Need for Science to Meaningfully Interact with Society and Vice Versa

Need for Science to Meaningfully Interact with Society and Vice Versa

on July 24, 2020


One of the 10 key areas of the UNESCO Recommendation on Science and Scientific Researchers (2017) is the need for science to meaningfully interact with society and vice versa.

Activities that strengthen the collaboration with societal actors during the research process to align science to society’s values, needs and expectations.

Science is the greatest collective endeavor. It contributes to ensuring a longer and healthier life, monitors our health, provides medicine to cure our diseases, alleviates aches and pains, helps us to provide water for our basic needs – including our food, provides energy and makes life more fun, including sports, music, entertainment and the latest communication technology. Last but not least, it nourishes our spirit.

Science generates solutions for everyday life and helps us to answer the great mysteries of the universe. In other words, science is one of the most important channels of knowledge. It has a specific role, as well as a variety of functions for the benefit of our society: creating new knowledge, improving education, and increasing the quality of our lives.

Science must respond to societal needs and global challenges. Public understanding and engagement with science, and citizen participation including through the popularization of science are essential to equip citizens to make informed personal and professional choices. Governments need to make decisions based on quality scientific information on issues such as health and agriculture, and parliaments need to legislate on societal issues which necessitate the latest scientific knowledge. National governments need to understand the science behind major global challenges such as climate change, ocean health, biodiversity loss and freshwater security.
To face sustainable development challenges, governments and citizens alike must understand the language of science and must become scientifically literate. On the other hand, scientists must understand the problems policy-makers face and endeavor to make the results of their research relevant and comprehensible to society.

Challenges today cut across the traditional boundaries of disciplines and stretch across the life cycle of innovation — from research to knowledge development and its application. Science, technology and innovation must drive our pursuit of more equitable and sustainable development.

Recommendations for Member States

In the following of this article, we will post recommendations on how should science interact with society

  1. By the policies they adopt in respect of and touching upon science, technology and innovation; by the way in which they use science and technology in policy-making and more generally; and by their treatment of scientific researchers in particular, Member States should demonstrate and take action such that research and development is not carried on in isolation, but as an explicit part of the nations’ integrated effort to set up a society that will be more humane, just and inclusive, for the protection and enhancement of the cultural and material well-being of its citizens in the present and future generations, and to further the United Nations ideals and internationally-agreed objectives, while giving sufficient place to science per se.
  2. In order to have a sound science, technology and innovation system integrated to their effort, Member States should establish and substantially strengthen human and institutional capacities, including:
    – Strengthening scientific culture, public trust and support for sciences throughout society, in particular through a vigorous and informed democratic debate on the production and use of scientific knowledge, and a dialogue between the scientific community and society
  3. To assist the emergence of scientific researchers of this high caliber, Member States should take measures to:
    – Encourage the spirit of service both to the advancement of science and to social and ecological responsibilities toward their fellow nationals, humanity in general, future generations, and the earth including all its ecosystems, its sustainable development and its conservation, as an important element in their education and training
  4. Considering that any scientific research could improve the understanding of factors involved in the survival and well-being of humankind as a whole, Member States should provide support to these initiatives of scientific researchers, with due regard to:(a) The impact of science on future generations;
    (b) The interconnection between various forms of life;
    (c)  The role and responsibility of human beings in the protection of the environment, the biosphere and biodiversity.
  5. Member States should endeavor to ensure that research and development under-taken, funded, or otherwise pursued in whole or in part in different States, is consistent with principles of conducting research in a responsible manner that respects human rights. In particular, for transnational research involving human subjects:
    (a) Appropriate ethical review should be undertaken both in the host state(s) and the state(s) in which the funder is located, based on internationally agreed ethical frameworks;
    (b) Such research should be responsive to the needs of host countries, and the impor-tance of it contributing to the alleviation of urgent global health problems should be recognized;
    (c) When negotiating a research agreement and terms for collaboration, agreement on the benefits of the research and access to the results should be established with full participation of the communities concerned.
  6. So as to ensure the human right to health, Member States should take measures so that benefits resulting from any research and its applications are shared with society as a whole and within the international community, in particular with developing countries.

For the complete set of recommendations follow this link to the UNESCO document.