Celebrating crucial role of science in society


Prof Wilson Parawira Correspondent
Today Zimbabwe joins the rest of world in celebrating World Science Day for Peace and Development. The highlights of the day is the significant role of science in society and the need to engage the wider public in debates on emerging scientific issues.

It also underlines the importance and relevance of science in our daily lives.

By linking science more closely with society, World Science Day for Peace and Development aims to ensure that citizens are kept informed of developments in science. It also underscores the role scientists play in broadening our understanding of the remarkable, fragile planet we call home and in making our societies more sustainable.

The objectives of World Science Day for Peace and Development are to:

  • Strengthen public awareness on the role of science for peaceful and sustainable societies;
  • Promote national and international solidarity for shared science between countries;
  • Renew national and international commitment for the use of science for the benefit of societies;
  • Draw attention to the challenges faced by science and raising support for the scientific endeavour

The theme for 2017 is “Science for Global Understanding”.

Global understanding is key to peace and sustainable development in that it promotes the commitment of individuals and local communities in sharing knowledge for actions and behavioural change. Science is thus central to global understanding as it not only helps us understand the world and each other, but it also assists in designing, developing and implementing the change we aim for.

“An important contribution that UNESCO and science & technology centres can bring to global understanding is the unique opportunity to combine global sustainability and local action.

The dialogue among science, policy, and everyday lives should be constant and multi-directional. Global sustainability can learn so much from best practices and success stories,” said Flavia Schlegel, UNESCO assistant director-general for natural sciences. Our world faces social, cultural, and economic change, as well as a changing climate. Human actions play a key role in creating such worldwide challenges.

However, human actions also provide solutions. If individuals know what their day-to-day routines mean for the planet, they can take appropriate action. Global understanding helps overcome the knowledge-action gap and supports policy decisions that promote sustainability. This can be achieved through science education.

Everyday life and science belong together. Global understanding is based on joint social and natural science research. Research should address the logic of everyday life. Global understanding calls for the reconciliation of the global and the local, of science and everyday lives. In global understanding, the focus is on essential daily activities such as eating, drinking, housing, working, travelling, and communicating. Why do we make the choices that we do? Which societies – rich and poor – make more globally sustainable choices? Natural and social scientists will jointly provide answers.

Climate change is an example of the links between global and local effects. Global change may be climatic, social, cultural and economic. Societies need global understanding to manage change sustainably. Global sustainability cannot come about without local sustainability. Actions and thoughts that may seem disconnected in space and time are often fundamentally linked. True global understanding empowers people to make such connections. Many people know about the need for sustainability, but few make the corresponding decisions. What then is Science?

Science is both a body of knowledge and a process. Scientists study the physical and natural world through observation and experimentation. Science is a process of discovery and a path to understanding that allows us to link isolated facts into coherent and comprehensive understandings of the natural world. Science is a way of learning about what is in the natural world, how the natural world works, and how the natural world got to be the way it is.

Science is exciting and interesting. Scientists are motivated by the thrill of seeing or figuring out something that no one has before. “Eureka!” or “aha!” moments may not happen frequently, but they are often experiences that drive science and scientists.

Discoveries, new questions, and new ideas are what keep scientists going and awake at night, but they are only one part of the picture; the rest involves a lot of hard work. Science is useful. The knowledge generated by science is powerful and reliable. It can be used to develop new technologies, treat diseases, and deal with many other sorts of problems mankind are facing today and in the future.

Science is ongoing. Science is continually refining and expanding our knowledge of the universe, and as it does, it leads to new questions for future investigation. Science will never be “finished.” Science remains a continuing effort on the part of human beings to discover and increase our knowledge through research and to improve the standard of living of people. A discovery may itself be the result of many years of work on a particular problem. Millions of scientists all over the world are working to solve different parts of the puzzle of how the universe works, peering into its nooks and crannies, deploying their microscopes, telescopes, and other tools to unravel its secrets.

Accepted scientific ideas are reliable because they have been subjected to rigorous testing but as new evidence is acquired and new perspectives emerge these ideas can be revised. Science is a community endeavour relying on a system of checks and balances through peer evaluations, which helps ensure that science moves in the direction of greater accuracy and understanding.

Science develops literacy skills. Language and literacy skills are integral to knowing and doing science. Reading, writing, and speaking are all essential to comprehending and communicating scientific issues and ideas. But literacy in science is more than just reading and writing: understanding the impact of science in our world provides opportunity to debate issues through written, oral, or visual presentations. This gives students opportunities to read, write, defend and communicate their findings in meaningful ways.

Science develops numeracy skills. Numeracy is integral to doing science. Students learn the skills of sorting and classifying, estimating and counting, measuring, graphing, collecting data and analysing are frequently used when doing science.

Science investigations provide rich context and authentic opportunities to learn and use numeracy skills within the context of science. For instance, understanding and predicting how forces act on a structure involves science, mathematics and design technology through data collection, measurement, presentation and interpretation skills.

Science is the study of entire universe from the cellular level to the highest level. The main branches of natural science are biology, chemistry and physics. The distinctions between the natural science disciplines are not always sharp, and they share a number of cross-discipline fields. A particular example of a scientific discipline that draws upon multiple natural science disciplines is Environmental Science.

Science has led us to finding out things that give us what we have today. In fact without science we would not have electricity which would mean no mobiles, internet, Facebook we would not have fridges to keep food fresh, television to entertain or even cars to travel in. A world without science would mean that we would still be living in a very different way to that of what we live today. Today science influences so many different things that trying to list them all would mean this page could go on forever. Almost everything that we see around us is the gift of science and technology. Students are encouraged to take advantage of the many opportunities being offered in the country at all levels to enjoy and benefit the exciting fields of science.

Science is not just about new technology, inventions or new medicines. Science is about a whole lot more than that and to sum it up we believe that science is a way of helping the brain grow in finding new knowledge and helps us defeat our curiosity of how the world develops and works today. Science is important because it has helped form the world that we live in today.

  • Prof Wilson Parawira is a Professor of Microbiology and Biotechnology and is the Executive Dean of Faculty of Science at Bindura University of Science Education He can be contacted 0n [email protected]

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