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Posted: February 15, 2008
Leading engineers and scientists identify advances that could improve quality of life around the world
(Nanowerk News) The U.S. National
Academy of Engineering (NAE) today announced the grand challenges for
engineering in the 21st century. A diverse committee of experts from around
the world, convened at the request of the U.S. National Science Foundation,
revealed 14 challenges that, if met, would improve how we live.
The panel, some of the most accomplished engineers and scientists of
their generation, was established in 2006 and met several times to discuss
and develop the list of challenges. Through an interactive Web site, the
effort received worldwide input from prominent engineers and scientists, as
well as from the general public, over a one-year period. The panel's
conclusions were reviewed by more than 50 subject-matter experts.
The final choices fall into four themes that are essential for humanity
to flourish -- sustainability, health, reducing vulnerability, and joy of
living. The committee did not attempt to include every important challenge,
nor did it endorse particular approaches to meeting those selected. Rather
than focusing on predictions or gee-whiz gadgets, the goal was to identify
what needs to be done to help people and the planet thrive.
"We chose engineering challenges that we feel can, through creativity
and commitment, be realistically met, most of them early in this century,"
said committee chair and former U.S. Secretary of Defense William J. Perry.
"Some can be, and should be, achieved as soon as possible."
The committee decided not to rank the challenges. NAE is offering the
public an opportunity to vote on which one they think is most important and
to provide comments at the project Web site --
The Grand Challenges website features a five-minute video overview of the
project along with committee member interview excerpts. A podcast of the
news conference announcing the challenges will also be available on the
site starting next week.
"Meeting these challenges would be 'game changing,'" said NAE president
Charles M. Vest. "Success with any one of them could dramatically improve
life for everyone."
Make solar energy affordable
Provide energy from fusion
Develop carbon sequestration methods
Manage the nitrogen cycle
Provide access to clean water
Restore and improve urban infrastructure
Advance health informatics
Engineer better medicines
Reverse-engineer the brain
Prevent nuclear terror
Enhance virtual reality
Advance personalized learning
Engineer the tools for scientific discovery
The National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering,
Institute of Medicine, and National Research Council make up the National
Academies. They are private, nonprofit institutions that provide science,
technology, and health policy advice under a congressional charter.