Excessive emphasis on fashionable areas of research
Research priorities tend to become distorted by research fashions, politically fashionable topics or breakthroughs into new areas, causing considerable funds to be reallocated to such areas, far in excess of that required for adequate research. This leads to an imbalance of effort with considerable resources being allocated to a relatively small range of research areas, often of debatable significance, to the detriment of research on less fashionable areas of greater social significance. In response to such fashions, many research workers and institutes restructure their priorities and programmes to ally themselves with glamorous topics.
Several recent examples include laser technology, semiconductors, alternative energy sources, genetic engineering and robotics. Other kinds of fashionable studies concern simulation, gaming, modelling, and forecasting. Excess activity of this kind causes scepticism and obstacles to funding of serious, long-term research commitments.
The Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential is a collaboration between UIA and Mankind 2000, started in 1972. It is the result of an ambitious effort to collect and present information on the problems with which humanity is confronted, as well as the challenges such problems pose to concept formation, values and development strategies. Problems included are those identified in international periodicals but especially in the documents of some 60,000 international non-profit organizations, profiled in the Yearbook of International Organizations.
The Encyclopedia includes problems which such groups choose to perceive and act upon, whether or not their existence is denied by others claiming greater expertise. Indeed such claims and counter-claims figure in many of the problem descriptions in order to reflect the often paralyzing dynamics of international debate. In the light of the interdependence demonstrated among world problems in every sector, emphasis is placed on the need for approaches which are sufficiently complex to encompass the factions, conflicts and rival worldviews that undermine collective initiative towards a promising future.
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