This story from The Bloomington Herald-Times is being published here as a courtesy for readers of Grand Challenges News.
How should one react to the announcement by Indiana University officials last week that through a program called “Grand Challenges” they will funnel at least $300 million over the next five years into “the most ambitious research program in the” history of the university?
With more questions, of course.
What if researchers at IU can develop a strategy to thwart the threat of new and re-emerging diseases that could affect people around the global?
Could IU be at the forefront of solving the increasingly urgent issue of making sure there is enough clean water to go around?
What if university-connected researchers are successful in coming up with new, clean sources of energy so energy demands can be met safely, efficiently and affordably?
Could a Grand Challenges project put us on the road to curing Alzheimer’s, ALS or another debilitating disease?
What if a project were able to address the societal issue that there simply isn’t enough nutritious food getting to places around the globe?
What if a discovery could be found to address the issues brought about by climate change, a condition accepted by a vast majority in the scientific community?
Is there a strategy that could help communications technologies be made available to, and work for, everyone?
Could an IU research project unlock a new procedure or medicine that could save lives for some and enhance the quality of living for others?
Is there an idea that could come from this that would help stabilize markets throughout the globe and potentially stop some groups of people from resorting to violence because of economic hopelessness?
Would one or more of these new discoveries lead to new careers and jobs, which could improve the living standard for thousands if not millions of people?
Is there a discovery to be made that could increase the safety on our streets and in our homes? Advance equality for women? Improve decision-making in government? Reduce discrimination or racism?
There are groups such as the World Economic Forum, the Millennium Project and the Smalley Institute at Rice University that identify these challenges and ask questions like these.
Why shouldn’t Indiana University use its resources to try to address some of them?
Who is better equipped than research universities to look for solutions to the most profound problems identified?
If research universities don’t take up these challenges, who will?
The “Grand Challenges” research program certainly is ambitious and bold, to the point of being audacious and brash.
What’s wrong with that?
In a time of sometimes paralyzing and always daunting problems of substance, it’s a positive development that IU is stepping up to the plate to look for solutions.
Will it pay off? That question will take years to answer, but why not try?