As the world confronts an array of challenges – from stubborn poverty to climate change and mass migration – high-level science leaders and policymakers will convene in Jordan next week for the World Science Forum. Meeting under the theme of "Science for Peace", the Forum will hear from prominent global figures working to address the challenges and advance sustainable development.
The World Academy of Sciences (TWAS) and its associated organisation, the InterAcademy Partnership (IAP), will have a significant presence at the Forum, with a range of sessions and presentations focused on challenges especially relevant to the developing world. Each reflects the "Science for Peace" theme, which was set by the steering committee and its chair, Princess Sumaya bint El Hassan of Jordan.
"We believe that scientists and policymakers, working together, must help to lay the economic foundations for an improved quality of life for the world’s ever-increasing population," said Princess Sumaya, the president of the Royal Scientific Society of Jordan. "Our challenges are borderless, and so must be our mindset."
Watch a film of TWAS's 2016 interview with Princess Sumaya.
The forum opens 7 November at the King Hussein Bin Talal Convention Centre at the Dead Sea in Jordan. Some 900 speakers from over 100 countries will participate, with 3,000 people in all expected to attend. A declaration will be released at the closing ceremony scheduled for 10 November.
The World Science Forum emerged from a 1999 event, the World Conference on Science for the Twenty-First Century, held in Budapest, Hungary. The Hungarian Academy of Sciences, working with UNESCO, the International Council for Science (ICSU) and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), then established the Forum, to take place every two years in Budapest. The first was in 2003; organisers later agreed to hold every other meeting in the developing world.
Among this year's speakers will be Jordanian Prince El Hassan bin Talal; UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova; Hungarian President János Áder; Naledi Pandor, South African Minister for Science and Technology; Abdelhamid El-Zoheiry, president of the Euro-Mediterranean University in Slovenia; and Keisuke Hanaki, former vice president for international affairs the Science Council of Japan.
This year's forum will explore a broad set of challenges, including food production, security, fighting global pandemics and sustainable energy. It will also assess a range of 21st century tools: artificial intelligence, science diplomacy, improved communication and and the new SESAME synchrotron light source in Jordan.
Also among the speakers will be TWAS Executive Director Romain Murenzi, who is featured in special session on 8 November, "International Funding for STI in Africa: Help Or Hindrance?" The session will explore whether an over-reliance on international funding – compounded by a lack of oversight and significant corruption – distorts research and development agendas in African countries.
"We believe that the World Science Forum is a gathering of the highest importance for addressing the challenges confronting the world, both South and North," Murenzi said. "Virtually every challenge has a component of science – from biodiversity, energy and human migration to education and equality for women and girls. By bringing together scientists and policymakers at the highest levels, and from all parts of the world, the influence of the Forum resonates globally."
TWAS and IAP – both Forum partner organisations – have helped to organise five other sessions:
Monday 6 November
• ‘Avoiding the Weaponisation of Research’. In a session that precedes the start of the Forum, young scientists will convene to explore an issue essential for peace. The speed of development in science is outstripping the ability of international conventions to react – and this is opening up new possibilities in which advances in fields ranging from biology to artificial intelligence can be used for hostile purposes. The session is designed to help young scientists develop leadership skills in science and science diplomacy. (Co-organized by IAP with the Global Young Academy (GYA), World Association of Young Scientists (WAYS), the International Consortium of Research Staff Associations (ICORSA) and UNESCO)
Wednesday 8 November
• Food and Nutrition Security and Agriculture – The U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) provide an important framework for meeting challenges in food security and nutrition, but require renewed focus from the scientific community. The challenges are large and complex, including growing populations, climate change, and economic inequality. No region is immune from the potential dangers. So this session will explore setting priorities for increased, sustainable agriculture and resolving global malnutrition. IAP has been working on a project called Food and Nutrition Security and Agriculture for two years. The project is currently completing reports focused on four regions – Africa, the Americas, Asia and Europe. Previews of the reports will be presented at the Forum. [Organised by IAP and the European Academies Science Advisory Council.]
• Knowledge and Technology in Developing Countries: Issues of Brain Drain and Transfer – In the context of sustainable development, effective knowledge and technology transfer and utilization provide effective means to translate innovative problem-solving approaches from global to national and local levels. This session seeks to stimulate dialogue on best practices for transferring, diffusing and localizing scientific knowledge to support and accelerate efforts for achieving sustainable development in the Arab region. The session will also highlight the issue of brain drain in developing countries. [Organised by UNESCO and TWAS.]
Thursday 9 November
• The Journey of Refugee Scientists – In the Middle East and North Africa, war and civil conflict in recent years have forced millions of people to leave their homes. Most have arrived in adjoining countries such as Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey; some 1.5 million have arrived in Europe. Others have travelled as far as South Africa, Malaysia, Canada and Brazil. Among them are uncounted thousands of professionals and students in science-related fields. This session will introduce the new TWAS documentary film, "Science in Exile", with an appearance by film director Nicole Leghissa of Italy. The session also will feature an international panel of refugee scientists and the leaders of programmes that provide support to displaced scientists and science students. "Science in Exile" will show in full at a later event in the World Science Forum theater. [Organised by TWAS and UNESCO.]
• Young Researchers Identify Skills of the Future to Advance Science Diplomacy and Society - Young researchers and the communities to which they belong have an important role to play in science diplomacy, promoting peace through the establishment of shared communities and research collaborations. While young researchers across the world are embracing this role, there is an evolution of skills required by researchers to engage in our increasingly complex world. This session will highlight the essential skills of the future that researchers have to develop to advance science diplomacy initiatives. (Co-organized by IAP with GYA, WAYS, UNESCO and ICORSA.)
Sean Treacy and Edward Lempinen