NextGen Results

NextGen VOICES: Results

You've just been elected to your nation's highest office! In your inaugural address, announce the biggest challenge facing your country today and how you will use science to address it.

In the 4 January 2013 issue, we ran excerpts from 14 of the many interesting responses we received. Below, you will find the full versions of those 14 essays (in the order they were printed) as well as the best (in alphabetical order) of the other submissions we received.

Would you like to participate in the sixth NextGen VOICES survey? To make your voice heard, go to http://scim.ag/NextGen6.

(Can't get enough NextGen? See the results of previous surveys at http://scim.ag/NextGenResults, http://scim.ag/NextGen2Results, http://scim.ag/NextGen3Results, and http://scim.ag/NextGen4Results.)

Essays in print

My fellow Americans, we as a nation and as a global community stand opposed to the greatest threat our world has ever known. It is not the threat of oppression by any tyrant or other agent seeking dominion over us. It is a threat and a danger in which we are all complicit, and we are all participants. It is the threat of global warming. In the coming years, here in America and around the globe, severe storms, terrible food shortages, and rising seas are the perils that we will face. But despite the fact that our seemingly insatiable desire to consume energy is contributing to these dangers, our boundless curiosity and ingenuity will prevent and ameliorate them. As president, I hereby announce a government-wide effort to develop and implement a comprehensive science policy that will allow us to overcome global warming. I therefore call upon Congress to triple the budgets specifically designated for clean energy research across our basic research agencies. To fund this work, and to unleash the power of the market to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, I also insist that Congress finally do what must be done: pass a comprehensive Carbon Tax. My fellow citizens, we have dithered too long and thus far failed to confront what amounts to an existential crisis for our planet. I therefore ask all of you to join with me so that we might save our green Earth, our only home, not only for ourselves, but also for all posterity!
Benjamin H. Krinsky
Committee on Evolutionary Biology, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL 60637, USA.
E-mail: krinsky{at}uchicago.edu

Canada's greatest challenge today is the efficient and sustainable production and utilization of energy. Throughout all human history, it is our mastery of various forms of energy that has driven our civilization, multiplied our capabilities, and raised our standard of life at all levels. We substituted manual labor with animal labor. Our steam engines revolutionized transportation. The advent of electricity separated production from consumption and has modernized everyday life. Fossil fuels have increased our industrial capabilities exponentially. As we have continued to expand and improve our energy-generation capabilities we have also learned of the monumental price these technologies exact on our environment and consequently our home planet. We cannot go back to the dark ages of history, but we must change if we wish to move forward. As your leader I will expand our existing energy research and development programs and institute new ones to seek out and implement even greater alternatives. Our generation will give the next one the greatest gift we can ever offer, a better future than the present we live.
Neilson Nguyen
Department of Chemical and Physical Sciences, University of Toronto, Mississauga, Mississauga, ON L5L 1C6, Canada.
E-mail: neilson.nguyen{at}utoronto.ca

The biggest challenge facing Ghana is the high incidence of infectious diseases. My first action as President of Ghana will be to elevate the Health Ministry to the level of the Ghana Armed Forces. In Ghana, all types of infectious pathogens, from Helminths to viruses, cause disease; this is compounded by the spread of multi-drug resistant strains. To combat infectious diseases, I will use a four-prong battle strategy. 1. Street-level: I will train a new kind of army of youth equipped with Public Health and Environmental Engineering expertise to identify and eliminate disease-causing conditions. 2. Town-level: I will organize a new kind of town councils with Army Captains as heads, with a specific mandate to source local material, local private funding, and local workforce to redesign towns. 3. Institutional-level: I will establish one world-class institution for research, development, and manufacturing to operate every phase of the health service value chain. 4. National-level: I will constitute a government of people (home and in the Diaspora) who are accomplished early- to mid-career research scientists, engineers, technologists, and military leaders who understand the concept of "leadership with empathy and sense of urgency." This system will eliminate the huge loss of productivity due to the high-level infectious disease burden and drastically reduce poverty and squalor in Ghana.
Patrick Kobina Arthur
Department of Biochemistry, Cell, and Molecular Biology, University of Ghana, Legon-Accra, Ghana.
E-mail: parthur{at}ug.edu.gh

We stand today at a critical juncture of world history. The biggest challenge Pakistan and many others face is extremism. Despite enormous efforts, we have failed to eliminate this evil. We have tried to address hostility with force and aggression, which has only resulted in hurting our cause further. I believe that we need to utilize our insight from cognitive neuroscience to better understand the underpinnings and dynamics of hostile behaviors in the extremists. Most of the extremists have themselves been exposed to early childhood trauma. It has been scientifically proven that exposure to trauma leads to exclusionist behaviors. Lack of psychosocial support at this point, combined with a sense of deprivation leads to retribution in such individuals. In its extreme form, this sense of vengeance makes such individuals immune to advice, persuasion, oppression, or even death. My knowledge of cognitive neuroscience prompts me to think that the life of an extremist is nothing but a psycho-pathological continuum, with shades of post-traumatic stress disorder, pathological altruism, and anti-social personality. And it is high time we start treating it as such. I would urge our scientific community to come forward and develop a psychosocial model, through which we could intervene early enough to prevent a war-child from thinking of carrying a weapon himself.
Ali Jawaid
Brain Research Institute, University of Zurich/Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, 8057 Zurich, Switzerland.
E-mail: alijawaid84{at}gmail.com

My fellow Danes! I stand before you, to tell you that we are facing a crisis. A crisis of mediocrity. Across Denmark, what could become brilliant inquisitive minds are languishing away their prime, distracted by the soft harboring society we have built for them, unchallenged by our schools, unfazed by the prospect of settling for decent, okay, and good enough. Our education system is failing the brightest of our children. We are teaching them to stifle their curiosity to fit our standardized curriculums. We are teaching them that life is about doing just barely enough to keep up. We are teaching them that any effort to distinguish themselves will go unrewarded. We are teaching them that working hard is pointless. We are throwing away our future. That is why I'm announcing optional nationwide contests accessible from any PC or tablet, targeted at stimulating ambition in children unchallenged by our current system. New test subjects and themes will be announced every Monday, centering on subjects such as functional programming, applied math, information gathering, and spoken language as gauged by voice recognition software. Tests will be published every Friday and will stay open for six hours. By Sunday night, students ranking in the top half will be able to see their national, regional, and local position, and may choose to post this rankings to their social networks. This new program will teach our children to learn to learn efficiently and focused, while keeping them engaged through competition with their peers.
Erik Esmann Poulsen
Department of Political Science and Government, Aarhus University, Aarhus, DK-8000 Aarhus C, Denmark.
E-mail: eaep84{at}gmail.com

Ancient technologies, such as pagoda architecture, agriculture, making sculptures, mining skill, and Ayurvedic medicine make Nepal one of the few countries that conserved its long history. Older generations are giving knowledge to young in the lineage, but without proper theory, and these technologies are disappearing with the older generation. Today, Nepal is becoming fragile and one of the poorest countries. Modern science has rolled out airplanes, computers, automobiles, phones, and allopathic medicine. These are contributing to revenue generation for developed countries. Thus, contrary to the thoughts of many Nepalese, investment in science and research is not the waste of money. We have many sloppy rivers, and science gives us idea to make electricity and to irrigate the plains area from them. Mountains are continually getting breeze and sunlight, and science may turn them into usable energy. The budget for science and research, which have practical applications, such as standardization of herbal drugs of our traditional use, and modernization of pagoda architecture and mining technology will be fruitful at low cost. This helps sustainable industries as well as higher education, and will certainly ameliorate the economy of Nepal.
Bishnu P. Marasini
Nepal Academy of Science and Technology, Khumaltar, Lalitpur, Nepal.
E-mail: bishnu.marasini{at}gmail.com

