We packed into the elegantly appointed White House room. The buzzing crowd hushed as President Barack Obama stepped to the lectern. He spoke about the work of some two dozen honorees sitting before us—the winners of the National Medals of Science and Technology, the highest honors bestowed by the U.S. government.
“Thanks to the sacrifices they've made, the chances they've taken—the gallons of coffee they've consumed—we now have batteries that power everything from cell phones to electric cars,” he said. “We have a map of the human genome and new ways to produce renewable energy. We're learning to grow organs in the lab and better understand what's happening in our deepest oceans.” (Find my blog about the event and the winners at http://goo.gl/O3uFG. One is Robert Langer of M.I.T. and a member of the Scientific American Board of Advisers.)
From energy independence to cures for what ails us, science, technology and innovation are our best tools to address the needs of a growing population living in a finite world. The week before the White House ceremony, I was overseas at another event that noted the importance of research: the World Economic Forum (WEF) at Davos, Switzerland, the annual meeting of policy and business leaders. For my part, I moderated, spoke as a panelist, or served as rapporteur (an official commenter) for various sessions.
More important, that meeting marked the start of an exciting initiative: developing a Global Agenda for Science, Technology and Innovation. I was privileged to participate in the small session convened by the WEF to kick off this process, along with my NPG colleague Philip Campbell, editor in chief of Nature. The goal is to crystallize focus around key topics and to help bring stakeholders together, improving the flow of information as well as the policy discussions surrounding the application of problem-solving research and technology to global challenges.
At the Annual Meeting of the New Champions to be held in China this September, also called the “Summer Davos,” members of related communities will gather to help shape the agenda's basic principles. We hope to present at Davos in 2014.