Professor Richard Robert Ernst, recipient of the 1991 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, gave a spirited address during the opening proceedings of the 15th session of the CSTD taking place 21-25 May in Geneva.
Drawing on words of warning from great scientists, statesmen and social activists of the past, Professor Ernst pointed in his speech to the urgent need to make social and ethical considerations an inseparable component of all scientific and technological research and application.
This profound responsibility should be felt at all levels, the Professor said. Globally, we need a sound governance framework that promotes peace, international cooperation, and fair, inclusive and sustainable growth, he noted. On an individual level, scientists and technology practitioners should guide their work by ethical principles at all times.
Business too must be made to behave in a socially responsible manner, the Professor said. The “free market” alone cannot be relied on to achieve this – instead, active involvement of the State is required. This is nowhere more evident than in high risk technology applications, which free enterprises have shown themselves ultimately unable to manage in a responsible manner, said Professor Ernst citing the example of nuclear energy.
More and better education in the areas of ethics and social responsibility is required for the desired improvements to take place. Education can accelerate the adoption and active promotion of the principles of fairness and equity, so that the poor and the illiterate members of the society can be helped to achieve a better livelihood, the Professor concluded.