The biggest challenge facing Finland today is the widening gap between the prosperous and well-off individuals and the "misfits," meaning those who cannot find their place in society and are therefore dropping out. I would use multidisciplinary approach including psychological, medical, genetic, social, and economical sciences to develop suitable preventions and interventions and ways to stop the intergenerational transmission of malfunctioning and poverty. Based on previous knowledge, I would assume that the earlier the person's life course is changed, the easier and more cost-effective it should be. Thus the significance of early influences on this development should be stressed. Prevention directed toward the entire family, particularly parent-child interactions and the social and economic environment, is recommended in order to mitigate the cumulative life-time effects of an adverse early environment. Increasing the possibilities and trust of the most disadvantaged individuals, by giving systematic and long-term help in finding appropriate ways to integrate in the society, might aid in ending vicious cycles of dysfunction in the families and increase their faith for better future. Managing in today's society often requires certain qualities and individuals lacking these have difficulties in finding their place. While we should increase tolerance toward individual differences, we should also help everyone by providing meaningful opportunities to participate in the society and aid in acquiring the basic necessary skills to do so. This can be done by taxation and good social, educational, and health care services based on research.
Päivi Merjonen
Unit of Personality, Work, and Health Psychology, Institute of Behavioural Sciences, University of Helsinki, 00014, Finland and Department of Biological Psychology, Vu University 1081 BT, Amsterdam, Netherlands.
E-mail:  paivi.merjonen{at}helsinki.fi

Today as I stand before you as your appointed leader, it pains me to point out that Pakistan is today in a mess like never before. The huge problem of electricity shortage, which requires our immediate and full attention, as well as the recent cases of Dengue breakouts and the poor unsanitary conditions prevail across the country, not to mention the shortage of clean drinking water and many basic health facilities. My aim when mentioning these problems in front of you is not to dampen your spirits but to lay out the most basic problems facing the citizens of this nation. Now we know what our goals should be: to eradicate these problems from the face of this country so that our future generations can live in happiness and prosperity that they deserve and take this country to new heights of success. In science we trust now. We know of the vast resources this piece of land is endowed with. We have huge resources of various types for electricity production. We can build a good, clean water delivery system, with the best filtering systems. We will research for the control and prevention of diseases and pandemics and produce efficient cheap medicines. No more half-baked superstitious ideas and methods. We will use the most advanced and approved scientific methods to tackle our problems and the great minds of this country will deliver our salvation! Mark my words, this is a Fact!
Haris Riaz
Department of Electrical Engineering, Pakistan Institute of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Islamabad, Capital, 44000, Pakistan.
E-mail: haris_rzz{at}yahoo.com

Sustainable development has been the biggest challenge facing China. Once, the technology was our hurdle, but today, it is the policies. A major difficulty in achieving sustainable development goals is that most of the policy-makers are nonscientists who lack a realistic understanding of technology's advantages and pitfalls. We must remove this barrier, so that the benefits of our science flow to society. I have made science an important part of my agenda, and in the next decade, a new program is due to launch, streamlining bureaucracy and strengthening our science base. This program will provide support for promising students to pursue higher education in elite scientific institutions and universities around the world. When they return to our country, I want to hire many of these young scientists to work as the technical and scientific assistants for the policy-makers. I strongly encourage them to participate in the discussions of environmental, economic, and social issues, in which scientific thinking should come into play. More essential, policy-makers need to think like scientists, so that they can base sustainable development on science. I am committed to support the scientists and policy-makers who pursue this goal collectively. They will add to the policy landscape diversity, and bring a whole new dimension to sustainable development.
Jiang Zhao
School of Automation Science and Electrical Engineering, Beijing University, Beijing, 100191, China.
E-mail:jzhao{at}asee.buaa.edu.cn

From today, we start a new era in the Dominican Republic where our decisions are made with a global perspective and based on scientific conclusions, and the population is always consulted. We are starting to study the way to get rid of the Army with their weapons because we want education and peace instead of violence and war. For the end of our term in office, we plan to have created discussion in classroom and conference halls instead of courts; we want people in libraries instead of jail; we need Academies Science instead of gangs. We want to proclaim that we no longer have a government to control people but servers to promote people's welfare and respect other lives on our planet. We are no longer a Dominican Republic with borders, but a society that shares its home with the entire universe as it does with its closest neighbor.
Luis B. Gómez Luciano
Molecular and Biological Agricultural Sciences, Taiwan International Graduate Program, Academia Sinica, Taipei, 115, Taiwan and Consejo para el Desarrollo de Fondo Grande, Inc., Fondo Grande, Loma de Cabrera, 63000, Dominican Republic.
E-mail: luisgomezluciano{at}gmail.com

In developing growth, Brazil has been recognized as a significant exporter of new tendencies in music, art, and sports. The Brazilian scientific scenario is also changing; it produces half a million graduates and 10,000 PhDs a year, 10 times more than two decades ago, with a significantly increased scientific publication record. However, this nation has been confronting several matters of different natures. Besides all the problems that affect its population, such as unequal wealth distribution, tropical diseases, and drugs, corruption is probably the most important cause of the retard of the Brazilian economy, breaking the fast development. The idea of exchanging favors to reach the aim of a minority has been prospering in the Brazilian politics for a long time. The corruption stamp has marked several Brazilian governments. Indirectly, it kills more than cancer or AIDS. If these billions of reais (Brazilian currency) were invested in health, education, or science, certainly, the progress of this country would be faster than one could imagine. Basic scientific education for our youngsters, who will be the future politicians, would be the main strategy for a long-term action. Ideally, every high school should be directly associated with a research laboratory in which its masters and PhD students should be responsible for giving tutorials for the young apprentices. If we can implement the Max Perutz certainty that "in science truth always wins," maybe it will force national leaders to recognize that everybody plays on the same team and in the same World Cup.
Guilherme Martins Santos
Laboratory of Molecular Pharmacology, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Brasília, Brazil. CEP 70910-900, Brazil.
E-mail: gsantos{at}unb.br

People of Australia, while we are making great leaps and bounds in improving our livelihoods through access to affordable technology, plentiful energy, and abundant food, we are unwittingly making trade-offs resulting in the degradation of our natural environment and the important goods and services it provides. As a consequence, climate change is getting worse, there is less water, biodiversity is disappearing, land is less productive, and people are richer (yet less satisfied). Historically, governments have set up individual departments to deal with these discrete issues, for example environmental protection or economic development. In so doing, silos often inadvertently develop, resulting in suboptimal communication which ultimately leads to poor decision-making that determines the future of complex and interconnected systems. Thankfully, this age of primitive policy development is behind us; I am honored to announce the formation of the Department of Systems Decision Making. Encompassing health, environment, economics, and industry, this department will consider all dynamic relationships that exist between natural, socio-economic, and political systems. For example, the Department will assess the deployment of renewable energy in reducing the severity of climate change, improving human health, lowering government healthcare costs, increasing rural wealth, and reducing the consumption of industrial water-use. When taking a systems perspective, we expect that the Department will also identify and value important long-term social benefits such as greater happiness and productivity. This Government is committed to using systems dynamics as a critical tool to justify all its decisions to ensure a sustainable world for future generations.
Adrian Ward
International Energy Centre, Brisbane, QLD 4000, Australia and School of Geography, Planning, and Environmental Management, University of Queensland, Brisbane, QLD 4072, Australia.
E-mail: a.ward{at}uq.edu.au

