By Sethuraman Panchanathan and Chevy Humphrey  

As we move ahead into the new year, pursuing scientific advancements will be central to our ability to proactively address the most pressing challenges we face as a global community. Simply put, fostering and advancing a scientific mindset is vital to tackling grand challenges and remaining globally competitive.

Today, scientific literacy is at the core of finding new ways to power the world, act as environmental stewards and manage population growth and its related challenges. It underpins the forward movement of every society. Advances in science are critical to proactively addressing international health issues, like freshwater access, and to ensuring the technological connectivity of a world-wide population. Our future requires large-scale solutions driven by science innovations, and we have a collective responsibility to generate a sense of discovery to bring these outcomes to fruition. The big question is, how do we cultivate a population of forward-thinking, entrepreneurially-minded people who can lead this effort?

It’s incumbent on us, as educators and scientists, to focus our energies and commit to in-depth, broadly-focused education. We have an opportunity here to teach students in all levels of academia to be scientifically literate – to connect the ways in which multiple societal elements rely on the understanding of key scientific principles. This is not only a critical undertaking – it’s an exciting venture that should be embraced and celebrated!

So how do we embark on this vast mission? We encourage our educators and scientists to come together in communities across the country and take the following action steps:

  • Lay the groundwork for long-term, sustainable success by encouraging more high schools to offer calculus, physics, chemistry and advanced math, and to further promote STEM learning.
  • Highlight how students can use scientific knowledge to meet the challenges of the near future, offering tangible examples across our in-school and out-of-school curricula.
  • Bring governments, businesses and academia into the fold, encouraging them to work together in positive ways to communicate this message and incentivize science education and careers.

Much of what we need to do, collectively as communities across the nation, is to extend cross-sector partnerships that provide students with a continuous, seamless pathway to science literacy. Just as society’s challenges straddle multiple scientific disciplines, so must our focus and work. We need science to create spaces for shared innovation and exploration, driving forward with a passion that encourages and inspires new generations. High-quality education and learning is now a necessity for students of all ages. We’ll light a fire from within by promoting critical thinking inside and outside the classroom and developing learning environments that bring science to life.

As a global university and the premier hub of science learning in the state, we are continually exploring how we can engage and inspire young people to learn about science and spur the improvements in education essential to building the skills of our future workforce. It’s a goal we can all be part of achieving. It’s simply a matter of rallying our communities around the promise of science and innovation. By creating a shared collective degree of enthusiasm that embraces scientific discovery and encourages others to join our efforts, we can lay a foundation for successfully addressing the grand challenges of today and tomorrow.

For more, see:

Sethuraman “Panch” Panchanathan is the Executive Vice President of Knowledge Enterprise Development and Chief Research and Innovation Officer of Arizona State University; Chevy Humphrey is The Hazel A. Hare President & CEO of Arizona Science Center.

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