Sci­ence, tech­nol­ogy and in­no­va­tion: Stim­uli for health, wealth and well­ness

Jamaica Gleaner - - SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH COUNCIL -

MANY A reader may be turned off at the ti­tle head­ing; but all it is re­ally say­ing is ... let’s use our knowl­edge to do things prefer­ably in new ways which can gen­er­ate on the one hand, jobs and wealth or on the other hand of­fer health ben­e­fits.

Sci­ence is sim­ply a body of knowl­edge gath­ered through ap­proved rig­or­ous meth­ods of study to en­sure that the knowl­edge is sup­ported by re­li­able ev­i­dence. This is what we re­fer to as be­ing data-driven.

There is how­ever, an even larger body of knowl­edge which has been handed down from gen­er­a­tion to gen­er­a­tion and is char­ac­terised by our at­ti­tudes, be­liefs and prac­tices and this is called cul­tural sci­ence. This cul­tural sci­ence dic­tates our every­day liv­ing pro­foundly and from time to time may come up against the datadriven sci­ence. A com­mon ex­am­ple is where some­one falls ill, vis­its the doc­tor and is given a pre­scrip­tion to ob­tain drugs at a phar­macy. That per­son, how­ever, be­ing in­flu­enced by cul­tural norms, chooses in­stead to use var­i­ous home reme­dies such as plant ex­tracts, herbs and ‘bush teas’.

In some in­stances the out­come may be quite good if ei­ther method was used, but there are cer­tain spe­cific ar­eas where the data-driven sci­ence proves more re­li­able and ef­fi­ca­cious and vice versa. This is a very con­tentious is­sue in the health fo­rum and grad­u­ally world prac­tice is com­ing to the need to ac­com­mo­date both thrusts in a mu­tu­ally re­spect­ful man­ner.

In other ar­eas out­side of health, where knowl­edge is used in a va­ri­ety of in­dus­tries, the data-driven sci­ence is crit­i­cal and de­ter­mines best uses. The use of the knowl­edge is the tech­nol­ogy. Ex­am­ple ... the knowl­edge of air­waves and mag­netism has led to the devel­op­ment of in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy de­vices such as the tele­phone and elec­tronic me­dia (ra­dio, TV).

Al­most every­day, some­one comes up with a new way of us­ing the tech­nol­ogy and that is in­no­va­tion. If in­deed, that new way has com­mer­cial prom­ise, the in­no­va­tor could then be­come an en­tre­pre­neur and in­vest time and money in bring­ing it to mar­ket, at which point the prod­uct can be sold for profit and cre­ate jobs and wealth.

In the train­ing of our young minds at school, the phi­los­o­phy more and more is to en­cour­age the stu­dents to think of how much of what they are see­ing, touch­ing, us­ing and dis­cussing could be used or ap­plied in new ways ... THINK IN­NO­VA­TION.

Some­day, some­where, some­one may hit upon a good idea that bears fruit. It doesn’t hap­pen every­day, but when it does ... bingo!

You read of the No­bel Prize which is given an­nu­ally to out­stand­ing achievers. The prize money comes from the great wealth amassed by Al­fred No­bel who lived and worked in the 19th cen­tury in Europe; and who in pur­su­ing his cu­rios­ity in ex­plo­sives caused the death of his brother and sev­eral col­league work­ers and al­most of him­self on sev­eral oc­ca­sions so that the city of­fi­cials had to give him a re­mote site for his ex­per­i­ments ... but he per­sisted and suc­ceeded af­ter sev­eral years of study, gath­er­ing data and en­sur­ing that his meth­ods were scrupu­lously cor­rect. Thomas Edi­son, a 20th cen­tury Amer­i­can in­no­va­tor, in­vented the elec­tric light bulb which is a fix­ture in our lives. When he was first asked about his in­ven­tion, he said, “I can tell you a thou­sand ways in which it won’t work”.

It is in the cre­at­ing of new prod­ucts that great wealth can be amassed ... take for ex­am­ple, our con­tem­po­rary, Wil­liam Gates and his com­peti­tor the late Steve Jobs ... whose in­no­va­tions have changed the daily tenor of our lives and need­less to say, has led to much job and wealth cre­ation.

For us to fo­cus on this con­cept of sci­ence, tech­nol­ogy and in­no­va­tion is timely and im­por­tant and I trust that many of our youths will in­ter­est them­selves in the hap­pen­ings in the en­vi­ron­ment and be­gin to think of how he or she can make a dif­fer­ence.

Con­grat­u­la­tions on a thought-pro­vok­ing theme, and may the pro­grammes planned for this month prove ex­cit­ing, stim­u­lat­ing and en­cour­age em­u­lat­ing! PROF ER­ROL MOR­RI­SON Chair­man Sci­en­tific Re­search Coun­cil Di­rec­tor Gen­eral Na­tional Com­mis­sion on Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy, Ja­maica

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