Dr C Nataraj is the Editor-in-chief of Vibration Engineering & Technologies with research expertise in dynamic systems modeling, analysis and diagnostics. In this blog he explains how the Engineering community can ensure that SDG9 is successful.
Over the last two centuries, engineers and scientists can be justifiably proud of being on the frontlines of generating and fostering innovation and industrialization which have been the chief sources of economic prosperity leading to longer, healthier and more fulfilling lives. Unfortunately, due to complex political and sociological reasons this has been an unequal development resulting in large global inequities. These inequities span geographical boundaries as well as stretch locally across diverse races, ethnicities and genders. A second unintended consequence of industrialization has been the destruction of the environment, which - while affecting almost everyone on the planet - has unequal impact on some countries and societal elements bearing the brunt of negative effects. A third important factor is the dramatic impact that climatic and other exogeneous disruptions have had on the infrastructure we rely on as exemplified by recent events such as rising sea levels, wildfires and the pandemic.
The United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal 9 aims to build resilient infrastructure and to promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation. This goal, while laudable, will not succeed without intelligent and coordinated action by the engineering community. We the engineers can bring to bear our considerable talent, creativity and advanced training to solve these problems effectively and efficiently, as in fact we have done with considerable challenges in the past. It is the engineers who took humanity to the moon and beyond, harnessed nuclear energy, connected the world with airplanes and the internet, and developed countless life-saving technologies for medicine. There is no question that human – and engineering - ingenuity can solve very challenging problems provided we make them an imperative priority. All future engineering developments need to be planned with full consideration of the problems of inequities, environmental impact and resilience to disruptions. One practical need that has arisen in our own research on developing computational models for SDGs is that there is a paucity of high-quality data. There is hence an imperative need for sociological, technological and economic data that should be collected locally and globally, and systematically. Once we have the right kind of data we can pass on the inferences from the models to the decision-makers so that right policies can be formulated and implemented. Ultimately, it is incumbent on the engineering community to assess the impact of our engineering design choices on the critically important issues of equity, environment and resilience before the systems are put in place, and not as afterthoughts.
Dr. C. Nataraj (Nat) holds the distinguished Moritz Chair Professorship in Engineered Systems at Villanova University and is the Founding Director of the Villanova Center for Analytics of Dynamic Systems, or VCADS. Nat’s research expertise is in dynamic systems modeling, analysis and diagnostics. Nat has served as Chair of Mechanical Engineering, and as the founding Director of the Center for Nonlinear Dynamics & Control (CENDAC). Nat’s research experience spans four decades which has resulted in one book, 250+ papers and four patents. Nat is a Life Fellow of ASME. He is the Editor-in-Chief of Springer-Nature Journal of Vibration Engineering & Technologies and is the host of Nodycast, the leading podcast on the theory and application of nonlinear dynamics. His research has received national media attention including a TEDx talk, US News and World Report, Wired and Forbes Magazines.