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Expert Forecasts for 2020

Countries’ Capacity to Achieve Science and Technology Goals Because national concerns tend to differ in these ways between countries with various levels of S&T capacity, particular sets of technology applications will be much more important, and their impacts much more dramatic, for certain nations than for others. But if a country were to establish a certain goal as a top priority in 2020 and resolve to address it, how capable would it be of actually implementing the applications that would enable it to do so? We looked at the scientifically lagging, developing, proficient, and advanced nations in our sample and for each one answered that question for the objectives likely to be relevant to countries at its level of S&T capacity. In China and India, a significant fraction of the population is rural and impoverished. Aging populations and a high standard of living also put improving individual health at the head of the national agenda in many scientifically advanced countries. Enhancing public health is often an objective, too, but usually a much less prominent one, given that these nations have already achieved very effective public health systems and will gain only marginal benefits. Exceptional circumstances, such as a need to provide emergency medical relief should a disaster strike, usually drive this goal. Strengthening homeland security and public safety is a principal concern for some nations at this level of S&T capacity. While some nations have had terrorism prevention on their national agendas for a long time, this issue has become more prominent as a number of advanced countries have had recent experiences with terrorism—the United States with the attacks of September 11, 2001, and Spain and the United Kingdom with train bombings, for instance. Public demand in such countries to reduce internal security threats can run very high. Making the military and warfighters of the future stronger is often among their fore-most concerns as well, for varying reasons. Both Israel and South Korea face potential threats from hostile neighboring countries; the United States seeks to maintain its global military predominance. 1 Institutional capacity includes honest and effective systems of governance, banking and finance, law, education, and health. Human capacity entails the quality and quantity of a country’s educated and skilled personnel, as well as the level of education and scientific literacy of its people. Physical capacity involves the quality and quantity of critical infrastructures e.g., transport and freight networks, schools, hospitals, research facilities, and utilities.