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Opinions and Debates on science

The rain falls on all men(J. D. Embury)
Science and China's modernization drive(Wen Jiabao)
Obaba's speech where he wooed researchers

The rain falls on all men

David Embury of PMME

  As I watch the televisions reports from Cancun or reflect on the climate conference in Copenhagen. I am struck by the contrast with Science in the period of Humphry Davy* and his work related to the terrible mine disasters of north eastern England in the early 1800s. Sir Humphry Davy improved the safety of coal mines by going into mines talking to miners and working directly to achieve an economic and tractable solution to the terrible problem of mine safety. It is also of interest that he never patented the lamp but was awarded the Rumford medal for his exceptional contributions.
  In contrast, in our age of instant “knowledge”, we watch petty officials debate on Climate Change in terms of whether the industrial revolution is the root cause or whether the coal utilizing nations of the developing world should pay for the costs of climate change. The issue is not the origins of the problem; it is our communal human response. The responses are not simply in terms of tax structures, perceptions of national responsibility, appropriate fuel supplies etc., but the real recognition of the human impact which the extremes of climate change will inevitably bring and which we as a human community share. The real issue is how we can become proactive and prepare responses which will save lives and minimize suffering in any devastated area of the earth.
  We need the will to apply new combinations of sciences to view issues of feasible, future agronomies, materials for disaster relief and temporary housing and repair of infrastructures, transportable and deployable flood control systems, membrane technologies for water conservation and reutilization and new ways to use the biosphere. Further, we need to develop these responses now and to educate the public to the real issues of climate change and the massive social upheaval and human suffering it will bring.
  Climate change is not a passive sport; it is a threat to all of us as a cohesive, caring, human society. As individuals and organizations we need to be active and demand action, leadership and education from our political leaders not a public posturing based on ignorance and lack of vision.

* Sir Humphry Davy (1778–1829) was a British chemist and inventor. He is probably best remembered today for his discoveries of several alkali and alkaline earth metals, as well as contributions to the discoveries of the elemental nature of chlorine and iodine. In 1815 he invented the Davy lamp, which allowed miners to work safely in the presence of flammable gases.

Science and China's modernization drive

Wen Jiabao

Chinese prime minister WEN Jiabao considers Science as a key to development. See his article published in the USA based magazine SCIENCE (October 30, 2008)

  The history of modernization is in essence a history of scientific and technical progress. Scientific discovery and technological inventions have brought about new civilizations, modern industries, and the rise and fall of nations. China is now engaged in a modernization drive unprecedented in the history of humankind.
  Over the past half century, China has made great achievements in basic science and technological innovation. It now ranks among the top nations in the annual number of papers published internationally and patent applications filed. China has also made achievements in such areas as manned space flight, high-performance computers, super-large-scale integrated circuits, and third-generation telecommunications technology. High-tech industry has experienced rapid growth, accounting for over 15 percent of the manufacturing industry.
  Francis Bacon, the 16th-century English philosopher, referred to science as a means to improve mankind's lot. Today, the hybrid rice variety developed by Chinese scientists has been adopted for planting in over 3 million hectares and has become a "golden key" to meeting China's own food needs and boosting world cereal production. Scientific and technological development in the realm of health has also increased average life expectancy in China to that of developed countries.
  To encourage further innovation, the Chinese government has formulated a Mid- to Long-Term Plan for Development of Science and Technology (2006-2020), which highlights research in the basic sciences and frontier technologies, with priority given to energy, water resources, and environmental protection. We strive to develop independent intellectual property rights in areas of information technology and new materials, while strengthening the application of biotechnology to agriculture, industry, population and health.
  The future of China's science and technology depends fundamentally on how we attract, train, and use young scientific talents today. Thus, at the core of our science and technology policy is attracting a diverse range of talents, especially young people, into science and providing them with an environment that brings out the best of their creative ideas.
  In the field of science and technology, we will intensify institutional reform, restructure scientific research, rationally allocate public resources, and enhance innovation capability. We advocate free academic debate under a lively academic atmosphere, where curiosity-driven exploration is encouraged and failure tolerated.
  Science has no boundaries. China's endeavors in science and technology need to be more integrated with those of the world, and the world needs a China that is vibrant and able to deliver more in science and technology. Just as collisions generate sparks, exchange and communication enrich imagination and creativity. Many Chinese scientists have stepped into the international academic arena, where they and their foreign colleagues learn from each other and jointly contribute to the worldwide development of science and technology.
  To encourage the learning and application of science among the general public, we need to embrace a scientific culture by promoting scientific rationality while cherishing Chinese cultural heritage. Enlightened by science, the rich and profound Chinese culture is bound to shine more gloriously.
  I firmly believe that science is the ultimate revolution. At a time when the current global financial turmoil is dealing a heavy blow to the world economy, it has become all the more important to rely on scientific and technological progress to promote growth in the real economy.
  Economic and social development must rely on science and technology, and science and technology must serve economic and social development. We will rely on science and technology to promote economic restructuring, transform development patterns, safeguard food and energy security, and address global climate change. We are confident that China will reap a rich harvest in science and technology and that this will have positive and far-reaching effects on human civilization and the well being of humankind.

American President Obama's speech (17th December 2008)
where he wooed researchers thus:

  Right now, in labs, classrooms and companies across America, our leading minds are hard at work chasing the next big idea, on the cusp of breakthroughs that could revolutionize our lives. But history tells us that they cannot do it alone. From landing on the moon, to sequencing the human genome, to inventing the Internet, America has been the first to cross that new frontier because we had leaders who paved the way: leaders like President Kennedy, who inspired us to push the boundaries of the known world and achieve the impossible; leaders who not only invested in our scientists, but who respected the integrity of the scientific process.

more to come ...

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