"Foresight Scenarios: What will international science be like in 2031?" - Thematic Session (ICSU)        19.11.2011

What will international science be like in 20 years? Speakers in this session organised by International Council for Science (ICSU) tried to depict the future, basing their predictions on the strategic plan of the ICSU for 2012-2017, and many foreseeable economic, social, political and environmental events.

A scenario approach is necessary to answer the future challenges awaiting the different nations of the globe, said Mr John Marks (ICSU Taskforce on Foresight, chair, the Netherlands) explaining the importance of ICSU's foresight process, the role of megatrends and key drivers. Factors influencing international science are megatrends – factors whose future trends are reasonable and clear like demography, natural resource availability, global environmental change, human health and well-being, technological change, availability of information. Key drivers are directions like state sovereignty, regulations, global science and society values, beliefs, scientific integrity and self-regulation, international collaborative research, infrastructure, nature of scientific needs, science education.

Science gained its independence through new breakthroughs. Together with nationalism we face a power struggle for global leadership. Under such circumstances it is worth keeping the vision: global science is thriving in all its diversity and is responding to societal challenges.

Ms Francoise Caillods (WSSR senior managing editor) talked on overcoming the knowledge divide. “Social scientists are in high demand, they are present everywhere but visible nowhere” - she said. Economists are criticised for not having foreseen the 2008 crisis and not knowing how to cope with the present one. Sociologists and political scientists facilitate identifying major trends; nevertheless they are criticised for not providing clear answers to key issues. Yet social science is more crucial than ever to understand how human beings behave, interact with each other, with the physical environment. It is necessary to consider the meaning of poverty for those who experience it. There are no standardised solutions to all as people and countries do not see the world the same way.

She emphasised that social science can help to understand the role of cultures, values, beliefs in shaping the ways group are going to change. Apart from the geographical divide there is one between mainstream science versus alternative approaches, also in the quality of research carried out. Capacity divide – there are striking inequities across regions, countries, also in the numbers of researchers in certain countries.

Mr Nebojsa Nakicenovic (Technische Universitat, Wien) spoke of social conduct for sustainability. He called for new science for conservational changes, and improvement in duplicating energy efficiency by 2030.


You can find more details on this session here.