Lisa: Has modern science failed the developing world? It’s a question asked in this weeks edition of The Scientist. From a health perspective, it is clear that the research dollars spent on diseases of the developing world is hugely disproportionate to the number of people those diseases affect. Indeed, without funding from philanthropists such as the Wellcome Trust and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, research into diseases like TB and malaria would be even further behind.
I’ve always felt that, as a scientist, I am a bit helpless to help directly tackle these problems. I have friends involved in medicine, or teaching, or water sanitation who have worked with organisations like the Red Cross to help on the ground and really make a difference in areas that most need it. But who ever needs a protein chemist?!
So Science for Humanity was born. Launched in March, Science for Humanity is a group scientists and organisations from around the world directly trying to tackle the problems of the developing world, to make a ‘real and sustainable difference’ to the lives of billions of people. Anyone can join, and at this stage they are accepting proposals for projects.
This work builds on the work of other organisations such as Practical Action, who have been around for over 40 years and whose motto is ‘technology challenging poverty’. They start with local communities and try and find the appropriate tools to help them solve small, but extremely important problems, like low cost cooking stoves which use less fuel and help to prevent respiratory disease from traditional cooking fires, and cheap and effective solar lanterns.
The problems and massive inequality that we see in the developing world are not going to be fixed by technology alone. Just like climate change will not be solved solely by technological innovation if we continue to increase our energy consumption, poverty, disease and conflict in the developing world are problems with huge political, social and financial aspects. But science and technological innovation have an important part to play, and I’m glad to see it’s being done!