Every major problem facing modern society now has a science and technology component—either as a cause or cure—whether it's energy and the environment, access to water and fertile land, the spread of infectious diseases, or sustaining a viable economy. Although every societal problem has unique regional characteristics that require attention, there are sufficient implications across regions for which only globally coordinated efforts will be successful. The recent assessments of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and their impacts on public and policy-maker perceptions provide one example of successful cooperation on a near-global scale. The betterment of humankind depends on a deliberate move from being an international community of scientists to being a truly global community.UNESCO, as the lead agency for both Natural Sciences and Social and Human Sciences in the network of intergovernmental organizations, should take this editorial in one of the leading scientific journals of the world to heart. This is especially true in that UNESCO has decades of experience helping its member nations coordinate norms and standards in its fields of expertise.
As more countries have invested in science and technology to advance their societies, high-quality science is increasingly being carried out in every part of the world. The scientific enterprise has become highly collaborative both within and across countries. These trends present great opportunities and increasing obligations for the scientific community to contribute to solving society's major problems. But efforts will be successful only if the community can function in a much more globally integrated way.
Becoming global can only happen if the differences among national scientific communities are reduced. For example, there is substantial variation in the norms and standards that govern the work of scientists in different countries. Effective collaboration requires harmonizing these standards of conduct so that scientists can work together with full trust and confidence. Consider the work of the International Society for Stem Cell Research, which has been striving as a community to develop global guidelines for embryonic stem cell research so that biological materials developed in one nation can be shared with others. Similar concerns apply to other policies concerning the conduct of science, such as those regarding the use of human subjects, animal welfare, or work on genetically modified organisms. Harmonizing norms and standards may be the most pressing need for successful globalization. But disparate national intellectual property rules and regulations can also deter international cooperation, as can differing publication and information access policies.
Friday, December 18, 2009
I quote at length from an editorial in Science magazine by Alan I. Leshner and Vaughan Turekian: