Science for social responsibility

New and emerging technologies may ignite controversy in society. The following are some examples: (1) Boundaries of life: abortion, euthanasia; (2) Animal rights: handling of animals, testing on animals, use of animals in the cosmetic industry and for medical research; (3) Genetic engineering: cloning, GMOs, stem cells; (4) Physical engineering: robotics, drones, drone bees, nanotechnology, nuclear power; and (5) Synthetic biology: synthetic meat.

Why are these technologies controversial? Some would jump to a conclusion that the public is ignorant of science and increasing science literacy can address at least some of the problems.

Others do not necessarily agree with this deficit model of public engagement in science that assume science is apolitical and free human values and emotions. Many of them believe in ‘citizen science’, which is also called public engagement in science or crowdsourcing scientific research, to address science and technology controversies.

A recent book entitled The Rightful Place of Science: Citizen … Continue reading

A new National Advisory Council on Research and Innovation (NACRI)

Canada’s Fundamental Science Review recommends legislation to create a new National Advisory Council on Research and Innovation (NACRI) to provide broad oversight of the federal research and innovation ecosystems. NACRI will have to replace the current external advisory body, the Science, Technology, and Innovation Council (STIC), as it has no independent reporting authority and a constrained disciplinary mandate.

The Review acknowledges the imminent appointment of a new Chief Science Advisor (CSA) for Canada as a major step forward. NACRI is expected to work closely with CSA.

NACRI’s major responsibilities would be as follows.

  • advice to the Prime Minister and Cabinet on federal spending as well as broad goals and priorities for research and innovation;
  • improving the coordination and strategic alignment of different elements of federal support for research and innovation;
  • evaluation of the overall performance of the extramural research enterprise;
  • public reporting and outreach on matters determined … Continue reading
  • Socially and environmentally responsible innovation

    We are witnessing disruptive innovations from agriculture to health care, education, governance and community services. However, not all innovations are socially and environmentally responsible. We have seen accessibility and adaptability concerns for many modern agricultural technologies among smallholder farms across the world. The problem of digital divide has been identified in developing as well as developed and emerging countries, albeit at a different scale.

    Scholars have suggested measures, such as anticipation, inclusion, reflexivity and responsiveness, in the engagement processes to make innovations more responsible. Now there are journals dedicated to responsible innovation, http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/tjri20

    This video from the Engage2020 explains Europian initiatives on responsible innovation.

    Broadband for a sustainable digital future

    In a recent journal article, we have integrated latest approaches to assess social and technological change, which are known respectively as ‘reflexive learning’ and ‘reflexive governance’. This paper contextualises the integrated framework of reflexive interactive assessment using case studies of broadband access and use among small businesses and community organisations from the first release areas of the heavily invested high-speed broadband network known as EORN (Eastern Ontario Regional Network) in Canada.

    Highlights from the paper are as follows.

    •  Broadband technology assessment involves aspects of social as well as technical change.

    •  This paper develops a hybrid methodology — reflexive interactive assessment — integrating program assessment and technology assessment.

    •  We have used this methodology to assess a major Canadian rural broadband investment program.

    •  Findings suggest that broadband Internet is an essential service for regional and rural innovation.

    •  Early evidence shows … Continue reading

    Digitally Engaged Rural Community Development

    Book Review:

    Responsive Countryside: The Digital Age and Rural Communities, by Roberto Gallardo. (2016). Published by Mississippi State University Extension Service Intelligent Community Institute. Available as Kindle; 174 pages. Publisher’s website: http://ici.msucares.com/publications

    Gallardo’s book is one of the few recent texts available on the topic of digital rural economy. In this regard, the book has made an important contribution to digitally engaged rural community development.

    Adaptive transition in the digital age

    Dr. Roberto Gallardo,  the founder and leader of the Mississippi State University Extension Service Intelligent Community Institute, has published a new book titled Responsive Countryside: The Digital Age and Rural Communities.

    We, at the Adaptive Transition Initiative, agree with Dr. Gallardo that intelligent communities (not smart communities) will generate regional and rural innovations and facilitate adaptive transitions in the digital age. He further argues that it would be imperative to address the rural digital divide revisiting extension theory and practice with a focus on asset building (also called ABCD – asset based community development).

    A call for adaptive transition to 1.5°C above the pre-industrial level

    Adaptive transition_Figure2

    Global warming provides risks to ecosystems, food security and sustainable development. Striking a balance between incremental and transformational adaptations would help holding global warming less than 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels within this century. Transformational adaptation is particularly imperative to address structural deficits, such as soil fertility decline, deforestation and biodiversity loss, and lack of income, education, health and political power. We have discussed these concepts in the following articles, among others.

     

    Pant, L. P. (2016) Paradox of Mainstreaming Agroecology for Regional and Rural Food Security in Developing Countries. Technological Forecasting and Social Change, In press.

    Pant, L. P., Adhikari, B. and Bhattarai, K. K. (2015) Adaptive Transition for Transformations to Sustainability in Developing Countries. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability,14: 206-212.