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The International conference on ‘Social and Cultural Nexus of Science and Technology Development (SCST)’ will be held from 3rd – 4th October 2019 in Colombo, Sri Lanka.  This conference aims to bring together academics, researchers, policy makers, university students in to a common platform to discuss, present and debate knowledge relevant to the S&T development in various perspectives.

S&T development has vastly induced the development of socio- economic factors in the world. Many developed as well as developing countries have succeeded in this field and performing well in the world scenario. However, some countries are still lagging behind in S&T sector and continuing to have lower living standards. Investment on research and development has given a huge contribution to the S&T development. But, significant role is played by some social and cultural factors which can’t be overlooked.  S&T development is a two-way sharpened knife which bears both pros and cons. Therefore, it is questionable whether the world is utilizing it solely for the desired outcomes.

In fact, there is ample evidence that prove many social, psychological and cultural factors facilitate or narrow down S&T development in particular social and cultural contexts. Identification and analysis of such factors become a necessity to fueling up the S&T development and also to avoid adverse effects on health, environment and humans. Lack of recognition of those social cultural factors would lead policy makers and scientists to develop socially and culturally nonresponsive science and technology development policies, resulting a development process that is unsustainable with shortfalls.

The conference aims to bring in a corpus of multidisciplinary scholars to present their work on social and cultural aspects of science and technology development and to make sense of this complicated landscape. The outcomes of this conference will feed into policy analysis and program development.

Conference themes

Abstracts are called from Sri Lankan and overseas scholars, researchers and practitioners on following themes. Papers will be selected on the basis of Abstracts submitted to the conference.

  1. Social and economic context of S&T development
  2. Cultural factors influencing S&T development
  3. Gender perspectives on S&T
  4. Role of private sector in S&T development
  5. Public understanding of science and scientific literacy
  6. Risks and benefits of modern technology
  7. Education and S & T development
  8. Media and S&T development
  9. Traditional knowledge and S&T
  10. State policy and S&T development
  11. Science and Technology Diplomacy
  12. Ethics in S&T

1. Social and economic context of science and technology development

Science and technology (S&T) have been widely recognized as key inputs to achieve socioeconomic progress. Evidently, knowledge-based economy that emerges from S&T development fosters economic growth through product development and productivity improvements enabling low-income countries to reduce poverty, and to be competitive in the global market. Both public and private sectors in many developing countries have paid limited attention to S&T applications until recent times, and as a result, they have failed to harness technological advancements to uplift their production structures from basic industries to high-tech industries. While the contribution of S&T is critical for economic growth, it is important to ensure that technological advancements are used appropriately to ensure that the benefits of growth are shared equally so as to foster inclusive growth and social equity. It is also important to apply S&T with a view to achieving sustainable development so that natural environment is secured amid economic development. The governments have a crucial role in formulating and implementing public policies to promote S&T in the above directions.

2. Cultural factors influencing science and technology development

Every human society has its own traditional cultural values, attitudes, beliefs, customs and behavioral patterns that determine the ways of life of people. Some cultures are highly inward oriented and often do not facilitate science and technology development. Although we are in the 21st century, still elements of caste, race and religion remain as major barriers hindering the development of modern technology. Traditional cultural values often affect the transfer of technology, use of technology and spread of a technological culture. In fact, various cultural factors are acting as barriers for the science and technology development in a sizeable number of developing countries in the world with significant social and economic implication.

3. Gender perspectives on science and technology

It is believed that wider cultural assumptions about the role expected of boys and girls in society influence the  nature and extent of participation of men and women in science and technology. These assumptions differ widely between, and often within, societies. Scholars have focused on the relative participation of and achievement by girls in science and technology, to explore their attitudes towards these components of their education and to promote ways of addressing the various imbalances.

UNESCO (2007) emphasizes that, because the participation of women in science is a key concern in addressing inequalities and facilitating socioeconomic growth, it is imperative to incorporate a gender perspective into S&T policy.

General strategies that can be considered include employing more women science teachers to serve as role models for pupils, increasing teachers' awareness of gender issues and helping them become more sensitive to the dynamics of classroom interaction, removing gender bias from textbooks and other curriculum materials, raising the profile of successful women scientists and technologists, and collaborating with other agencies, such as the broadcast and print media, in alerting parents and students to the opportunities which exist for work in science and technology-related careers.

4. Role of private sector in S&T development

There is broad consensus that private sector has to play a critical role in application of S&T to accelerate economic growth and to improve trade competitiveness. However, a major constraint faced by many developing countries in this regard is that their private sector is still relatively small, and it is dominated by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) which use unsophisticated technology. R&D activities are costly and time consuming, and many firms in these countries are constrained by financial resource limitations and shortage of skilled human resources. It is necessary to explore the policy initiatives and other conditions that are needed to overcome such barriers so as to promote technological innovators and entrepreneurs.

5. Public Understanding of Science and Scientific Literacy

When many developing countries had low levels of literacy, international institutions like UNESCO articulated the need to improve literacy levels in these countries. But, in more recent years, most developing countries have recorded high rates of literacy. Besides, persisting challenges of social and economic development coupled with rapid scientific and technological advancements in the world, many countries have recognized the need for their general populations to go beyond simple reading and writing ability to embrace a range of other aptitudes in order to be able to function more effectively in a more challenging environment. These include scientific, environmental and computer literacy. Scientific literacy denotes people's knowledge and understanding of scientific concepts and processes necessary for making rational decisions in their daily lives and participation in informed public discourses. In other words, a general familiarity with matters of modern science that helps them understand the world around them. 

