Challenges facing society and science in the 21st Century

Last month I attended the annual Cara Science & Civilisation Lecture at The Royal Society, given this year by Lord Martin Rees.  He focused on the challenges facing society and science in the 21st Century from climate change to artificial intelligence.  Couching scientists firmly as members of society, rather than separate from it, he used examples of successes such as stem-cell research, where scientific advice led in the UK to a working legal framework for the use of embryos and stem-cells in research.  He also highlighted GM crops as a topic on which scientists failed to engage early enough with the public, resulting in a polarisation of the debate with eco-campaigners on one side and commercial interests on the other.

The theme of scientists as world citizens was particularly appropriate for Cara, the Council for At-Risk Academics, a charity that started in 1933 in order to support academics Hitler expelled from Germany on racial grounds.  Since then it has gone on to support numerous academics and universities at risk.  Cara fellows are qualified academics at immediate risk, which the charity helps to place in universities, arranging visas if necessary, financial support for academics and their families, and support from the universities such as fee waivers or donations in kind.

In case you are interested in finding more about Cara, their website has more details about the charity and how to support their work .  Lord Rees’ lecture has also been transcribed with a video to follow .

By Dr Michael Cox

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