Grand Challenges

Grand Challenges, as defined by Lewis Branscomb, are “technically complex societal problems that have stubbornly defied solution” (Branscomb). These issues plague society on a global scale and require a collaboration of ideas and disciplines to solve them. A number of issues can be considered grand challenges in the field of sustainable development. Since by nature grand challenges are intersectional, these issues are also challenges in many other fields. According to USAID there are eight grand challenges for development. They are: scaling off grid energy, combating zika, combating ebola, water security, reducing birth deaths, literacy, agriculture, and increasing political representation.

Both the Branscomb reading and the USAID reading discuss the ways in which we can address grand challenges and both reach the conclusion that science is key but science alone is not enough. Branscomb escribes how research into this issues simply has not been sufficient in solving these problems because science cannot be guided by a mere “invisible hand,” The goal of science is not to solve this issues, so without outside influence, how can we expect science to do so? Both readings agree that the best way to help science solve this issues is to steer science with policy. Policies, on a global and domestic level, must be tailored to addressing grand challenges and presenting solutions.

A key aspect of solving these issues is engaging the public to receive their interest and support. If these challenges are great enough, the solutions are ones that can change the face of the world for the better. Capturing the imagination of the common person is critical to creating policy focused on science and technology.

As I mentioned previously, grand challenges affect a variety of fields and areas of interest. Therefore the approach to solving them must be multidisciplinary. A governmental solution alone is not enough to address these issues. Global governance has long been the primary method by which global issues are solved but increasingly the private sector and non-governmental organizations have begun to play a more significant role in affecting change. To solve grand challenges will take input from transnational corporations, industry, non-governmental organizations, states, scientists, and a variety of other parties. These challenges create a number of stakeholders and thus challenges would be more easily solved by multistakeholder governance.