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New Research to Make Science and Technology Work for the Poor

According to scientists at a new global research centre launched today, the warning comes from the STEPS Centre, whose urgently needed new approach to development aims to respond to 21st century conditions. Out-of-date policies are undermining unprecedented opportunities for recent aid commitments to improve the environment and combat poverty.

We live in an era of unprecedented environmental and technological flux; apocalyptic predictions of climate change-induced drought and floods, avian flu and HIV/AIDS pandemics, unsafe food and scarce water supplies hit the headlines daily.

Rapid change is creating new interactions between people, environment and technology, but also new problems, such as novel strains of avian flu and HIV drug resistances. Yet billions in aid could be wasted because current policy is failing to respond.

The STEPS Centres new approach sees natural and social scientists working together, instead of separately. STEPS research connects, social, technology and environment issues, rather than dividing them. It creates solutions that are adaptive to change, build resilience to uncertainty and meet the priorities of poor and marginalised people in different settings.

With 4m pound of funding from the Economic and Social Research Council, STEPSs five-year programme of research, with partners in Africa, Asia and Latin America, focuses on agriculture, water and health. Initial projects include investigating the effects of climate change on maize crops in Kenya, urbanisation in India and drug regulation in China and Latin America.

Professor Melissa Leach, Director of the STEPS Centre explains: Silver bullets for poverty reduction are failing the poor and risk failing altogether. They assume one-size-fits-all solutions can be applied across a stable world.

But we live in a world of dynamic change and uncertainty. The STEPS Centre aims to tackle these challenges head on, comb
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