‘Poverty is the biggest brutality’ read the vast banner outside the Greek parliament !!! Many often argue in bewilderment and ask how you would justify continued financial support to space physics and related sciences while considerable population of the world still earns US$10 per day. Shouldn’t there be an increase in investment in development and infrastructure in developing countries necessary, today more than ever? As a graduate student and reader in Astrophysics, I often defend my ground trying to reconcile both sides. The percentage of the world’s population living in extreme poverty has approximately halved since 1981. Many concentrated efforts are required to eradicate it completely. Existence of extreme poverty is a national crisis for every country and often forms a core issue in all political debates. As I ponder over this issue more, I see few underlying points to focus on; failure in communicating scientific values with commoners, lack of scientific literacy in fellow citizens and lack of political will to identify the most important and working aspects of economic growth.
As we have seen, science driven growth of economy and industries is self-evident. Let me paint a picture for you. Late 20th century saw the evidence of dire consequences of the greenhouse effect taking place on the Earthlike planet, Mars, and the diminishing possibilities of finding extra-terrestrial living forms there. World was introduced to a disastrous possible future of the Earth if nothing is done to stop that same phenomenon happening here on the Earth. Initiatives to stop climate change have drastically increased since and it helped achieve considerable public awareness. It was followed by a large investments in the research related to renewable energy resources. But the interesting point worth noting was the increased urgency to solve difficult engineering problems to achieve required sophistication in developing ‘green’ technology and also the public support as a political will to far reaching scientific experiments. This allowed young scientists and engineers all over the world to enhance the quality of research. Many new small scale entrepreneurs contributed significantly towards expanding the industry with humongous rate. So we surely have a much needed driving tool to see ourselves through in these difficult financial times, Science!
Scientific frontiers often march forward by the force created by unusual motivations and unexpected sources. For instance, Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) a widely used radiological technique used in medical research was originally developed by a nuclear physicist. Completely engrossed with his own experiments, Wilhelm Röntgen, achieved breakthrough by detecting the electromagnetic spectrum for X-rays. Since, X-ray based techniques were used extensively in medical diagnostics. History of science has shown us that the motivation or drive to explore new things expands scientific barriers more often than the amount of paycheck a research institute receives. All areas of science and technology require equal financial and political backing for the stable and sustained growth of the economy.
Recently, World encountered a major hindrance to the world economic growth in terms of credit crunch in developed countries especially in the United States which globally affected the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of developing countries adversely. I believe inability to calculate variable interest rate made the crisis worse than the actual malpractices that the world saw. A mathematically literate and scientifically aware consumer would have never invested in company stocks which have a false inflationary value in the market. Which brings us to the problem of science literacy; people often ignore the importance of science literacy in our lives. Having scientifically literate approach while interacting in any given working environment and having basic science and mathematics knowledge for the work environment are two different things. An increasing need of science communicators and the volunteers for the public understanding of science in developing nations is far reaching. Secondary and higher secondary education policies must be reconstructed to include science literacy chapters and regulations. Implementation of innovative ways to attract students to choose the mainstream science subjects as their study subjects must be encouraged. This will help equip students hone their young entrepreneurial skills. Many successful people in managerial and executive level of businesses point their share of success to the sound technical background they have sought. Every democratic country with capitalist or socially and economically centrist fiscal structure has a separate vantage place for self-sustained small scale businesses. A methodical and scientifically literate approach to problem solving features as an important trait in all entrepreneurial texts books and will prove to be monumental in one’s decision making as an entrepreneur.
These few aspects keeping in mind, many communities which are economically behind can adopt new fiscal policies and redirect their path to the sustained economic growth through world trade and globalization. Though eradicating poverty looks intricate issue and difficult to solve over the short span of time, the best part of tackling this problem, we already have the tested solutions! But these arguments will go in vain if proper implementation of various other aspects of good governance were not attained and political and administrative practices fail to bring accountability to the system. Nonetheless, creating work opportunities by advancing scientific horizons and forming a work force of scientifically literate and knowledgeable citizens both will produce an unstoppable momentum to reformed growing economies of community of nations.