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Strengthening the Voice of Science: Reflections from the Global Knowledge Dialogue in Santiago, Chile

Another fantastic gathering of scientific minds at the Global Knowledge Dialogue for Latin America and the Caribbean

April saw Santiago de Chile play host to the International Science Council’s (ISC) Global Knowledge Dialogue for Latin America and the Caribbean. This event, the third in a series that has spanned four continents, brought together the leading lights of the scientific community, diplomats, and policy influencers from across the globe, with a special focus on enhancing the region’s scientific and diplomatic engagements. More than 30 countries were represented, including delegates from Malaysia, Ethiopia, China, and Australia.

The Dialogue was not just a meeting, but a confluence of ideas aimed at harnessing science for sustainable development, with the backdrop of the majestic Andes providing a fitting reminder of the natural wonders that science strives to preserve. The event, led by the Regional Focal Point for Latin America and the Caribbean’s Liaison Committee unfolded over three dynamic days, filled with discussions that promised to reshape the scientific landscape of the region.

Opening the Dialogue

The Dialogue kicked off with warm welcomes from ISC officials and local hosts, setting a collaborative tone. Ana Rada and Luis Sobrevia, Co-Chairs of the ISC Regional Focal Point for Latin America and the Caribbean, were joined by Cecilia Hidalgo, President of the Chilean Academy of Sciences, and Helena Groot, Director of the ISC Regional Focal Point, in opening the event. Their messages underlined the urgency and necessity of a unified scientific voice to address the pressing issues facing the region and the planet.

In her opening remarks, Ana Rada emphasized the unique position of the Dialogue in fostering networks and advancing a cohesive regional strategy. She stated,

“The ISC Global Knowledge Dialogue in Latin America and the Caribbean is the third in a series of events. It is a perfect setting to create opportunities through networking. Regional problems and solutions will be heard through a permanent dialogue where transdisciplinarity, science and the diplomatic forum will make their voices heard. A clear and convincing voice to achieve a single regional voice and to be all together the global voice of science.”

Ana Rada, Co-Chair of the Latin American and Caribbean Liaison Committee

Salvatore Aricò, CEO of the International Science Council reminded participants that Latin America and the Caribbean possess a rich tapestry of biodiversity, cultures, scientific expertise and scientific giving the region unique challenges and opportunities to place it at the forefront of global efforts to navigate the complexities of climate change, sustainable development, and technological innovation, saying

“We are reminded of the profound responsibility that the scientific community holds in shaping policies and practices that respect our planetary boundaries while advancing human development. This gathering marks a cornerstone in our collective journey towards harnessing the power of science for societal transformation and sustainable development. As we stand on the threshold of significant global milestones, including the S20 Summit and COP30 in Brazil, the role of science and scientific collaboration has never been more critical.”

Salvatore Aricò, CEO, ISC

Ministerial Insights and International Cooperation

The Dialogue featured a high-profile roster of speakers and attendees, including Chilean Minister of Science, Technology, Knowledge and Innovation, Aisén Etcheverry, and various ambassadors from across the globe, highlighting the international commitment to the ISC’s mission. Peter Gluckman, President of the ISC, provided a powerful via video message, which further anchored the global perspective of the gathering. Both the Minister and ISC President highlighted misinformation and growing inequalities as key issues for science diplomacy.

“Misinformation is not only present in politics, social networks or health, but also has a chilling effect for scientific expertise in all countries of the world. It is has marked effect on how we tackle climate change and how we face other emergencies, which was evidenced in the way misinformation shaped the community response to the recent forest fires in Chile. But misinformation also raises the question of how scientific evidence plays a role in combating this scourge, as we know it has an impact on the elements that make up our democracy and is a challenge in the way we communicate scientific evidence. To combat this, we have decided to address misinformation by convening a commission of experts.”

Minister Aisén Etcheverry

Key Discussions and Breakout Sessions

Over the course of the event, several thematic blocks were explored, ranging from scientific diplomacy to the integration of artificial intelligence into regional science systems. For the first time at a GKD, the Science and Diplomacy Forum of Latin America and Caribbean, co-organized with the Embassy of Honduras, was a cornerstone event, exploring the theme “Sustainable Knowledge as a Development Tool.” This session, moderated by Luis Sobrevia, delved into how scientific knowledge can catalyze development across the region and featured interventions from local diplomats and José Manuel Salazar-Xirinach, Executive Secretary, for the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean.

