To commemorate the 300th Anniversary of the original Longitude Prize, a new prize has been revived and six challenges have been identified.
As opposed to 300 years ago when the government decided to offer a prize for one of the greatest scientific challenges of that century, this time, the public will vote for one of the shortlisted challenges and decide which one is worth tackling.
Inventors and scientist are encouraged to find solutions for the key problems we face today, and finding those, will truly present the power of science and technology in today’s world (hopefully).
Update: the pubic voted for ANTIBIOTICS.
There are a broad range of social problems that demand our attention and require innovative ideas that will address them.
To engage the public in creating the future, the committee and supporters called for voting on six challenges that were identified and given that the voting ends on 25th lets us see what those six challenges are.
What are the challenges we face today?
According to research, 820,000 people in UK suffer from dementia. Without an existing cure for it, the need to find ways to empower people’s physical and emotional well-being is seen as mandatory.
If this challenge wins, the solution will be to develop affordable and intelligent technologies that will enable people who suffer from dementia to live independently.
The technology needs to find a solution that will address the impact of carbon emissions on climate change. So far, green flights have been achieved, however, with only a few people and only over short distances. If the public votes for this, the challenge will be to design a zero-carbon aeroplane capable of flying from London to Edinburgh, at comparable speed to today’s aircraft.
Although technology has already offered solutions in wearable devices, such as robotic exoskeletons, and in assistive technology as well as in the field of regenerative medicine, the need to improve the lives of those who live with paralysis is on demand. The challenge will be to come up with the solution that will enable paralysed people the same freedom of movement as most of the people who already enjoy it.
It is estimated that by 2050 there will be an increased demand for resources such as milk and meat. Protein deficiency and the way protein is produced is seen as one of the biggest problems.
When Longitude Prize 2014 was introduced, the insects were proposed as one of the solutions. If food wins the challenge, the scientists and researchers will have to offer the next big food-related invention, to ensure the future with environmentally sustainable food rich in nutrients that people can and will want to eat.
Overuse of penicillin has led to bacteria-resistance, according to The World Health Organisation. Apart from the effect on modern medicine, penicillin is also used in agriculture as well. The key antibiotics may no longer work, and people might die from simple infections that were treatable before. If you vote for antibiotics, the challenge will be to create a cheap, rapid and accurate test for infections. These tests should allow medical workers and professionals to better their treatments administering the right antibiotics at the right time.
Water demands grow every year given 98 percent of water on the planet is too salty to be used as drinkable water or in agriculture.
Current technological solutions are too expensive, and given that water has and will have a massive impact on the economy and politics, searching for a solution that will bring fresh water with cheap, environmentally sustainable desalination technology is seen as highly required.
After the announcement of the winning challenge, people can start submitting their ideas. What is of much importance is that the prize is open to everyone around the world, as long as the participants or international organizations deliver direct economic benefit in the UK, in other worlds, the creation of new jobs, revenues and taxes.
Many mostly welcomed the Longitude Prize 2014; however, the public is asking questions related to successes of those proposed ideas, the prize money, the evaluation criteria for success, even the public engagement.
Should we laugh or cry at the idea that a £10million #longitudeprize is enough to feed the world, make new antibiotics or cure paralysis?
— Neil Withers (@NeilWithers) May 19, 2014
Is it even possible to choose one challenge?
Why wasn’t climate change addressed more seriously?
How can the public know if the winning idea for lets’ say water challenge truly brings clean and fresh water to everybody?
How can we even know that other ideas and solutions weren’t better than the ones that the committee is going to choose?
Why wasn’t clean energy one of the challenges?
It seems like there are too many questions, and very few answers.
A genuine public engagement or a call for an attention?
Some are of the opinion that the prize was only there to capture people’s attention, whereas the quality of public engagement should truly be the most important question. Focusing on the public who has the right to be engaged in science, may be understood as patronizing, for others.
Given Nesta and the Longitude committee will decide how the prize that wins the public will be awarded and for what type of the technology development, more questions are raised.
On the other hand, the prize is said to be stimulating and an incentive, and according to the committee it is of the same amount offered by some of the other large research grants. When it comes to challenges, they are specific if we look at the “smaller-sort-of picture”. We must admit that scientists who gathered to define those challenges put some thought into it.
What is the success of Longitude prize?
The success of the Longitude Prize depends on many levels, mostly on the people’s involvement to try to address some of the challenges seen as the most important.
Whether in a negative or positive way, the prize surely caught the attention of the public, although other problems (such as communication between public, politicians and researchers) are raised.
If we look at the prize from the technology point of view, now is as good a time as ever to see how technology can truly address the problems we face, how it can help us solve those problems and when. The power of technology is at question.
What will be the next big innovation in science?
The details on the prize fund and area chosen will be unveiled in autumn, and perhaps we should judge the initiative when the time is right.
If you still haven’t voted, you have one more day, and what is the challenge we need to solve we’ll know tomorrow.