Previous Fora / 2011


Executive Secretary, OECD Global Science Forum

Stefan Michalowski is head of the secretariat of the Global Science Forum at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in Paris. The Forum is an intergovernmental committee that addresses science policy issues (
He has an undergraduate degree in astronomy from CarletonCollege, and a PhD in elementary particle physics from CornellUniversity.  He was a postdoctoral fellow at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, and a Senior Research Associate at Stanford’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, where he did research in robotics, artificial intelligence, and rehabilitation engineering.  He was a Science Fellow at the StanfordCenter for International Security and Arms Control, where he studied nuclear weapons safety issues.  In 1993, he was awarded a 2-year State Department Science and Diplomacy Fellowship by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).  He left the US government in 1995 to join the OECD.
As Executive Secretary of the Global Science Forum, Michalowski has provided administrative support and substantive input for all of the Forum’s activities in the areas of astronomy, nuclear physics, neutron and synchrotron sources, high-energy physics, neutrino physics, neuroinformatics, bioinformatics, structural genomics, radio spectrum management, research misconduct, science education, grid computing, industrial mathematics, high-intensity lasers, enhancing societal safety, near-Earth objects, earthquake science, planning and administering large research infrastructures, energy research, complexity science, and others.



14:30-16:30 18 NOVEMBER

The OECD Global Science Forum
For almost 20 years, the OECD Global Science Forum (formerly the Megascience Forum) has been a venue for consultations among the senior science policy officials of OECD member and Observer countries.  Its goal has been to identify and promote opportunities for international co-operation in basic scientific research.  The Forum has established numerous special-purpose working groups and has convened many workshops to perform technical analyses, and to develop findings and recommendations for actions by governments and/or the scientific community.  These groups bring together government officials, research administrators, scientific experts, and representatives of international organisations.  The subsidiary activities of the Global Science Forum are always proposed by member delegations, and participants are appointed by governments.  Potential involvement of non-OECD countries, international bodies, and other OECD committees is always considered.  GSF activities usually conclude with the preparation of a brief, public, policy-level report.
The Forum does not duplicate or interfere with the work of any other international organisation or process, nor does it consider matters that can be dealt with bilaterally.  In general, purely scientific matters are not debated by the Forum or its subsidiary bodies.  If unresolved scientific questions emerge during the course of a Forum activity, an appropriate recommendation for action can be made to a scientific body.
Based on the work of the Forum, governments may decide to initiate new international projects.  In each case, the responsibility for negotiating the final agreement and administering the co-operation resides with the participating governments.  Since its establishment, GSF has launched four independent international collaborations: the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF), the International Neuroinformatics Coordinating Facility (INCF), the Global Earthquake Model (GEM), and Scientific Collections International (SciColl).
The Global Science Forum is well-adapted to what seems certain to be a period if austerity in international affairs.  The GSF secretariat consists of a mere three full-time OECD staff persons, who are able to manage a half-dozen (or more) simultaneous activities in which the substantive work is done by designated government officials and invited scientists.  The raison d’être of the Forum is to strengthen international collaboration, especially in scientific domains where large, expensive infrastructures are needed.  But care must be taken when contemplating new international initiatives which, if not properly conceived and implemented, can actually lead to excessive costs and unnecessary delays.   
Since I have had the honour of reporting to the World Science Fora in 2007 and 2005, I would like to illustrate the nature and scope of the Global Science Forum’s work by briefly describing two projects that have just recently been completed.  Earlier in 2011, we published a report entitled “Opportunities, challenges and good practices in International Research Collaboration between Developed and Developing Countries”.  This document is largely based on two days of intense discussions involving some sixty scientists and research administrators from more than twenty countries and organisations, who came together in Pretoria, South Africa in September, 2010.  The report is a compendium of very practical steps that can be taken when designing, initiating, executing and assessing a research project that involves scientists from developed and developing countries.  The other project whose outcome I wish to bring to the attention of WSF attendees is a systematic analysis of “The Establishment of Large International Research Infrastructures: Issues and options”.  This work, as the one previously mentioned, is intended to be pragmatic and actionable.  Thus, the topics that are examined in detail include the legal status of the collaboration, organisational and managerial structures, governance, financing, as well as equipment and personnel issues.