Grand Challenges

Global Grand Challenges are the interdisciplinary, large-scale challenges we, as a global community, face and attempt to solve through research, science and technology, and other collaborative efforts. These challenges are posed by governments and nonprofits alike to achieve development goals by solving pressing issues such as climate change, global hunger, and major disease epidemics. While some are more optimistic about the break-through inspiring potential of focusing society on Grand Challenges, evidenced by Tom Kalil’s presentation on Grand Challenges, others, including Lewis Branscomb calls for a combination of harnessing scientific potential with government regulation and direction. Regardless, the Global Grand Challenges call on a certain level of human passion and engagement to tackle such over-arching issues.

As discussed in class, development goals including both the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are Grand Challenges posed to the development community. Despite critiques of its exclusion of cultural and geopolitical context, the MDGs set the stage for the SDGs by establishing a framework to create quantifiable goals that incorporate multi-level stakeholders to address the new 17 goals. Audrey mentioned in class that the language used in these goals are relatively vague, which not only allowed for a certain level of smoothness in the negotiation of the development goals but also allows a broad range of solutions and methods for implementation to achieve them.

For my own project, I will address the Global Grand Challenge of human trafficking. This topic meets the criteria for a Grand Challenge as a large-scale problem, but, unlike other Grand Challenges, I find it difficult to see the role that technology or scientific research have to play to solve this problem. In this respect, I side with Branscomb in that pure scientific research or research for the sake of research may not be applicable in solving human trafficking issues. Rather an applied research method, joining both government legislative action with the research community would be a more effective approach.