, including their socio-economic and human aspects, at the community, national, sub regional, regional and global levels, to complement and encourage synergies between traditional and conventional scientific knowledge and practices and strengthening interdisciplinary research related to environmental degradation and rehabilitation;
• Setting up demonstration models of different types (e.g., socio-economic, environmental conditions) to study methodologies and formulate guidelines and supporting research by developing relative-risk evaluation methods to assist policy makers in ranking scientific research priorities.
• Support development of an expanded monitoring network to describe cycles (for example, global, biogeochemical and hydrological cycles) and test hypotheses regarding their behavior, and improve research into the interactions among the various global cycles and their consequences at national, sub regional, regional and global levels as guides to tolerance and vulnerability; Support national, sub regional, regional and international observation and research programs in global atmospheric chemistry and the sources and sinks of greenhouse gases, and ensure that the results are presented in a publicly accessible and understandable form;
• Develop and expand national scientific and technological databases, processing data in unified formats and systems, and allowing full and open access to the depository libraries of regional scientific and technological information networks. Promote submission of scientific and technological information and databases to global or regional data centres and network systems.
• Develop the capacity for predicting the responses of terrestrial, freshwater, coastal and marine ecosystems and biodiversity to short- and long-term perturbations of the environment, and develop further restoration ecology. Study the role of biodiversity and the loss of species in the functioning of ecosystems and the global life-support system;
• Develop and apply systems and technology that automatically collect, record and transmit data and information to data and analysis centers, in order to monitor marine, terrestrial and atmospheric processes and provide advance warning of natural disasters;
• Enhance the contribution of the engineering sciences to multidisciplinary research programs on the Earth system, in particular with regard to increasing emergency preparedness and reducing the negative effects of major natural disasters; Intensify research to integrate the physical, economic and social sciences to better understand the impacts of economic and social behavior on the environment and of environmental degradation on local and global economies and, in particular:
• Support development of new user-friendly technologies and systems that facilitate the integration of multidisciplinary, physical, chemical, biological and social/human processes which, in turn, provide information and knowledge for decision makers and the general public.
The need of the hour is to identify the key areas in the planning activity for sustainable development and identify the present scenario of science and technology activities of developed countries. The isolated areas of particular research interest must be addressed for which the improvements could combine together and supports the lack of expertise for the individuals. The infrastructure developments on sustainability developments must be addressed with high sophisticated channels. Strengthening the scientific infrastructure in schools, universities and research institutions by the provision of adequate scientific equipment and access to current scientific literature, for the purpose of achieving and sustaining a critical mass of highly qualified scientists in the country can provide better results in achieving the objectives of sustainable development.
About the Author: The author is an anthropologist