Becoming a scientist is not a glamorous dream for kids these days. In my country, we have Thailand’s Got Talent, Thailand Next Top Models, the Star, etc., all shows which sell the dream that you can become a superstar overnight. With that, who would want to spend years in school, work in a laboratory days and nights on end, and struggle with establishing a challenging, low-paid career?
The choice is obvious and we cannot blame the new generation if they do not choose to become scientists. Regrettably, this leaves the profession without the critical mass necessary to drive scientific advancement.
So, how do we attract the new generation? Multi-sectors are called upon. The education system must be revolutionized to make science a fun choice. Many efforts are being made to implement an inquiry-based science education around the world – something that must be taken seriously by governments. I was fortunate to be able to be involved in some activities at the Sirindhorn Science Home, which hosts a Science learning center for Thai youths. Its vision is to encourage kids to pursue skills and knowledge in science with the concept of “learning by doing”.
For example, they teach about the power of nanotechnology for self-cleaning textiles by having children learn about the lotus leaves that are naturally coated with wax crystals, allowing small insects or dirt to be washed away when rain drops and rolls off the leaves. This is an example where an investment must be made to support revolutionized science curriculum and emphasize how important science is to kids from a young age.
Besides encouraging a passion for science in children, sustainable supports must be committed to scientists throughout their career, whether it be research infrastructure or supportive science policy. These problems might not be so apparent in the developed world, but many developing countries struggle to lay a firm foundation for the scientific community due to the lack of sincere support from their governments. We cannot forget that this planet is one World where we cannot leave anyone behind.
Moreover, scientists themselves need to take responsibility to sustain our scientific community. This is why I believe in nurturing the next generation of scientists and this was why the Global Young Academy (GYA) was established in 2010. The GYA aims to empower and mobilize young scientists to address issues of particular importance to early career scientists. They do this by running several projects focussed on supporting the establishment and cooperation of National Young Academies, improving early scientific careers, science-society dialogue, science education, and science in the developing world.
To improve the career paths of young scientists around the world, one GYA project is the Global State of Young Scientists (GloSYS), which aims to provide a platform for investigating the most central career-related concerns of young academics. They also have a Young Scientist Ambassador Program where the ‘Young Scientist Ambassador’ from one country visits another country with a different stage of scientific development or historically have had minimal scientific contact.
These visits aim to promote science education and research in various levels ranging from primary schools to universities and governmental institutions. These are just a few examples of how scientists need to take the matter of science sustainability into our own hands. Strong networks and continued support among scientists, starting from very early career stage, will encourage scientists to succeed in this career and hopefully pay it forward to the next generations.
If you believe that Science will advance the world, you too need to take action to support science. I hope you join us in making the world a better place through science.
Author: Dr. Nitsara Karoonuthaisiri is Head of the Microarray Laboratory at the National Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology. She was named one of 199 Young Global Leaders, Class of 2013, by the World Economic Forum.
Photo Credit: Children use negative film strips to watch Venus passing between the Sun and the Earth. REUTERS/Erik De Castro