Out-of-date policies are undermining unprecedented opportunities for recent aid commitments to improve the environment and combat poverty, according to scientists at a new global research centre launched today. The warning comes from the STEPS Centre, whose urgently needed new approach to development aims to respond to 21st century conditions.
We live in an era of unprecedented environmental and technological flux; apocalyptic predictions of climate change-induced drought and floods, avian ‘flu and HIV/AIDS pandemics, unsafe food and scarce water supplies hit the headlines daily. Rapid change is creating new interactions between people, environment and technology, but also new problems, such as novel strains of avian ‘flu and HIV drug resistances. Yet billions in aid could be wasted because current policy is failing to respond.
The STEPS Centre’s new approach sees natural and social scientists working together, instead of separately. STEPS research connects, social, technology and environment issues, rather than dividing them. It creates solutions that are adaptive to change, build resilience to uncertainty and meet the priorities of poor and marginalised people in different settings.
With £4m of funding from the Economic and Social Research Council, STEPS’s five-year programme of research, with partners in Africa, Asia and Latin America, focuses on agriculture, water and health. Initial projects include investigating the effects of climate change on maize crops in Kenya, urbanisation in India and drug regulation in China and Latin America.Professor Melissa Leach, Director of the STEPS Centre explains:
Greenpeace chief scientist Doug Parr, speaking at the launch, said STEPS’ work was “crucial”: “Meeting the needs of billions of people in ways compatible with a livable planet is a moral imperative but a huge challenge to our standard ways of thinking and working, in both North and South. Research which challenges assumptions underpinning failed, outmoded and unsustainable models of development is crucial to making the future work.”
But globalised one-size-fits-all solutions ignore differences on the ground and remain compartmentalised by geography, sector and discipline at a time when unparalleled interaction between people, the environment and technology demand interdisciplinary solutions.
Recent examples of these failings include the UN’s polio eradication programme in Nigeria which backfired because Muslims believed vaccination was a ploy to inject people with anti-fertility drugs. Polio is now resurgent in Nigeria; Gambian President Yahya Jammeh's claims to cure AIDS with herbal medicine which risks derailing anti-retroviral treatments; and local opposition to large dam building and the GM crop Bt cotton in India.
Dr Ian Gibson MP, chairing the STEPS Centre launch, said: “Science makes a massive contribution to our modern world. If we are to respond to the challenges of the twenty-first century, research like the STEPS Centre’s, that makes science and technology work for poor and marginalised people, is essential. Economic development, matters of health and disease, climate change; it is hard to see where science and technology will not be a major component for poverty reduction programmes.”
James Wilsdon, head of science and innovation at think tank Demos, speaking at the launch, said STEPS fills a “vital gap”: “The global landscape for science, technology and innovation is changing at an astonishing pace. But while the frameworks we use for analysing these changes are good at asking ‘how much?’ and ‘how fast?’ they are useless at asking questions about direction – the diversity of outcomes to which all of this activity and investment could lead. So the STEPS Centre will fill a vital gap: it will be a place where these questions can be asked and answered. I’m excited by the Centre’s vision, and I hope it will shake up established thinking about the relationship between science, technology, poverty and sustainability.”
STEPS will partner Demos in the second phase of the Atlas of Ideas project, which is mapping changes in the global geography of science and innovation.
Andrew Scott, policy director at charity Practical Action, also speaking at the launch, said: “The STEPS centre will help us understand how we can make technology development work in the interests of people living in poverty, rather than pander to the wants of the affluent.”
Annika Howard | alfa
Dispersal of Fish Eggs by Water Birds – Just a Myth?
19.02.2018 | Universität Basel
Removing fossil fuel subsidies will not reduce CO2 emissions as much as hoped
08.02.2018 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
At the Hannover Messe 2018, the Bundesanstalt für Materialforschung und-prüfung (BAM) will show how, in the future, astronauts could produce their own tools or spare parts in zero gravity using 3D printing. This will reduce, weight and transport costs for space missions. Visitors can experience the innovative additive manufacturing process live at the fair.
Powder-based additive manufacturing in zero gravity is the name of the project in which a component is produced by applying metallic powder layers and then...
Physicists at the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics, which is jointly run by Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität and the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, have developed a high-power laser system that generates ultrashort pulses of light covering a large share of the mid-infrared spectrum. The researchers envisage a wide range of applications for the technology – in the early diagnosis of cancer, for instance.
Molecules are the building blocks of life. Like all other organisms, we are made of them. They control our biorhythm, and they can also reflect our state of...
University of Connecticut researchers have created a biodegradable composite made of silk fibers that can be used to repair broken load-bearing bones without the complications sometimes presented by other materials.
Repairing major load-bearing bones such as those in the leg can be a long and uncomfortable process.
Study published in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces is the outcome of an international effort that included teams from Dresden and Berlin in Germany, and the US.
Scientists at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) together with colleagues from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) and the University of Virginia...
Novel highly efficient and brilliant gamma-ray source: Based on model calculations, physicists of the Max PIanck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg propose a novel method for an efficient high-brilliance gamma-ray source. A giant collimated gamma-ray pulse is generated from the interaction of a dense ultra-relativistic electron beam with a thin solid conductor. Energetic gamma-rays are copiously produced as the electron beam splits into filaments while propagating across the conductor. The resulting gamma-ray energy and flux enable novel experiments in nuclear and fundamental physics.
The typical wavelength of light interacting with an object of the microcosm scales with the size of this object. For atoms, this ranges from visible light to...
13.04.2018 | Event News
12.04.2018 | Event News
09.04.2018 | Event News
24.04.2018 | Information Technology
24.04.2018 | Earth Sciences
24.04.2018 | Life Sciences