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Society has prime impact on science

Society, its culture and its value system have a strong influence on scientific development ("Wooing local talent to work at 'weird science' "; last Sunday).

Science and technology do not exist independently of society. In fact, society has more of an impact on science than any other factor. Every society in history has developed science based on its needs, interests, hopes and dreams.

These include the areas of military equipment, space travel, ocean exploration, modern medical technology, fertilisers, pesticides and bio-fuels.

A lot of scientific research is devoted to discovering methods, products and chemical compounds that directly benefit society.

However, pharmaceutical companies will not invest in research that does not produce profits.

Strong government support and intervention are necessary to provide the environment for science and technology to grow fast.

How the state funds projects would depend on society's determination of which scientific endeavour is worthy of funding.

If society does not value an idea, or believes the idea to be negative or too taboo, then scientists and researchers in that society will be less likely to focus on that field of study.

Mainstream or "hot button" issues will be more likely to be researched.

One such area is human longevity, especially using natural means such as nutrition and disease prevention to prolong life.

Government funding should go into such research to help produce new drugs and treatments that will enhance human longevity.

Francis Cheng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 24, 2016, with the headline 'Society has prime impact on science'. Print Edition | Subscribe