Science is sending us blaring signals that there are urgent problems facing the United States and every nation, such as the interrelated issues of climate change, overpopulation, and energy-generation. All of these problems will require new scientific and multinational solutions. Yet there is a big hurdle in our way to solve them: we are not getting everyone's—not nearly everyone's—input on how to solve them. In fact, only 20% of the world's population—those from the developed world—produces three-quarters of peer-reviewed scientific papers. We are doing both our country and our global civilization a massive disservice by so severely underutilizing all of the potential brainpower our global civilization has to offer. We need more programs that facilitate scientific collaborations and foster scientific capacity building between developing and developed countries. We need to provide more ways for scientists in our own country to venture into the developing world to do research alongside scientists there. By promoting meaningful collaborations between U.S. scientists and those in developing countries, we enable both partners to strengthen the world's capacity to do science and increase the odds that a young person anywhere on this planet who wants to do science, can. Both groups of scientists also gain deeper cultural understanding and empathy for one another that can only be achieved by true partnership. The more we do to widen the international scientific community and create deep connections within it, the better off our country, and, in fact, all of us are.
Christa A. Hasenkopf
Cooperative Institute for Research in the Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado, Boulder, Boulder, CO 80309, USA and National University of Mongolia, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.
E-mail: christa.hasenkopf{at}colorado.edu

The fundamental challenge to our future is faith. As a nation, our faith in our scientists, our science, and its recommendations is at a critical point. Soon, we will be forced by necessity to confront issues such as global warming, interventions in human genetics, and the future of energy science. How we as citizens perceive the advice of the scientific leadership will depend to a substantial degree in whether we, simply put, believe in them. As president, I have the luxury of visibility, and the platform to make ideas heard. While there are examples of world-class excellence in our science education system, all too frequently we as citizens lack easy access to real science and real scientists. This is why I have decided to create the Presidential Publicity Platform. Through an ongoing weekly format, I will take the time to sit down and speak with some of our nation's scientists about topics central to our future as a country. In these online fireside chats, we will create a forum for the public to experience science and ask their own questions. America's tomorrow is arriving each day. How we deal with the changes it brings depends on what we believe in. I believe that the strength of our nation has always resided in its ideas, and in America's affection for the pragmatic. It is time for us to renew our acquaintance with science, to renew our faith in its recommendations, and to renew once more the promise of our shared future.
Seth M. Stevenson
Science Department, Hufford Junior High, Joliet School District 86, Joliet IL 60441, USA.
E-mail: sethmstevenson{at}gmail.com

Top Online Essays

One of the biggest challenges hindering Yemen's development is electricity. Limited access to electricity affects both governmental and private sectors, contributing to poverty and unemployment. The country is neither able to manage its internal economic activities nor attract foreign investments. I cannot imagine my country develop with such a weak electricity system that affects every activity in the country. Dependence on traditional fuels to generate electricity in my resource-limited country is one of the main challenges compromising its ability to overcome its problems at all levels. If elected to my nation's highest office, I will use science to solve problems related to electricity, including the use of renewable energy. I will establish a high institute for energy research and will exert all efforts to translate its generated data into reality to benefit my country.
Rashad Abdul-Ghani
Sana'a, Yemen.
E-mail: rashadqb{at}yahoo.com

The biggest challenge facing my country, Saudi Arabia, today is water and food scarcity. The officials are facing these problems now by desalinization of sea water and buying most food items from abroad, but the challenge will grow in the future as the oil supply decreases. The country will have to use desalinization by solar energy to produce water and depend on national sources of food like dates, camel meat, and milk.
Eyad Ibrahim Alhumaidan
Department of Health, King Saud University, King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Centre, Riyadh, 11442, Saudi Arabia.
E-mail: ehumaidan{at}kfshrc.edu.sa

America's problems are numerous and daunting, but they are far from insurmountable. Our biggest problem is that our system for solving problems is broken, paralyzed by partisan gridlock. We can use science and technology to end this gridlock and get the American government working again. The dominance of extreme voices in the political process has made elected officials unwilling to make even the most sensible compromises. However, the majority of Americans are still moderates who would rather see government that works than government that conforms to liberal or conservative ideologies. We need to use technology to empower this silent, centrist majority by connecting the people to their representatives on a day-to-day basis. For example, imagine Congressmen reaching out to their constituents with text messages like, "what do u think is the right balance between cutting spending on defense vs. entitlements?" Bringing the political process to the information age will guide our leaders toward real solutions by reminding them that most Americans expect sensible compromise. With innovations like this, government of the people, by the people, for the people will flourish like never before.
Sam Allon
University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.
E-mail: allons{at}sas.upenn.edu

Spain is fully dominated by old beliefs that cause the majority of people not to grow in science and technology. The statement "let other countries make the products" is in charge. I will free all education at all levels for all people so that everyone is able to free themselves from these old and misunderstood beliefs. I will keep all kinds of courses and educational materials free for everyone and will encourage their use and practice by means of grants, funds, and offers of better employment conditions for the best trained and most cultured. Language learning will also be promoted. This will greatly improve my nation's development and manufacturing programs so that unemployment rates decrease dramatically. It is absolutely necessary.
Miguel Angel Garcia Alonso
General Manager Support Unit, UNED, Municipality of Madrid, Madrid, 28033, Spain.
E-mail: garciama{at}madrid.es

Today the United States faces an implacable enemy intent on destroying our coastal cities and defenses, our crops—the very landscape around us. We are complacent and take as given that the military and intellectual might our nation has amassed always prevails. We unwittingly aid our enemy, providing the very strength it uses against us. The enemy is global warming. While special interests sow doubt and discord among us, the case is clear. Our scientific community, in a show of solidarity that would pass any legislature and amend any charter, agrees that this threat is real, that the magnitude of the threat is enormous, and that we must act now or lose all. I commit to you today that before my term of office expires, our nation will halve the energy we use to power hearth and forge. In those same 4 years we will see our economy grow and prosper. This will not be easy but the choice is clear—either we choose hard work, innovation, and ultimately prosperity, or we choose indolence and ruin. I call on the scientists who devote their lives to understanding our world and on the engineers who are our engines of innovation. Scientists, we need you to peer even deeper into the mystery of creation for we must better understand her innermost secrets to restore the sacred balance of creation. Engineers, you must build the levers, find the fulcrums that give us the leverage to achieve our bold objective.
John Michael Artim
Department of Biology, Arkansas State University, State University, AR 72467–3082, USA.
E-mail:john.artim{at}smail.astate.edu

The biggest challenge Canada faces today is the sustainable use of our planet's wealth and resources. We cannot continue to operate under the guise of an infinitely renewable planet. Science is our ally and friend in meeting these challenges that may seem new but are actually as old as civilization itself. We need to use computing power to find optimal ways of managing our world's finances. We need scientific discoveries on how to harvest the energy that makes our world go round. We need scientific research to optimize current technologies and to better use what we have. We need science research into farming and water usage and how to grow more with less. We need scientific innovation and collaboration to meet the goals we set out. We can achieve these things with hard work, sweat, tears, and all forms of science that in one way or another we've been using all along.
Kelly Vincent Banco
University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, T6T 1G3, Canada.
E-mail: garfunkle12{at}hotmail.com

One of the biggest challenges facing the United States is the steady increase in population due to the rise in life expectancy and advanced medical care. Coupled with this is increased metabolic, neurologic, and other age-related disease, diminishing natural resources, increased pollution, and growing political strife. If the trajectory continues, supplies will dwindle and people will suffer before we can ensure the survival of future generations. This is a salient and novel problem, as just 100 years ago the disease and energy landscapes were quite different. Due to these opposing forces, science needs to make some headway in several areas: biotechnology, personalized medicine, drug efficacy, energy efficiency and sustainability, and policy. These changes are only possible with prudent funding of specific scientific inquiries and the continued recruitment of top students from around the world. Changes in policy need to facilitate the completion of these goals. As president, I would implement strict requirements for scientific policy leaders, as well as make graduate student stipends tax-exempt to help recruit young talent. These two specific changes will simultaneously change the focus of scientific inquiry and accelerate the rate of advancement. Many more changes would be required, but the idea is to have scientists and politicians strive for a common goal, ultimately streamlining the process to new and important discoveries, treatments, and sustainable resources.
Jeremy Charles Borniger
Department of Neuroscience, Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210, USA.
E-mail: jeremy.borniger{at}osumc.edu

Ladies and gentlemen, I am here to let you know that our nation Tanzania is facing environment pollution due to the following. Many industries are built in residential areas. Thus, we have many cases of skin diseases, diarrhea, blood cancer, and abnormal newborns resulting from their mothers inhaling smoke from industries. We have to shift all industries far away from residential areas. We have to treat all victims affected. Ladies and gentlemen, we apologize for all that has happened and the Government should be responsible and refund those affected. Thank you.
Samweli Nengo Bundalla
Computer Administrator, Hope Computer Maintenance, Tabora, Dar Es Salaam, 1555, Tanzania.
E-mail: samwelibundalla{at}yahoo.com

To maintain the prominence of the United States in future society, there is one fundamental necessity: the betterment of education. As the gap between available jobs and qualified workers continues to widen- especially in STEM careers, steps need to be taken to reform America's education system. From education policy to the nuances of teaching in the classroom, the application of the science of big data will be an extremely useful tool. Processing enormous amounts of collected data can lead to insights about education, and as novel approaches and changes to teaching are created, big data can be used to quantitatively assess their realistic effectiveness on a larger scale. For example, it can be used to evaluate learning styles and student performances. Using these findings can bolster the relationship between teacher and student by further individualizing teaching. Big data can also be used to predict behavioral patterns to determine if a student is falling off track. In addition, education policymakers can be more productive by using big data to cohesively look at trends in schools. Overall, as we strive to succeed in the 21st century as a nation, it is necessary to consider all facets of education that can be improved with big data because without a strong foundation, it will be increasingly difficult to compete with the rest of the world.
Lilian Chan
University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6101, USA.
E-mail: lilian{at}sas.upenn.edu

India is going through a transformation phase in her socio-economic-political setup. India stands to be the largest multi-ethnic democratic country of the world and there are myriad challenges before her. There is no denying the fact that India is making strides and claims successes for space technology, the IT boom, and the services sector. But in my view, one that needs the first priority is the rural-urban divide which is broadening the gap and affecting equitable economic distribution on national basis. Villages in Bihar, Orissa, or Karnataka and North East states (for example) are facing acute shortages of basic infrastructures like clean water, proper sanitation, roads, electricity, and ample employment opportunities. Children in these poor villages remain illiterate and add further to the economic burden of the country. Farmers have no access to facilities for proper sale of their agricultural produce. This will also solve the problem of huge migration of villagers to cities and slum-like situations in towns. Science can come to rescue if implemented in a channelized manner. Village communities can sort out these problems with the aid of district governing authorities. Scientific research institutes should open their extension counters for treatment of arsenic-contaminated groundwater in areas of West Bengal and Bihar. Open ponds can be used to grow algae and biogas plants can be installed for biomass/biodiesel/methane generation for cheap electricity. Solar power technology on a subsidized basis should be made available. Water harvesting system for rain-fed crops can also be taught to villagers by agricultural scientists.
Ramjee Chaudhary
CESE, IIT Bombay, Mumbai, Maharashtra, 400076, India.
E-mail: rc08eureka{at}gmail.com

The biggest problem for Bangladeshis is their health. They can't work hard and think big. The reason behind this is poverty and thus a lower standard of living. They live a very warm and dirty life, which is suitable for germs to spread disease. Parasitic infection is also prevalent. To overcome this, we need to improve our economy, which is possible through the development of the agricultural field, as Bangladesh is an agriculture-based country. We also need to improve in the industrial sector.
Mashruf Zaman Chowdhury
Power Tech, Chittagong, 4000, Bangladesh.
E-mail: mashrufz{at}gmail.com

One of the biggest challenges we are facing now in the Philippines is the 500% increase in the incidence of HIV cases. Currently, HIV advocacy programs are being implemented. The vast question is: are these programs enough to cut down the mercurial rapid increase in the incidence of HIV? Historically in 2007, we have one of the lowest HIV rates in Southeast Asia. But now, as other countries have a significant decline in HIV infection rates, we are going the opposite way. How can we solve this using science? Introducing new techniques in detecting the virus might help resolve this problem along with allocating more funds in HIV and AIDS research. State-of-the-art machines may also hasten the research. If we are able to target the disease molecularly in different approaches, we will be able to conduct more studies in finding the possible prevention of HIV in the early stage or discovering possible pharmaceutical treatments in the future.
Emmanuel Castillo Damian
Research and Biotechnology Division, St. Luke's College of Medicine, Quezon City, Metro Manila, 1112, Philippines.
E-mail: damian_emman{at}yahoo.com

The biggest challenge facing the United States is promoting the health prospects of an aging population. By the year 2030, the number of people aged 65 or older will double to approximately 71 million. Age is a major risk factor for chronic disease and disability, and a healthcare system originally designed to attend to acute illness and injury is ill-equipped for addressing the challenges of a growing, older population with multimorbidity. Promoting the health prospects of those late in life is both a moral duty and an economic necessity. How can science help us meet these novel challenges? In recent years the biology of aging has helped unlock the mysteries of healthy longevity. For example, the genome of the longest living rodent, the naked mole rat, was sequenced in 2011. It has a maximum life span exceeding 30 years and an exceptional resistance to cancer. A variety of experiments on fruit flies, mice, and other species have demonstrated that the rate of aging can be manipulated, either by calorie restriction or by activating particular genes. Research on centenarians (age >100) and supercentenarians (age > 110) suggests there are "longevity genes" that protect these rare individuals from the diseases that afflict their contemporaries decades earlier. The development of a drug that would help the average person replicate the biology of these exceptionally healthy older persons would be among this century's greatest advances in medicine. Thus the field of biogerontology ought to be an integral component of "well-ordered" science for the 21st century.
Colin Farrelly
Department of Political Studies, Queen's University, Kingston, ON, K7L 3N6, Canada.
E-mail: farrelly{at}queensu.ca

Conservation is one of Morocco's biggest challenges. The Barbary macaque (Macaca sylvanus) is the only primate species surviving in North Africa and the only member of genus Macaca that can be found outside Asia. Once colonizing parts of Europe and all of North Africa, the species is currently distributed in few limited relicts of forest in Morocco and Algeria. In 2002, M. sylvanus has been recognized as a vulnerable taxon by the World Conservation Union. The major threats to the species are the severe habitat loss due to extensive deforestation and the international legal and illegal live trade that exceeds the maximum sustainability by up to 50% per year in Moroccan populations. Although a number of activities have been undertaken internationally (Suspension of imports to Europe) and nationally by increasing public awareness to reduce illegal trade, the last surveys indicate a sustained decline in the size of the entire population leading to categorize the species as an endangered taxon in 2008. The situation is highly alarming and in the absence of a holistic conservation approach, the species may become extinct in the wild within few years. One of my main objectives as a head of a Moroccan highest office would be to build a national network of breeding centers that would have as a primary objective the re-introduction of the species into its natural habitat. The long-term goal of these centers would be to conduct resource-relevant research that improves both the status of the species in the field and its usefulness for studies of human disease.
Karim Fifel
Department of Chronobiology, Stem-Cell and Brain Research Institute (INSERM U846), Bron, 69675, France.
E-mail:fifel-k{at}hotmail.com

Sri Lanka has been an island with over 70% forest coverage which has undergone a shocking reduction over the past century, now barely about 20%. Deforestation in Sri Lanka has become its biggest environmental problem, giving rise to several other major crises in the country such as electricity issues, destruction of biodiversity, and natural disasters. Sri Lanka extensively depends on hydro-power generated from waterfalls in tropical forests, i.e., 45% of the total grid capacity and the island can be considered as a biodiversity "hot spot." Although the root of deforestation lies within economical difficulties (REDD might help), it's possible to cut down the level by applying modern technological advancements such as introducing efficient alternative fuels to the rural areas, and publicizing contemporary farming technologies. Alley cropping might aid in fuel problems as most of the rural population still uses wood as their main source of energy and timber is widely used in construction. Reforestation is essential and includes natural regeneration methods like root suckering and stump sprouting as well as artificial regeneration methods like machine and hand planting or aerial and ground seeding. Sustainable usage of forests should be promoted and people should be introduced to eco-friendly livings such as ecotourism. Research facilities should be built for training local scientists and gathering intellectual for finding solutions for deforestation is equally important. Another reason for deforestation is landlessness which can be treated with methods such as land reforming and efficient planning. Science operates as a valuable tool providing reliable solutions for deforestation.
Ruwansha S. Galagedara
Malapalla, Pannipitiya, CO10230, Sri Lanka.
E-mail: ruwansha89{at}gmail.com

Citizens of America, we are facing a worldwide attack on reason. Seismologists are being prosecuted for their predictions; governments are suppressing findings on global climate change; and teaching evolution is still considered controversial. Our progress as a society is being hindered by low science literacy, a lack of emphasis on education, inadequate funding of research, and a general mistrust of scientists. We have the ability to solve the problems of tomorrow, but only through the thoughtful and rational collaboration of all facets of society. Legislators, educators, healthcare workers, employers, and consumers alike should all value logic and reason over pseudoscientific claims, convictions, and anecdotes in making decisions. I believe this can be accomplished by providing individuals with the tools to think critically. In order to confront today's problems and prepare for tomorrow's challenges, we must prioritize education, research, and the fostering of interest in science, engineering, technology, and mathematics for current and future generations. I implore each of you to strive to further this endeavor.
Eric Wayne Goolsby
Odum School of Ecology, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602-2202, USA.
E-mail: cire514{at}uga.edu

The common man, the blue-collar working-class citizen, is the backbone of this nation, for his are the hands that built America. He cannot find work. Unemployment is near all time highs. We are facing a period of history leading toward economic stagnation. Manufacturing jobs are suffering, and if we wish to prosper, America must again lead the world into a new generation of progress. And so, I ask you to join me, and join America, in leading America into the Biotech Revolution. Not one industry has greater potential than biotechnology. It will solve our dependence on foreign fossil fuels, potentially even make them obsolete. With it, we will develop better medicines, and help to lower the costs of existing ones. Above all, biotechnology will create jobs, millions of jobs, stable jobs. America will lead the world into a new generation. To accomplish this task, we need to change the industrial infrastructure of America. We need to educate everyone on biotechnology. We need to lower education costs, to encourage more Americans to seek higher education. Education is not a business, and progress will not succeed unless tuition costs are lowered, and done so enormously. We will educate, train, and create progress in the working class. We will see businesses of the world outsourcing to our country, not from it. We will lead the world into a new generation.
Kenneth Paul Gouldy
Emmaus, PA 18049, USA.
E-mail: naphoria2k2{at}yahoo.com

Pollution in all its forms, from garbage in Canada's seas to habitat degradation in our forests, tundras, grasslands, and freshwater systems, is killing our biome. Destruction of the ozone layer and rising global temperatures are caused by pollution. The Earth will survive, but we may not. Science can save us. We must take a leap forward: past fossil fuels directly to solar, wind, and geothermal energy. Past indiscriminate mining to nano-assemby or biological sequestration of useful minerals. Past clear-cutting forests to farming lignum. Ironically, this requires that we start in the third world. We in the first world cannot survive Asia, Africa, and South America going through industrialization the way Europe did in the 1800s. We must give them our technology, in return for them preserving the environment of all of us. We must switch our global economy from one defined by scarcity to one defined by abundance. We must look around us to see what we have in plenty, and then use that to improve our lives. The Sudan has sun and sand—and so can make abundant glass blocks for construction. Australia has a vast coast line, sun and wind power—and so can desalinate sea water to irrigate crops. The examples are unlimited. Instead of forcing the world to pay the cost of our greed, we must look for and use resources that will make the world healthier.
Thomas Paul Harding
Surrey, BC, V3X 3E6, Canada.
E-mail: tharding{at}tlag.ca

Due to the shortage of affordable housing, and the huge numbers of investors who "flip" houses for short-term financial gain, millions of Americans are homeless and tens of millions are struggling to pay their rent or mortgage, because the high cost of housing takes most or a large part of their family's take-home pay. This situation drains the economy of hundreds of billions of dollars that could otherwise be spent on more fuel-efficient cars, energy-efficient air conditioners and refrigerators, solar systems, and all the other consumer goods that could be purchased, and would be needed for millions of new housing units, if only we could dramatically bring down the cost of building and fund new housing. We are going to redirect and unleash the power of NASA's brain-trust, along with the intellect of our nation's academic and industrial sectors, to profoundly change the way we design, fund, and build housing across America and the world. Every American deserves the right to an affordable home, and we are going to make that a reality once and for all. And once we've achieved that goal at home, we will help the rest of the world build cheaper, safer, more energy-efficient homes. Once our citizens are spending far less of their take-home pay for housing, the resulting economic boom will be unlike any ever seen before. We will quickly become independent from foreign oil, tens of millions of new jobs will be created, and America will again be the shining light of opportunity at home and abroad.
Alan Harris
San Diego, CA 92103, USA.
E-mail: alansandiego{at}outlook.com

Today, Mexico is facing an unprecedented increase in violence and corruption, fueled and motivated by theft and delinquency on every level, from common street workers to the highest ranks in politics. During our administration, we will unveil a new plan for scientific expansion employing new databases to increase fund control and deploying new methods for vigilance and observation devoted to decrease our nation's problematic circumstances.
Agustín F. Osuna Hdez
Pachuca, Hidalgo, 42700, Mexico.
E-mail: osuna67{at}hotmail.com

In Australia, we must focus on the thousands of aboriginals living in rural areas who have zero access to healthy foods, little education on the benefits of healthy eating, and little money to afford healthy foods. Using agricultural science, we can teach communities how to grow fruit and vegetables by choosing plants that suit specific climates, implementing techniques to enrich soil with the bacteria and minerals needed for plant growth, and designing irrigation and watering systems to sustain growth of produce. Providing a cheap and accessible option for healthy eating will be a large step in the right direction for increasing the average life expectancy, and reducing the rates of diet-related morbidities in rural aboriginal communities with below-average socioeconomic status.
Guy Daniel Hugo Klamer
Lowy Cancer Research Centre, University of New South Wales, Children's Cancer Institute Australia, Sydney, New South Wales, 2031, Australia.
E-mail: G.klamer{at}ccia.unsw.edu.au

One of the problems that the crisis created is the so called "brain drain," which in combination with the rapid aging of the German population leads to a plethora of serious issues. We will never recover without all the young people who left the country recently. We are talking about young, highly educated people, with motivation, ideas, and inspiration to work hard and contribute to the society by applying their acquired knowledge. These scientists are now employed in other countries, often receiving several awards for their research, and are highly involved in the development of their hosting countries' research and technology. We need these people back in order to rebuild our country. We need their passion, their brightness, and their vision to make a step forward. I'm not saying it's easy to bring them back. They left the country in the first place due to the lack of incentives and that is what we have to provide them. We will try hard to get them back by establishing research institutions for both basic and applied research as well as consulting positions in critical positions in governmental organizations in order to plan wisely the next scientific steps. We won't become a leading country in science and technology overnight, but I'm sure with their assistance and their brains, their ideas will become useful tools which will improve significantly our lives, bring additional income to our GDP, and of course restore our country's credibility abroad.
Nikos Kyritsis
DFG-Center for Regenerative Therapies Dresden - Cluster of Excellence (CRTD), Technical University of Dresden, Dresden, Saxony, 1307, Germany.
E-mail: nikos.kyritsis{at}biotec.tu-dresden.de

The biggest challenge in China is that the economy growth rate is slowing down. Domestic demand is weak. The central bank prints too much money, and people's lives are on fire. If I am the highest office of my nation, I will reduce the heavy taxes imposed on our people, which will encourage entrepreneurs to reopen their factories, in turn activating the economy. An Investment into R&D is also a good option, because R&D will probably bring us new technologies and new technologies can promote economic development. However, it must be strictly monitored that the money invested into R&D projects are properly used, since corruption is too popular in my beloved nation.
Sheng Lu
Department of Civil Engineering, University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China.
E-mail:shenglu{at}hku.hk

