Grand Challenges

Grand challenges are complex societal problems that have yet to be solved and require science and technological innovations to understand them and find their solution. These challenges are not only ambitious goals but they are physically achievable within a desired timeline. Another term often used in relation is ‘moonshot thinking’ which refers to President Kennedy’s ambitious goal to send a man to moon. Solving a grand challenge requires moonshot thinking and multidisciplinary collaboration. Fundamental research is also critical to defining societal goals and finding their solutions. Branscomb argues that in particular two policies must be implemented in order to solve these grand challenges; promoting ‘Jeffersonian science’ and moving products of science into new industries. It is extremely important that schools encourage students to study science and engineering and that higher education devote more resources to laboratories that can produce valuable innovations. Some examples of the challenges that can be addressed with these changes include developing new energy sources, vaccinations, and curing cancer. Other grand challenges that have already been identified explicitly and are working to be achieved by the global community are the Sustainable Development Goals. An important quality that the SDGs have is their ability to capture the public’s imagination as they are intrinsically motivating. Recently, the global approach to development has changed to include more cross-national collaboration, research and innovation, and inclusivity. Although inclusivity is still an area that needs to be improved particularly in the context of language within the SDGs, more and more development goals and projects address and include people with disabilities. It is critical that persons with disabilities be included in development goals because it is estimated that they make up fifteen percent of the world’s population, eighty percent of which live in developing countries. Not including persons with disabilities when developing solutions to grand challenges in the development field would exclude one billion people from the potential benefits. The Sustainable Development Goal that I find to be the biggest challenge and most intriguing is goal thirteen, Climate Action. It is also important to note that these seventeen goals are all interdependent and in most cases, one cannot be achieved without the achievement of another. For example, goal seven, affordable and clean energy, must be part of the solution in order to address goal thirteen. Another important quality that the SDGs possess that motivates nations to finding solutions is it’s time frame. Fifteen years is a short enough time frame to keep the current global leaders engaged but is also long enough to make achieving these goals feasible.