The Role of Science, Technology and Innovation in Building Resilient Communities, Including Through the Contribution of Citizen Science

People around the world are continuously affected by shocks; from health emergencies to economic crises, from social conflicts and war to natural disasters. Moreover, global economic interdependence creates increasingly complex and unpredictable threats that can derail the progress towards the SDGs. Therefore, building resilience is critical for sustainable development.

Resilient communities empower their people to absorb and adapt to shocks, have economies that can self-organize to continue functioning at times of crises, and carry out their activities without harming the environment.

Science, technology and innovation have a critical role to play in each one of these dimensions. Digital technologies have empowered and given voice to people; innovation results in economic diversification, which increases the ability of economies to adapt to shocks; and new technologies are used for resource management and could help to decouple economic development from environmental degradation.

A new development is citizen science, which uses the latest technologies to engage volunteers to carry out tasks such as data collection in support of science.

The report discusses key challenges on STI for resilient communities. Technical challenges are related to data and underlying enabling technologies, and the need for prudent use of data acquired during citizen science projects. Social challenges are related to knowledge generation and use, considering that resilience is not neutral but reflects social norms and competing interests within the community. Market challenges are related to scalability and sustainability of technological solutions for community resilience beyond the prototyping phase. Another critical issue is the need to develop STI solutions that are resilient themselves, given that disruption could be extremely harmful to the communities.

The report underscores the critical role of international cooperation and presents policy suggestions for governments to promote science, technology and innovation towards community resilience.