The diplomacy session focused on fostering collaboration and dialogue between nations to address global challenges through scientific diplomacy. Participants explored avenues for enhancing scientific cooperation, sharing best practices, and leveraging scientific expertise to inform diplomatic decision-making processes. Discussions also centered on the role of science diplomacy in promoting peace, mitigating conflicts, and advancing sustainable development goals on a global scale. Through constructive dialogue and mutual understanding, the diplomatic sessions facilitated the building of bridges between different nations, laying the groundwork for collaborative efforts to tackle pressing issues facing humanity.

This was echoed by Luisa Echeverría King, member of the Regional Focal Point’s Liason Committee who said:

Diplomacy’s job is to be a bridge. It functions as an articulator of actors, particularly between international relations and science. Being a bridge also refers to identifying issues of importance that can benefit the regional stakeholders, however, science needs to embrace diplomacy.

Luisa Eheverría King, LAC Liaison Committee member and Executive Director of the Latin American and Caribbean Network of Science Diplomacy

The theme of academic independence, a cornerstone of scientific integrity and progress, was a crucial component of both the Dialogue and the pre-events. Participants engaged in a vibrant discussion, highlighting the crucial role of academic autonomy in fostering innovation, critical thinking, and the pursuit of truth in research and scholarship. They emphasized the importance of safeguarding academic freedom from political interference, institutional pressures, and external influences that may compromise the integrity of scholarly pursuits. Drawing upon diverse perspectives and experiences from academia worldwide, the session underscored the need for robust institutional frameworks, ethical guidelines, and supportive environments to uphold academic independence effectively. It was a compelling discourse that reaffirmed the fundamental principles underpinning the pursuit of knowledge and the advancement of science for the betterment of society.

In a full day’s workshop supported by the IDRC and IDLA on Artificial Intelligence in national science systems, key themes emerged according to outgoing Head of the Centre for Science Futures, Mathieu Denis. Participants stressed AI’s importance in public policy for governance and service delivery and highlighted the need for comprehensive AI training and robust ethical frameworks for data governance. Recommendations included increased funding, infrastructure upgrades, and international cooperation. Calls were made for regional AI regulations and collaborative networks to sustain dialogue. The workshop emphasized the urgency of tailored regulatory frameworks and ongoing collaboration for AI development in Latin America.

10 things we learned from the Early and Mid-Career Researchers Forum at the GKD

See the agenda

  1. The impact of science academies in the region, on public policies and legislation related to science, has been key to supporting science as a global public good (influence; decision-making based on scientific evidence, advisory role). In this regard, these institutions are important for advancing national capacities.
  2. Progress is being made in creating more inclusive and less elitist spaces in these academies, favoring the inclusion of social sciences, transdisciplinary approaches, challenges of emerging technologies, and subnational perspectives/needs at the country level.
  3. Strategic alliances are becoming increasingly crucial, among the academies themselves and other actors, both national and international, to exchange best practices and advance capacities.
  4. Academies are called upon to raise awareness among government actors and private entities, in order to continue advancing in the areas of education and outreach. However, scientific outreach is important for all those community actors and other stakeholders, beyond scientists.
  5. Academies are also there to promote excellence in science. We heard several examples of how academies in the region recognize the work of researchers in various awards, including for women, promoting gender equality in science.
  6. Another key role is capacity development for young scientists and those in training or school children (science education), in both STEM and social sciences. There is still a need to focus more on capacity development including from schools for training.
  7. Academies also play a role not only in advancing the frontiers of knowledge but also in fostering it. It is important to develop calls and grants for projects, networking, events, etc.
  8. Science academies are also spaces for academic-scientific discussion and reflection on national and also regional problems. They bring together people from different areas, regions of a country, and backgrounds.
  9. More collaborative work is needed among the academies in the region, particularly with the regional focal points of scientific unions -it is necessary in this regard to establish bridges, especially for the new generations.
  10. Academies are called upon to urgently create their own young academies (those that do not have them) to give voice to future generations and to participate in ISC activities as part of elevating the global voice of science.

Future-Focused Discussions

The Dialogue wasn’t just about addressing current issues but also preparing for future challenges and opportunities. Breakout sessions focused on key strategic goals for the ISC and its regional focal points, discussing how to advance the integration of science into policy-making effectively.

