Sunday, April 15, 2007

A World of Science (April - June 2007)

Read the new edition of UNESCO's A World of Science.

From the "In Focus" editorial:
Far from the nanohype

More than four billion dollars has been spent in recent years on a technology that remains largely hypothetical. ‘We stand on the threshold of a new era, that of nanofabrication, where systems and devices will be built in the laboratory atom by atom’, remarked Belita Koiller on accepting her L’ORÉAL–UNESCO for Women in Science award in 2005. As we do not yet know how to assemble atoms in practice, much of research and development (r&D) on nanotechnology remains theoretical, via computer modelling and the study of quantum theories. For all their exciting possibilities, nanomachines, nanorobots and the like still remain a promise of things to come for the most part.

Nanotechnology may still be work in progress but it is already raising some important ethical questions. it is also fueling an emotive debate between nanophiliacs and nanophobics. which of the public’s fears are justified and which are unfounded?

Next october, 192 countries will examine Nanotechnologies and Ethics: Policies
and Actions at UNesCo’s General Conference. Prepared by the world Commission
on the ethics of science and Technology (CoMesT) and UNesCo’s ethics of
science and Technology Programme after a wide consultation, the report will
outline strategies for regulating the development of nanotechnology around the
world to maximize the benefits and minimize the risks of this new technology,
far from the ‘nanohype’ which has taken hold of the debate.
From: "The glass ceiling
"A decade ago, UNESCO launched a program for Women, Science and Technology. Some might be tempted to consider such a program of secondary importance, in light of such momentous problems as extreme poverty, pandemics, climate change and so on. At a time when the planet is fighting for its survival, does UNESCO have nothing better to do than set up prizes and fellowships for women and promote science education for girls?

Let’s examine the situation for a moment. The latest data published by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, reproduced in this issue, reveal that science and technology are still dominated by men. Women represent just one-quarter of the world’s researchers, roughly 10% of university professors and fewer than 5% of members of Academies of Sciences. As for Nobel Prize laureates in science, fewer than 3% have been women.

It is true that the life sciences often attract more women than men but, even here, women soon strike a `glass ceiling´ when they try climbing the career ladder. ‘Our male colleagues do not readily accept women’, regrets Professor Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, one of this year’s five L’ORÉAL–UNESCO laureates. ‘For a woman to make it, her portfolio has to be ten times heavier than that of her male counterpart.’

No comments: