Equipping Scientists to Meet the Challenges of the 21st Century: Crossing the Boundaries between Science and Humanity

Keynote address by Prof. Sayed Azam-Ali
7th International Conference in Science and Mathematics (CoSMEd)
13-17 November 2017
Equipping Scientists to Meet the Challenges of the 21st Century: Crossing the Boundaries between Science and Humanity

For generations, the teaching of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) has employed lecture-based methods of delivering information within discrete disciplines. Whilst this allows for systematic distilling of scientific information, it also risks narrowness and `siloed’ thinking about its application. Such an approach also risks producing graduates will little understanding of the context to which their specialism relates or the ability to think beyond their disciplinary silos. 
In the 21st century, humanity faces unprecedented global challenges. These are complex in nature and require critical thinking skills and imaginative solutions. So-called `STEAM’ education incorporates the arts (`A’) and humanities into the STEM approach. This provides opportunities to introduce creativity and critical thinking skills into the educational process. However, by themselves, creativity and critical thinking may not be enough.  Truly global challenges require `transdisciplinary’ methods in which knowledge and expertise cross traditional disciplinary boundaries between science and the societies that it should serve. 
This paper reflects on new opportunities to introduce transdisplinary thinking into the academic process. Its purpose is to help equip scientists to face the challenges of the 21st century with nuanced skills that, as well as technical competencies, deliver societal benefits. 
The discussion will also consider how digital technologies and open access platforms may provide novel methods of collecting, curating and communicating information to help cross the boundaries between science and society.  The development of powerful transdisciplinary knowledge bases can help maximise the potential of science to deliver high quality research, innovation and impacts to society. 
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