The ideal of ‘reflection’ focuses on research responding to issues in society, including those created by scientific research itself. Natural disasters demand innovative solutions – for example, science should work to solve problems of hunger and drought. But science and technological developments sometimes cause new issues themselves. In this ideal, scientists should be aware of this and take responsibility for them.
Below are three examples of problems that scientists are currently working on and the issues that follow. Read more or press the titles and watch the film:
- Drought: The cassava plant is an essential source of nutrition for millions of people, but the plant becomes poisonous if it dries out. Scientists have genetically engineered the plant so that it doesn’t become poisonous, and can be used as food without risk. But many think that genetically modified plants can disrupt our eco-systems.
- Epidemics: When new epidemics break out, scientists work to develop vaccines that can prevent the disease from spreading. But part of the work of developing vaccines is to make detailed genetic maps of the disease-carrier, such as a virus – maps that could be used to deliberately create dangerous diseases.
- Lack of energy: The internal combustion engine revolutionised society. But its fumes pollute and there is an oil shortage. Scientists have discovered that we can use organic materials, such as corn, sugar and plant-waste, as sources of fuel. But using biomass in this way can decrease the amount of land for important food crops. In addition, it is currently still hard to make the extraction of organic fuels efficient.
Questions for reflection:
- Does new knowledge create better societies?
- Can you avoid disasters that you cannot predict?
- Do you need knowledge to change behaviour?
- Do you trust scientists?
How do scientists typically think in this ideal? Read more below.
I’m happy to get the chance to talk about this! We have big problems because science and industry between them have created some terrible issues – we have droughts because of climate change, pollution from dangerous chemicals, accidents from nuclear power, to name a few… There’s no time to waste! It’s paramount for scientists to be inspired by the problems we see in the world and to try and find solutions – especially to the problems created by science itself. I’m sorry, I’m very busy, I just have no time…