Today on this occasion of being the chief person of India I would like to address the biggest challenge India facing today: inflation. Hikes in prices of food items are making the common man's life miserable. Today a man who doesn't have land, business, government, or private jobs, who depends on a daily wage, can't access quality food for his family. Due to corruption, less production, and natural calamities, farmers are committing suicide. We Indians depend on agriculture and livestock for our survival, so we can't ignore our agriculture and livestock. We must do something immediately. As the chief person of India, I want to implement a plan to spend more money on science to improve agriculture and livestock production. Presently we are investing 1.9% of GDP on science covering all aspects of research, much less than a great republic nation should. With suggestions from our expert scientists and policy-makers, we have decided to increase science funding in a successive manner with proper planning. We have decided to increase investment in science to 15% of the GDP by each year adding 1.45% to our expenditure that is 1.9%. By investing more in basic and applied science for agriculture and livestock research, we will advance our by-product production scale and we will provide food security to our nation. I need your support for advancing and implementing this plan properly without any corruption and bureaucracy. Jai Hind! Jai Bharat!
Ranjeet Singh Mahla
Laboratory for the Conservation of Endangered Species, Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad, AP 500007, India.
E-mail: mahlaranjeet{at}gmail.com

Science is the best and most reliable source of hope for America's economy. Our economy will not improve even if every unemployed person had a job working for minimum wage. Science education at every grade level needs to be improved and heightened. Only though understanding the scientific process and being able to critically analyze scientific "proofs" can our citizens make educated decisions for their health and the health of the nation. High-paying jobs in the sciences provide growth, as every study promotes new questions to be answered. As science grows so does quality of life. Only by investing in science now can we expect to compete in the global job market and remain a world leader.
Amanda McCrary
St. Louis, MO 63116, USA.
E-mail: nici.mccrary{at}gmail.com

Global climate change is the most vital challenge facing all the nations of the world, including Canada. To continue to enjoy the many benefits of modern life we need energy, and the cleanest forms of energy have not been developed to the extent required to replace the burning of fossil fuels. My administration shall invest in the development of solar, wondering, geothermal, tidal, and biofuel technologies with the goal of developing more efficient extraction of energy from these sources. We will also pursue new agricultural methods that will expand biodiversity rather than relying on vast monoculture factory farming and encourage lower energy consumption in that sector. We will encourage and promote robust public transit and micro-farming in cities to reduce the fuel consumption and heat production from urban areas. We will invest in basic research and development with the recognition that many important developments in science are discovered accidentally.
Rory McRandall
Bancroft, ON, K0L 1C0, Canada.
E-mail: rorymcrandall{at}yahoo.ca

South Africa's challenges are much like a mixed chemical reaction; it appears as though the nation is at combat with it itself. Day-to-day reports mimic uncontrolled reagents being continually added into perspective. It is as if citizens are a laboratory experiment except the coordinators in charge are with little or no scientific knowledge enough to handle scientific analysis. We face what many would call economic inequality. Each day meets a new sector with a destructive unauthorized strike. Workers posing demands outside the wage scales associated with their service. Moreover, people tend to force having their way by being vicious toward infrastructures or even one another whenever they feel their pleas are not well communicated to authorities and employers. My advice in addition to the already existing systems would be to complement our communication channels by recruiting more science experts to form task-teams with members of parliament. We need not to politicize all issues through conducting political analysis even where scientific analysis may be a crucial necessity. With more scientists involved within discussions governing our nation, we would jointly work toward a reviewed form of balance.
Katlego William Phoshoko
Department of Physics and Geology, University of Limpopo, Private Bag X1106, Polokwane, Limpopo, 727, South Africa.
E-mail: kwphoshoko{at}gmail.com

"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." Benjamin Franklin's words ring truer than ever today, as the United States faces an epidemic of obesity, diabetes, Alzheimer's, and other non-communicable diseases. These diseases are creating a huge strain on our economy and ruining the lives of millions. With a struggling healthcare system based primarily on treatment rather than prevention, it is time for a change in our policy. As science leads to an improved understanding of how different nutrients affect the body, we should educate the public and enact policies which promote healthier lifestyles and avoid the ballooning costs of non-communicable diseases. Scientific truth should be permitted to overcome bias, no matter how cherished it may be. For example, numerous studies in recent years have challenged the commonly held belief that saturated fat causes cardiovascular disease, and yet little has changed with regard to national nutrition guidelines. It is now imperative that we accurately describe the benefits and risks of particular foods for the public good, free from the influence of interest groups. We need not become a nation of pill-poppers when there are simple cures for many diseases through habit changes. Preventative medicine backed by strong science could have enormous benefits if properly enacted into government policy.
Eli Barton Pollock
University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.
E-mail: epollock{at}sas.upenn.edu

The United Kingdom is at the precipice of the greatest crisis mankind has ever known, one that may very well define our generation and possibly even our race. Our planet is polluted from over 100 years of industrialization. To this day we are still reliant on fossil fuels. This has taken a terrible toll on our planet, and has caused the global temperature to rise and ice sheets to retreat, threatening many civilizations across the world. However we are not helpless. While international treaties have focused on reducing emissions, it is only a part of the solution. We must respond with ideas, with ingenuity, and with firm action. I propose to you, the people, that we tackle this on several fronts. We must look at our present in order to make all of our machines as efficient as possible. The technology is already in the public domain in the form of hybrid cars and renewable energy. The technology is there and we must use it! Finally we must look forward to the technology of the future! Fusion! The possibility of abundant, clean energy. But we must also look further than merely the possibility of clean energy, we must look at making this energy readily available. Wireless electricity! The technology is possible. We only need to make this vision into a reality. I will leave you with a thought of Arthur C. Clarke; "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." We are all on the precipice of Magic.
Owen Wyn Roberts
Institute of Mathematics and Physics, Aberystwyth University, Aberystwyth, Ceredigion, SY23 3BZ, UK.
E-mail: owr6{at}aber.ac.uk

One of the biggest challenges the United States faces is encouragement of scientific thought and practice to the general public. Academics should promote their research to the public with the same fervor as the pharmaceutical industry in the advertisement of new drugs. Scientists must step to the forefront, and communicate their discoveries in layman's terms for media sources so that misinformation ceases to be spread. If every scientist took some degree of responsibility for public relations, then perhaps we could replace some of the fear and confusion with understanding and progress. These actions would sow the seeds for a society that celebrates critical thinking and scientific research rather than impedes its progress.
Brandi Alesandro Sharp
Department of Biology, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA 22904-4328, USA.
E-mail: bas7q{at}virginia.edu

The greatest challenge that the United States faces today is the pursuit of unity. We encourage our diversity as we seek to overcome divisiveness. Our nation's endurance through day-to-day trials depends on a sense of national unity. We have discovered for ourselves that common ambition, driven by awe and the nobler aspects of our humanity, can bring us together in ways that embolden and uplift. Our unique legacy as explorers, inventors, and pioneers, as lovers of both freedom and knowledge, prompts us to pursue a vision of the future that will inspire and challenge many generations to come. I propose an initiative to place our nation's scientific progress in a more central position of national pride and popular ownership than ever before. I propose that a special election be held to choose three scientific goals to which our nation will commit for the next century. Goals may be as diverse as exploration beyond our solar system to milestones in biomedicine, energy, or physics that we can only imagine now. We will form an Office of Centenary Achievement to coordinate and fund efforts through existing institutions and ensure that our future leaders and citizens rise to our challenge. We will find ways for our citizens to be participants, not just spectators, in these endeavors. We may not see these goals accomplished in our lifetimes, but they will be accomplished. We will always have problems, but we will also dream. We will find unity and hope through our efforts to reach the unreachable.
David M. Sloan
Sensory Neuroscience Center, West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV 26505, USA.
E-mail: dsloan{at}hsc.wvu.edu

