Scientists, engineers and economists must work together

Mićo Tatalović

Mićo Tatalović
Deputy news editor, SciDev.Net


One of the key messages that permeated the forum yesterday was the idea that there’s a need for new, interdisciplinary and collaborative ways of doing research that would include social scientists, engineers and the economists to tackle the world’s environmental and development problems.

As part of this, there is also a need to include engineering as a link between scientists and the technology’s use in economy, but also in assessing the feasibility of using new technologies in sustainable development and its effects on people (this is where social sciences come in, too).

This echoes the views engineering community expressed in a SciDev.Net news story a few months back – that there’s not enough appreciation of the role a skilled community of engineers play in turning science innovations into usable technologies.

Reginald I. Vachon, from the World Federation of Engineering Organisation, an ICSU partner coordinating the major group on science and technology at Rio+20, said “if we look at the universe, the scientist interacts with the universe; develops knowledge.

“The engineer works with this scientist; and we have economists, social scientists, architects and a lot of others interacting and we come up with a physical technology.”

This technology can be accepted or rejected by the community, and its application will go back to affect the universe.

“Technology is a result of engineering; engineers provide knowledge developed by scientists. Science and technology must be recognized as central elements for sustainable development policy,” Vachon said.

Similarly, Jorge Spitalnik, delivering the message from the president of WFEO said that while sustainable development would require substantial innovation it would also need engineers to analyse the feasibility of those innovative solutions to the challenges of development.

The role of engineers is to provide updated, unbiased and reliable information about technologies, the session heard.

And he added that development and application of technologies will not always be culturally accepted and, so, will require social scientists to research uptake of innovative technologies.

This blog post is part of our Forum on Science, Technology and Innovation for Sustainable Development blog which takes place 11-15 June 2012. To read news and analysis from the conference please visit our website.

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