President Kagame and other panelists during discussion on promotion of gender parity at the just ended World Economic Forum in Davos.
President Kagame and other panelists during discussion on promotion of gender parity at the just ended World Economic Forum in Davos.

“We don’t have industry supporting basic research to the extent that it used to,” said Subra Suresh, President of the Carnegie Mellon University.

President Kagame and other panelists during discussion on promotion of gender parity at the just ended World Economic Forum in Davos.
President Kagame and other panelists during discussion on promotion of gender parity at the just ended World Economic Forum in Davos.

In the past, corporate institutions such as Bell Labs provided long-term funding for fundamental research, which led to breakthroughs like the transistor. The short-term pressures on science and business today are not conducive to basic research, which can takes decades to deliver results.

Elizabeth Blackburn, professor from University of California, noted that short-term pressures can stifle scientists’ desire to solve complex challenges.

“Let scientists have long leashes,” she said. Tenure requirements, grant applications and stipulations from the private sector could be better aligned to allow scientists to work on longer time frames.

Another way to improve the outlook for scientific innovation is to make better use of existing talent. While women constitute 40 percent of doctoral students in the sciences, they comprise a vastly smaller percentage of the scientific workforce.

In addition, in some disciplines, scientists spend multiple years in postdoctoral fellowships without being able to find long-term work.

“We know we need all the scientific talent that we can find, and we’re wasting it,” said Suzanne Fortier, Principal from McGill University.

Political, corporate and structural changes in the sciences could improve societies’ ability to leverage scientific potential. The old model of a lone scientist operating from a lab bench in a white coat is obsolete.

“Science is not happening like that now. Science happens from interdisciplinary teams,” said Blackburn.

Some of the most innovative scientific and private-sector institutions encourage this innovation between disciplines. Academia could play a more central role in incentivizing this type of collaboration by prioritizing partnerships, experts added.

Under the theme of “Mastering of fourth Industrial Revolution”, over 2,500 leaders from business, government, international organizations, civil society, academia, media and the arts are participating in the 46th World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos on January 20-23. Enditem

Source: Xinhua

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