The biggest challenge facing the United States is the cost of energy. The price of energy affects the price of virtually every product and service. Our current investment in energy research is a dismal one-third of a penny on every dollar in the U.S. budget. Science can help reduce the cost of energy by discovering new ways to obtain energy safely and at low cost both financially and environmentally. To this end, I intend to spur an increase in research funding by government while also providing tax breaks for private sector investment in energy research. In addition to tripling the DOE budget, I also intend to ask Congress to initiate a Manhattan project for battery technology. Even with these broad changes, we won't spend more than 1% of the federal budget. But from this modest investment, I fully expect that we shall bring to fruition a golden age of electric vehicles by having the ability to generate, distribute, and store energy in an affordable clean manner. With low cost energy, industrial automation and robotics will become affordable. We will be able to produce goods at a low cost while allowing people to work fewer hours and spend more time with their families. We need not fear loss of jobs, I envision that a large part of many people's income will be obtained as shareholder dividends rather than solely by employment. Similarly, government shall get its revenue from modest taxation of such corporations after deductions for R&D spending.
Johan Shamril Sosa
Fremont, CA 94538, USA.
E-mail: johansosa{at}gmail.com

As we celebrate today, let us not forget the important issues facing the United States: (i) How will we increase job growth, (ii) How can we deal with increasing energy costs, and (iii) how can we empower our kids with the best education possible? I believe the fields of science and technology will help us achieve these goals. First, we need to rework our educational curriculum to demonstrate to our students early on the value of what they are learning. We need to emphasize that they are not just learning for the sake of learning, but instead we are giving them the tools necessary to become doctors, engineers, scientists, innovators, and business leaders. We need to emphasize that these are the tools to their future that will open the doors for what they are passionate about. We must also encourage these students to be creative in their pursuits, since it is the creative mind that leads to world-changing innovations. Second, we need to focus on the development of clean energy. We need to tear ourselves away from polluting sources of energy, and instead focus on renewable, environmentally conscious energy sources such as solar power and biofuels. We know this is possible; we just need innovations regarding how to better harness and utilize these types of energy in a more efficient manner. These goals in turn will lead to the creation of jobs and prosperity, and help us reestablish the innovation that is the DNA of our country.
Michael Strong
Center for Genes, Environment, and Health, National Jewish Health / University of Colorado, Denver, Denver, CO 80209, USA.
E-mail: StrongM{at}NJHealth.org

The biggest challenge facing the United States is the lack of communication between scientists and the general public. To address this issue, I would make "Civic Engagement" a required component of any NIH-funded grant application that is scrutinized and scored along with the other current judgment parameters. Without a public that is aware of what we do and why it is important to fund our research, we are destined to be at the mercy of uninformed policy-makers (i.e., the current situation).
Kumar Sukhdeo
Department of Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine, Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland, OH 44106, USA.
E-mail: sukhdeo{at}gmail.com

It remains a paradox that the United States, one of the leading nations in science and technology, lags behind its international counterparts in science education. On average, modern students lack the motivation and passion that has previously elevated the country as a leader in science. Scientific competence even among adults in the U.S. is deficient. Such a problem remains difficult to cure, since the reasons are still unclear as to why science education struggles in the United States. Some main suggestions include unqualified teachers, increasing focus on English and math, lack of funding, social disparities, anti-science stigma, and a predominant belief in raw talent over hard work. We can continue to speculate, but until sufficient research is underway, we will not be able to narrow the focus of our efforts to improve science education. Further studies can be done to pinpoint the most effective ways to improve student attitude toward science. To solve this dilemma we must gain an accurate understanding of the dynamics of science education. Scientific reasoning has helped us solve countless problems in the past. It is time to use this same reasoning to solve the main challenges of the present in an attempt to improve both our country's and the world's future.
Van Thanh Tran
University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.
E-mail: van24tran{at}gmail.com

The biggest challenges facing the United States and the world at large are the needs of the human population. There are increasingly fewer natural resources available for us to exploit for our use. Compounding this situation is the increased lack of tolerance for cross-cultural integration as the world becomes smaller due to globalization. Globalization has also increased the likelihood of disease transmission due to the large volumes of people and food traveling across continents. However, current advances in science and the likely future advances are our best bet in solving the majority of the problems we face. First, I would emphasize the high throughput advantages of systems biology to better understand and solve two aspects: (i) human health and (ii) crop production and the hindrances to crop production like pests, disease, and environmental challenges. Along with the increased power of computing, we have an advanced problem-solving combination to both short-term and long-term challenges to food production and health issues. Second, I intend to use current advances in neurobiology, high-power computing, and social media to better understand human social interactions and to model future human behavior. The increasing use of social media will be used as a vehicle to promote tolerance and the understanding that we are all in this together. Lastly, I would build on current science understanding to help solve future challenges particularly interplanetary exploration and habitation studies. This is because we cannot focus on the present if we do not have the future in mind.
Sylvester Tumusiime
Department of Biological Sciences, University of New Orleans, New Orleans, LA 70148, USA.
E-mail: stumusii{at}uno.edu

My fellow citizens: Austria was founded on a conviction that righteous decisions have their basis in truth. Today I stand before you so that tomorrow we will again reap the benefits science has always bestowed upon us. Eminent scientists have shown us the inevitability of sustainability. Yet, this challenge is still before us. Today, we can take strides forward by creating new jobs within the boundaries set by the sustainable use of the Earth's resources. Achieving green growth will increase employment opportunities while saving natural capital. Hard truths need to be told as we have left our temples of knowledge for houses of cards. Now that the jokers are out of the game, we must leave the motel we've called Society for too long, and travel the road of sustainability once more. A new era of scientific stewardship has begun. Science will provide jobs, energy, and inspiration. Natural resources and ecosystem services lie at the basis of all our economic activities. Many natural resources are finite, non-renewable and non-substitutable. Recycling in the broadest sense will become our motto. Numerous centers of Science for Sustainable Technologies funded by public-private partnerships will be inaugurated across the country. Environmental targets will spur innovation. Life-cycle thinking will build our food, water, and energy systems. The benefits to our Nation and our children will be many. The joy of achievement and the thrill of creative effort will brighten our lives. I stand before you humbled but strengthened to know that we as citizens face our challenges united.
Marijn van der Velde
Department of Ecosystems Services and Management (ESM), IIASA (International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis), Laxenburg, 2361, Austria.
E-mail: velde{at}iiasa.ac.at

Today, as always, plenty of challenges face Hungary. But while the list of challenges does change over time, one of the main reasons why we have to face a number of them, does not. That reason is ignorance. Due to ignorance we make uninformed decisions ranging from ones with minor consequences (buying low-quality products), to ones with devastating ramifications (think of climate change, racism). Some still claim that ignorance is bliss, but they are wrong. Not knowing about the bad decisions you make is hardly a comforting idea; you are still paying the price for your lack of knowledge, but by not understanding this, you are likely to repeat the same mistakes over and over. Yet the lack of adequate information is an issue that, although may never be totally eliminated, can be, and should be, addressed. It has to be addressed first and foremost through our education system, which should ensure that every single child, regardless of their provenance, is able to apply the tools of analytical thinking. Second, we have to make sure that information necessary for informed decisions is accessible for everyone. Third, we should boost our research, as a way to understand and later exploit the known and unknown mysteries of the surrounding universe, to find solutions for our current and future problems. The future never belongs to the ignorant. Only tackling ignorance can ensure that we can take the most of our opportunities and become the beneficiaries of the coming decades.
Máté Varga
Department of Genetics, Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest, H-1117, Hungary.
E-mail: m.varga{at}ucl.ac.uk

