There are many challenges facing the world today such as climate change, environmental pollution, healthcare, ageing population, renewable energy sources, and clean water. Almost all the major challenges that we now face require sustained commitments over many years for long-term solutions. Many of these problems are science-centric, and their solutions will require either scientific discovery or the application of science, or both. The global community needs to support the work of scientists and technologists for the benefit of mankind and our environment.
Singapore faces many of these same global challenges. In recent decades, Singapore has invested significantly in R&D to address such problems. We are growing a pool of talented scientists in Singapore who are making breakthroughs at the frontiers of science and innovation. The challenge is for Singapore to remain committed to funding both fundamental science as well as industry-related research; we need a continuous pipeline of scientific discoveries to feed into downstream technologies. Another challenge is to enthuse the next generation to be interested in science and to consider science as a career; our education system needs to inspire more young Singaporeans to be excited and inspired by science.
What is the role of SNAS? I would suggest that SNAS exists to promote and celebrate excellence in science, for the benefit of all Singaporeans. SNAS is also the umbrella organization that oversees the activities of its constituent societies. We celebrate scientific excellence by selecting role models, for example in our annual Young Scientist Awards, and the election of distinguished SNAS Fellows. We communicate science through organizing public talks by well-known scientists. We publish the Proceedings of the Singapore National Academy of Science (also known as COSMOS), which features highlights of some of the best research done in Singapore. We also facilitate international scientific contact with our counterpart organizations overseas, since by working together we can make a bigger impact globally.
Can SNAS do more? I would suggest that in the next stage of Singapore’s development, SNAS could administer research funds on behalf of funding agencies, and offer advice to government on scientific policy. Whether this will happen will depend on whether SNAS can earn the trust of the Singapore government and the local scientific community; SNAS needs to prove itself by being truly representative of scientists in Singapore.