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 data-driven 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 doesnt 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 wont work”.
It is in the creating of new products that great wealth can be amassed….take for example, our contemporary, Willam 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 the Hon Errol Morrison OJ, MD, PhD, Hon DSc
Chairman, Scientific Research Council
Director General, National Commission on Science and Technology, Jamaica.