In the Netherlands, climate change is by far the biggest challenge we face. We can't stop it, but it's our duty to minimize it. That's why we will tax carbon emissions and put all revenue into clean energy research. Not just direct emissions will have a price from now on; scientists will calculate the CO2 production of every product and service, and we will tax it accordingly. The side effects will be severe: less air pollution, cheaper energy, a stronger position in the carbon-free economy that will emerge within a few decades. And we will not stop our efforts when we are no longer emitting CO2. The future is carbon negative. Our research efforts will make us a frontrunner in that promising new sector. Thank you.
Elmar Veerman Wetenschap
VPRO, Leiden, 2324 LK, Netherlands.
E-mail: elmarveerman{at}gmail.com

First I should say thanks for this opportunity. These days China and Chinese people have been facing several critical problems including currency inflation and economic recession, society turbulence and uni-partisan dictatorship, environment contamination and ecology destruction. All these problems are called the Chinese crises, which are created by Chinese Community Party government and its so-called reform and open-up since the 1990s. Certainly all these crises can be resolved through scientific methods of economics, sociology, ecology, and politics. But I have to say that these problems have a logical relationship with each other. The fundamental problem is political one, which is the basis of the others. Human beings' history and science have already proved that dictatorship and totalitarianism will definitely obstruct development of productivity and creativity. And now we can see this phenomenon in every authoritarian country, such as North Korea, Cuba, Iran, and China. So the unique method to resolve all Chinese crises is giving it democracy. Overturning totalitarianism will bring back social viability that would absolutely promote social and economic development. From this angle we can understand that environment and ecology problems are caused by political factors, too. In authoritarian countries, because policies are made for the minor ruling class and special strata, society is extremely unfair. So nobody in this society is willing to care about environment and ecology. People only want to snatch money and natural resources. When people of China are given democracy they would feel the country is their own and then they would begin to regard it and care about it to keep it healthy and safe, and I believe Chinese crises would be resolved easily at that time.
Meng Yachun
China.
E-mail: mengych{at}hotmail.com

I am here to talk about Greece's future. We are facing hardship. The austerity measures we are agreeing on are debilitating to our nation; the health system in particular is collapsing. Due to these cuts, our citizens are not able to obtain the required medical attention and doctors are facing extreme medical cases that, until recently, were only found in the literature. We must stop this now. We must reestablish our medical system by changing our view from treatment to prevention. It is crucial to start a long-term plan of preventive medicine that will, not only reduce our budget burden, but, most importantly, benefit our quality of life. Take Ikaria and its elderly population, for example. In this island in the Aegean Sea, people manage to live longer and healthier. How do they do it? We must allocate our resources to unlock this ancient knowledge. We have at our disposal a large set of empirical information that needs to be analyzed quantitatively and qualitatively in order to understand the important factors that contribute to this longevity. By studying the lifestyles of these individuals we can help the entire population to achieve a long life with a healthy body and an active mind. My fellow citizens, we should not overlook our future. Investing in science today will boost our economy and will benefit us all and the generations to come.
Homare Yamahachi
Kavli Institute for Systems Neuroscience, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, 7030, Norway.
E-mail: homare.yamahachi{at}ntnu.no

The biggest challenge facing Taiwan is plundering of resources in every possible way. Taiwan is a very small island with limited natural resources and has very little buffering capacity to absorb any impacts to its fragile environment. Yet, we fished without setting the size limit; we turned wetland into farms, fish ponds, and industrial parks; we turned coastal lines for resort developments without any concern to the environment. At the same time, we spent millions of dollars on the contests of "fad" science on the world stage. For example, we used zebrafish as a model animal to study "evo-devo," or genomics, of this animal, which has no direct and immediate bearing on the wellbeing of Taiwan as a whole. Taiwanese produce more carbon emissions (10.89 ton/year) than people in Japan, South Korea, and mainland China, which is no doubt contributing to the continuing of global warming and would eventually impact environment of Taiwan more severely. My foremost priority in science policy has three major directions: (i) conservation of natural resources by offering the highest degree of protection to both environment and resources; (ii) development of alternative renewable energy resources to replace coal and oil burning for power generation and to phase out the reliance on nuclear power; (iii) design of more effective use of energy to curtail unnecessary waste of energy and at the same time to cut down carbon footprint and make Taiwan as a whole a more responsible world citizen.
Hong Young Yan
Marine Research Station, Academia Sinica, Jiaoshi Township, I-Lan County, 26242, Taiwan.
E-mail: hyyan{at}gate.sinica.edu.tw

The biggest challenge facing the United States today is the utter monotony and tedium that the teaching and learning of science has become. Recent research has provided evidence that, upon birth, young children learn about the world around them using methods similar to those of scientific inquiry: hypotheses are tested against observations, and inferences are developed as a result. That the innate curiosity of young children are to later be crushed by the rigid and absurd devotion of middle and high school science courses to memorizing textbooks rather than reading them is a great pity. One resource our country is constantly wanting is young, scientists who will tackle the problems that previous generations could not solve. What a shame it is that our very method of producing those scientists is responsible for driving them away. To address this challenge is to change how science is taught, and to do this, I would turn to none other than Michio Kaku, a leading theoretical physicist and science advocate, for advice. My proposal would be the same as Dr. Kaku's: to divert the emphasis of science courses from preaching the virtues of short-term memory to inculcating within its students an understanding of the encompassing scientific principles that govern all major scientific fields. Biology is driven by evolution; Physics, by Newtonian and Quantum mechanics; Geology, by Plate tectonics; and Chemistry, by Atomic theory, to name a few. By focusing on the principles, science courses will become far more appealing and representative of what actually happens in the field.
Neil Zhao
University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6193, USA.
E-mail: neilzhao{at}sas.upenn.edu

Singapore has come a long way since our pre-independence days from a tuberculosis-stricken port to Asia's city with the highest quality of life (2011 Mercer rankings). To maintain the living standards of Singaporeans, our wages need to keep up with inflation. However, to prevent the erosion of Singapore's business competitiveness, increases in wages should not come in the form of subsidies but should be from increases in productivity. The biggest challenge, therefore, is to increase the productivity of a country that already has a well-educated workforce, with a literacy rate of 100%, and depends on high value-added manufacturing as one of its main economic pillars. Singapore has no choice but to progress from being efficient at acquiring knowledge to being effective at knowledge creation and application. We will have to continue investing in the scientific education of our brightest students, but go beyond offering generous PhD overseas scholarships. Through public-private research partnerships, government funded PhD students and postdocs should be given opportunities to apply their scientific knowledge in real world business problems. By providing a pool of readily available and highly enthusiastic researchers at low cost, businesses stand to benefit from R&D and thus gain productivity much faster than their competitors. An ensuing Darwinian effect would ensure that businesses with the highest productivities flourish and provide better paying jobs for Singaporeans. An investment in science now is an investment in Singapore's future.
Shunsheng Shawn Zheng
Department of Oncology, University of Oxford, Oxford, Oxfordshire, OX1 3JA, UK.
E-mail: shunsheng.zheng{at}linacre.ox.ac.uk

Chinese people, we are in a vital time in the long journey of our race on this planet. Now, although our country has developed greatly since 1980s, the gaps between city and country, eastern and western, coastland and hinterland are becoming bigger and bigger. Although this phenomenon cannot disappear in the air by promulgating laws or setting up a special organization, as far as I'm concerned, we can draw support from scientific approach to solve this problem. First, photovoltaic power generation systems will bring a bit of electricity to the most remote mountain village, giving people there the chance to enjoy the convenience of modern science and technology. Second, new generation of wireless communication technology will make the connection between different places of our vast land quicker and cheaper. At last, I believe with the new energy's coming into being, the transport cost will decrease vastly. Only when science and technology have made the geographical and psychological distance between regions in our country shorter can we really ease the economy, culture, and education gaps between cities and countries, eastern and western, coastland and hinterland. Thank you very much.
Kai Zhou
Precision Instruments and Mechanology, 2405, Tsinghua University, Beijing, 100084, China.
E-mail: sibaniuzk{at}163.com