One of the more anticipated sessions revolved around urban health and wellbeing. Moderated by Ana Rada and Germán Gutiérrez, the session included experts like Franz Gatzweile, Henriette Raventós Vorst and Paulo Saldiva, who discussed systems thinking approaches to enhance urban environments for healthier living in Latin America and the Caribbean. Germán Gutiérrez said:

Our three panelists have shown some of the most pertinent ways urban life affects humans living in urban and rural settings. This is a problem with no boundaries in science. Many disciplines must contribute to understanding the issues related to the increasing urban populations, and the resulting scientific knowledge must connect with social policy.

Germán Gutiérrez, LAC Liaison Committee member and President of the International Union of Psychological Sciences

The Frontiers Planet Prize session showcased groundbreaking research and innovation aimed at addressing pressing environmental challenges facing our planet. This session provided a platform for two national champions to present their pioneering work in areas including plastics and biodiversity. In this talk on “Deciphering the Drivers of Biodiversity Loss,” Pedro Jaureguiberry explored the factors driving the decline in biodiversity globally, as well as the actions necessary to address this problem. Ïtalo Castro discussed the global impact of microplastic highlighting the importance of biodiversity conservation and the growing pollution generated by microplastics which represents a serious threat to global biodiversity.

Led by CLACSO, The Future of Evaluation and Publishing in Open Science discussion discussed significant opportunities for South-South collaboration amid global changes. The panel held a robust discussion that reflected on the proliferation of open data across diverse formats and languages but noted that despite this progress, Latin America faces challenges like insufficient recognition of high-quality local journals, inadequate rewards for peer review, and underestimation of collaborative research with non-academic actors. Nonetheless, innovative activities such as university research on open scientific communications and regional open-access initiatives highlight the region’s forward movement. The need for a Latin American and Caribbean repository to facilitate information retrieval and the increasing difficulty in publishing in high-cost journals were considered pressing concerns, underscoring the importance of high-quality regional journals in representing the robust science emerging from the region.

Closing Thoughts and Next Steps

After a successful dinner led by local musicians, the Dialogue wrapped up, with a commitment to continuous engagement from delegates. Luis Sobrevia, co-Chair of the Latin American and Caribbean Liaison Committee summed up the event’s success and its broader implications by saying

“A considerable number of active and enthusiastic scientists, educators, diplomats, and politicians participated in the diverse program of activities at the Global Knowledge Dialogue in Santiago de Chile. The most gratifying outcome of GKD 2024 was the opportunity for networking, which led to promising collaborations. The meeting provided a platform for face-to-face interactions and in-depth conversations in working groups, forums, speeches, and analyses of the reality in Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as the development needs for the common good.”

Luis Sobrevia, co-Chair LAC Liaison Committee

Sobrevia also noted the the presence of delegations from outside the region, saying it had facilitated the exchange of experiences and the projection of the region’s intentions and hopes for the future through collaborative efforts with other regions of the globe. In addition to these achievements, the strengthening of Youth Global Action (YGA) in the region has been strongly promoted as a result of this meeting, which we hope will be repeated regularly.

Helena Groot, President of the Colombian Academy of Exact, Physical and Natural Sciences and Director of the Regional Focal Point for Latin America and the Caribbean captured the essence of the gathering:

“During the Global Knowledge Dialogue in Santiago, Chile, we witnessed an inspiring convergence of minds from diverse backgrounds, all committed to advancing science and solving global challenges. It was a testament to the power of international collaboration and the importance of promoting dialogue across borders for the betterment of humanity.”

Helena Groot, President, Colombian Academy of Exact, Physical and Natural Sciences

The ISC’s Global Knowledge Dialogue in Santiago should be seen as a launching pad for sustained action and interaction among the scientific community in Latin America and the Caribbean. The discussions held and partnerships forged here promise to resonate well beyond the conference halls, influencing policies and research agendas aimed at a sustainable future for the region and the world.

➡️ Learn more about the Regional Focal point for Latin America and the Caribbean

📸 See the photos from the Global Knowledge Dialogue

📝 The event was supported by students from Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Universidad de Chile, and Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso

4th International Conference on Small Island Developing States (SIDS4)

The next focus for the region will be the 4th International Conference on Small Island Developing States “Charting the Course Toward Resilient Prosperity”.

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