6. Risks and Benefits of Modern Technology

Evidence of modern scientific advancement is ubiquitous in almost all parts of the world today. Use of technological gadgets is common even in less developed societies as is evident from the widespread use of mobile technologies. While the benefits are often obvious to many people, the fact that there are also risks associated with modern technology is not so obvious and known to many people. These include issues of cyber security, threats to personal well being and safety, increasing sense of social isolation, relational problems, addiction to and dependence on technology etc. The risks involved can vary across countries depending on diverse factors. New research can shed more light on the above and other issues.

7. Education and Science and Technology Development

It is argued that the knowledge economy rests on technological advancements including ICT. There is a growing emphasis on technological skills for the 21st century with the spread of  Information and Communications Technology across the world.

With diverse practical applications of ICT, students need to think and work creatively in both digital and non-digital environments. Social media helps students to display this creative edge and to get constant and instantaneous feedback from their peers. Students need to think analytically, for which ICT can also help.

Students today need to communicate in multiple media formats and often do so visually through video and imagery effectively. Since soft skills are critical for performance in today’s workplace, business leaders expect their employees to possess a range of soft skills.

Globally, educational institutions emphasize inclusion of ICT in curricula. In less developed countries, provision of access to ICT is a major issue due to constraints in funding for the purchase, installation and maintenance of hard and software and lack of competent teachers to teach the subject, especially at school level. Another issue that has to be explored is whether ICT always facilitates collaboration, and whether it can lead to negative consequences and to isolation or marginalization of  groups and individuals.

8. Development of Media Policies to promote Science & Technology(S & T)

In Sri Lanka, scientists in general do not have a close connection to the media.  As a result, scientific work done by scientists does not get communicated to the public through the media. The result is that most of the members of the Sri Lankan public are not familiar with the scientific work done by scientists. On the other hand, journalists in general are also not conversant with the work of scientists and therefore, do not have the skills to convert scientific material into journalistic idiom. Based on the above observations, it is necessary to develop a media policy and strategy to leap bridge this prevailing gap between scientific community and the media.  It might also be necessary to take practical steps to facilitate the above problem. International experience in the above regard can be quite instructive.

9. Traditional knowledge and S&T

The term ‘traditional knowledge’, or alternatively ‘indigenous knowledge’ and ‘local knowledge’ arose from the observations of anthropologists of the orally transmitted knowledge of small, non-literate societies like for example, isolated tribes in the Amazon or orally transmitted  informal knowledge even in literate civilizations. This knowledge has remained mostly empirical. Further, this knowledge did not cover the formal knowledge like those in China, India and say in Sri Lanka which over millennia had accumulated large stores of valid knowledge, several aspects of which could be tested using the normal procedures of science and had indeed fed in to the development of ‘modern’ science including in formulating theories. There are many examples of such inputs into science, and include among many others: the decimal place system of notation, trigonometry, permutations and combinations, gunpowder and rocketry, classification of plants and theories of mental processing.

10. State policy and S&T development

Developments in science and technology are fundamentally altering the way people live,  connect, communicate and transact, with profound effects on social and economic development. To promote technological advancement, developing countries like Sri Lanka need to  invest in quality education for youth, and continuous skills training for workers and managers. The technological revolution of the 21st century is emerging from entirely new sectors, based on micro-processors, telecommunications, biotechnology and nanotechnology. Products are transforming business practices across the economy, as well as the lives of all those who have access to technological products. The most remarkable breakthroughs come from the interaction of insights and applications arising from the convergence of new technologies.

Against the above background, countries like Sri Lanka need to explore and make full use of opportunities available through international funding and research collaboration in order to develop the local capacity for R&D.

11. Science and Technology Diplomacy

Science and Technology diplomacy is an emerging area in the field of public policy and technology management. As science and technology are increasingly at the center of global issues, diplomats are less capable of effectively carrying out their work without having a good understanding of the changing technology landscape. They need to help position the country in the global context through channels available to themHowever, the lack of diplomats' technical knowledge and/or relation between diplomats and the technical experts impinge on international agreements, understanding of the relationship between science, technology and development, international cooperation on science and technology across countries, enterprises and academic institutions, technological capacity-building and enhancing entrepreneurship and competitiveness in developing countries, particularly the least developed are key areas of concern today.

12. Ethics in S&T

Ethical norms have a significant bearing on research and people who conduct scientific research or other scholarly or creative activities. It is generally thought that science and technology should never cross certain ethical lines. Moral notions and practices inevitably are influenced by science and technology. Hence outcome of science and technology is also affected by the given ethics, morals and values.  The important question is how such interactions should take place. Anticipatory ethics is a new approach that integrates ethics into science and technological development.

Societal acceptability of scientific research depends on  sound ethical reflection. The complexity of modern sciences and the rapid progress in technology requires the researchers to be up-to-date with information in order to make such reflection possible. Ethics has increasingly become an important issue in democratic societies, especially due to the rapid expansion of research in various aspects of science and technology.  Ethical considerations have become all the more relevant in the context of ubiquitous ecological crisis and genetic engineering both of which have unprecedented implications for the well- being of humanity.

Dead lines

Acceptance of abstracts by NSF                              : 26th July, 2019

Closing date for Conference registration                    : 20th  September, 2019