Previous Fora / 2007

Summaries and recommendations of the thematic sessions

A special highlight of the present forum was the Heads of State Panel in the framework of which, László Sólyom, Stjepan Mesić, Heinz Fischer and Karolos Papoulias, presidents of Hungary, Croatia, Austria and Greece convened upon the "Green presidents" initiative of Hungary's President. They expressed their concerns about the environment and suggested new initiatives for cooperation to solve global problems.

 "Our latest Copernican turn of thinking is the general admittance of the fact that the Earth is not a subsystem of the Economy – quite the opposite. The economy is a subsystem of our complex human society that is, in turn, embedded into and dependent upon the natural systems of planet Earth. Governments have to act, have to invest public resources urgently on the basis of this paradigm." emphasized president László Sólyom.

Another plenary meeting was dedicated to Reports of Representatives of Global Fora. There are several fora of scientists and decision makers dealing with different aspects of scientific research and the advancement of technologies. It was one of the original ideas of the World Science Forum to become the forum of global science fora.

At this session, representatives of the most important global and other international organizations presented the views of their respective institutions such as Meetings of Nobel Laureates in Lindau; the OECD Global Science Forum; the Japanese Science and Technology in Society Forum; the Euroscience Open Forum (ESOF); the World Bank's Knowledge Economy Forum and STI Global Forum; the Third World Academy of Sciences (TWAS); the London International Youth Science Forum and the AAAS Annual Meeting.

Leaders of the respective fora have long wished for a meeting point that could be a framework for their cooperation. It has now become clear now that World Science Forum fulfills this expectation.

Launching the UNEP International Panel for Sustainable Resource Management

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) launched a new scientific panel on sustainable resource management during World Science Forum's Friday afternoon session. The participation of the Hungarian Minister for the Environment, Gabor Fodor highlighted the importance of the event even further. The new panel, as a global think tank, will provide scientific assessments and expert advice on the use intensity, the security of supplies, and the environmental impacts of selected products and services on a global level.

Established by UNEP, with the support of a wide range of governments, the European Commission and representatives from civil society, the new scientific panel is part of an international partnership on resource management. It will look at the impacts of resources and materials used in all phases of their life cycle.

In addition to the plenary sessions, thematic and special sessions were organized:

Investing in Knowledge for Sustainability – The Best Science-Based Governance Initiatives

The session was organized by the Regional Environmental Centre for Central and Eastern Europe (REC). While science-based knowledge is necessary, it is not enough to get right through to sustainability. An interdisciplinary approach to science is called for to bridge the division between hard-core natural sciences and the humanities. It is not technology but the humanities that really move the sustainability movement forward. Sustainability depends on social factors.

Changes are required so soon that we do not have time to develop new basic knowledge. But the difference between collapse and sustainability will ultimately depend on the ability of society to begin and carry out a change, not just on the availability of technology.

Achieving sustainable development requires radical innovation in politics, diplomacy, technology and democracy. A radical new initiative for preserving the ecosystem in Ecuador e.g. offers the international community a choice between buying the ecosystem services of 2 million hectares of untouched tropical rainforest, and erasing the forest to get at the oil underneath.

Science and Innovation as a Global Enterprise

This session was organized by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). During the session, leaders of the scientific communities from highly developed countries shared the opportunities in and challenges for international collaboration in science and technology.  The panellists discussed the importance of science and technology in meeting societal priorities such as health, sustainable development, climate change, and innovation. The panel discussed possible mechanisms to achieve better internationalization of the global science enterprise, and discussed the need for and the potential creation of a World Science Organization that could help coordinate global efforts on science and technology development. This organization could have as one of its key initial goals the translation of the vast array of scientific information published in non-English journals into technically accurate English. This would be critical in further enlarging the pool of available scientific information that could be useful for societies. Such things as the internet, shared global concerns, and improved communication are making global collaborations easier and more effective.

As the world becomes more interconnected, the concept of a global village of science is becoming more and more  real.  One result, however, is that there is an emerging free trade of science which has a potential to yield both winners and losers.

The Role of Science, Technology and Innovation in the Achievement of The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs): from Policy to Actions

This session was organized by UNESCO and Third World Academy of Science (TWAS). Science and Technology are keys to Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) achievements. Governments have to focus on investment in education (technological developments in education and in teaching), in cutting-edge technologies (biotechnology, space sciences and technologies, nanotechnology) and in infrastructure.

The role of government is to involve the private sector in the financing of R+D+I activities.  These policies should be integrated with policies of other fields.

Science and Technology Ministers should cooperate towards sharing high technologies and patent applications. This cooperation can support the penetration of information and communication technologies, the improvement of general education via e-learning and life-long learning. Africa needs special attention due to its social and economical problems and the dangers of a South-North brain drain.

Investing in Knowledge for Peace - Israeli-Palestine Science Organisation (IPSO)

The session was organized by IPSO, established in 2003 to create a science-based bridge of goodwill between Israelis and Palestinians and to build a platform for Israeli and Palestinian scholars and scientists.

