In short, the circumstances of our fragile, peculiar time favor grand interventions from engineers. These interventions are consistent with the worthy and ambitious initiatives proposed by the National Academy of Engineering. But while most “prizes” and “challenges” encourage the pursuit of well-defined breakthroughs, “saving the planet” will require assembling many well-defined breakthroughs into technological systems that deliver durable solutions to urgent problems.
– G. Pascal Zachary in “Why Engineers Must try to Save the World”
This is probably the best description I have ever read about applying science to the real world. You can read the article here, where he explores why the “doers” have to save the world when the “thinkers” can’t: “Why Engineers Must try to Save the World”