Global Challenges, Global differences…?

The InterAcademy Panel on International Issues (IAP), essentially a network of science academies around the world, met in January at the Royal Society in London to discuss how best to work with governments to tackle global problems. No small task, I am sure you agree,

New Scientists magazine also took advantage of all these scientific leaders being in one place at the same time to ask the 70 members from 62 academies a few questions. The results of this survey were published last week.

The survey short and asked the members to rate their confidence in world governments to tackle climate change through research, their view of the trust and understanding of people in their respective countries regarding science and scientists, and an open question asking them to list three issues that concern them most when looking ahead to 2020, both nationally and globally.

New Scientist gave the results (which themselves were not too surprising) an interesting perspective by comparing results from richer and poorer nations. There were a few interesting results – members from higher income nations were less optimistic about the chances of science solving the problem of climate change. They also had less confidence in how much the people in their countries trust scientists. Globally, climate change was named as the greatest challenge facing the world. There were some differences; a few more scientists from poorer nations cited water supply; a few more in richer countries the fight against terrorism.

It’s difficult to draw any meaningful conclusions from this short survey and this small cross section of scientists. But it is a good way to focus on the global challenges we face, and to think about different perspectives around the world.

Martin Rees, president of the Royal Society has written an editorial on the survey, highlighting global challenges and potential priority differences. But he finsihes by saying that dialogue is the answer, writing  “…first of all we must enhance our dialogue with politicians and the wider world, and ensure that we sustain the public’s trust.”

Esther Crooks

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