This was the third time that World Science Forum provided an opportunity for an IPSO meeting and for displaying the results of collaborative research in the fields of nanotechnology and cancer therapy.

Investing in Knowledge for Sustainability – Science-Based Politics towards a Paradigm Change

This session was organized by the Regional Environmental Center for Central and Eastern Europe (REC). The participants emphasized that effective policies are needed in production oriented strategies. It is necessary to determine normative and sustainable levels of production. We already are in the possession of the knowledge needed to solve the problems occurring, but competition in science should be replaced with cooperation among various fields (e.g. social sciences, economics, biological or physical sciences) and nations.

Investing in Future Generations

This session was organized by the World Academy of Young Scientists (WAYS) in partnership with the EU. The first part of the session focused on the importance and ways of science education in elementary schools, on talent support and utilization, and it also presented an overview on the most successful international programs in student and teacher education (e.g. IBSE, Pollen, Hungarian National Talent Support Program).

Interest for science among youngsters is high, but science teaching is far from adequate in most countries, as today's scientific challenges require researchers with increasingly complex and diverse curricula and this should be represented in science teaching as well.

Technology has revolutionized access to information and knowledge dissemination, the common goal should be to make it possible for everyone to reach these sources. The participants discussed new forms of teaching and learning methodology via the internet as a tool for learning anywhere, anytime, and any way (e.g. SciVee, TED, PLOS ONE, One Laptop per Child Initiative).

Special Session on "Investing in Science, Technology and Innovation: Challenges and Opportunities for Parliaments"

The session was organized by UNESCO and ISESCO (Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization).

The institutions of governance are expected to assume responsibility for and to deal with the increasing influence of science and technology, as it permeates ever more areas of human life.

The participants emphasized the responsibility of decision makers over the use of new scientific results and the achievements of technology. While preserving the freedom of research, societal control on proper applications should be kept with legislation, i.e. parliaments.

"There is a problem when it comes to the relationship between science and members of Parliament. Too few Parliamentarians understand the possibilities of science. They do not understand the limitations of science, or the long time scales it can take to develop an idea into something that will benefit the community. Nor do scientists understand the work of members of Parliament. They do not have a clear idea of  political processes. They do not appreciate  the pressures or  time scales Parliamentarians have to face. Both scientists and Parliamentarians recognize each other's importance. But there is no natural dialogue between the two sides because they come from different worlds, as Mr. Moneef R. Zou'bi, director general of the Islamic World Academy of Sciences said in concluding the session.

Investments in Knowledge in Accelerating Economies

The session was organized by the Chinese Academy of Sciences. The main objective was to evaluate the role of science and science-based technology development in accelerating economies. There was a very broad approach to this important topic including such issues as  education, innovation, science, key sectors of the socio-economic development, and international cooperation.

It was clearly stated that the overall goal of these countries is to improve the wellbeing of their societies, raise the quality of life and not simply to foster the consumption in quantitative terms, to achieve sustainable development. The development of the educational system, the increasing role of the scientific community have possibly had the most significant role in the success of these countries where  knowledge has its roots in the specific culture and tradition.

In a sense, the new wealth of accelerating economies is created from knowledge; science and technology have become the engines of their rapid development. The key pillars of this science and technology-driven process are  the investments in human resources, the promotion of research and development, and a continuous cycle of innovations.

In the course of this development, these countries also face such challenges as to tackle the problems of the brain drain, to build up a proper mechanism for intellectual property rights, or to find a constructive partnership between public and private organizations.

Some general issues

At this point let me thank again the rapporteurs for their efforts.

As a whole I feel the Forum served the purpose what we the organizers found most important: dialogue, discussion, better understanding and agreement in most actions to be taken. I am convinced that working together we could make the world a better and safer place. These three days might be a small contribution but realizing as many of the recommendations as possible will truly allow us to invest more in knowledge and invest in the future.

Some repeatedly occurring issues characterized most of the events:

A need to face clearly the challenges of sustainable development.
We need further efforts to define what it is meant by sustainability, and to see what limitations to growth does sustainability entail.

Clear exposition of rivaling interests in globalization of science.
One example is the efforts of repatriation in some countries, and the efforts to promote nostrification in others.

A need to see clearly the place of competition and cooperation in the development of global science.
Both for scientists and for practitioners of science policy it is crucial to see the relative merits of the two, it is vital to clarify when and where to compete and when and where to cooperate.

Relationships between financing and the softer factors in creating suitable research environments.
The national and international budgetary efforts to promote science are crucial. However, we start to realize more and more the importance of human aspects in stabilizing and promoting science.

Critical periods in becoming a scientist.
Among the many factors, a central issue is the way society can understand better how to  create endurance and commitment in a world  characterized by trends towards immediate gratification.

Freedom and mobility in science.
That entails the need to support movement of people, ideas, a free access to journals, patents, and  infrastructures.