Friday 21 July
I am honored and thrilled to be addressing the Science 20 Summit of the G20 here in Coimbatore at the gracious invitation of the Indian Authorities.
The International Science Council federated the academies of both natural as well as social and human sciences in the world, the international scientific unions and disciplinary bodies, the research councils, large science organizations with a global outreach, and the young academies. The motto and mission of the ISC is to act as the global voice for science, by collecting and bearing on the views and aspirations of its members. We work closely with the Inter-Academy Partnership.
A pillar in the work of the Council is the principle of freedom and responsibility in science. The Council acts as a custodian of this principle, which speaks to multiple dimensions of science: research integrity and trustworthy science; a conducive environment for science to act freely and independently; and the growing responsibility of science vis-à-vis society.
It is in this latter regard that the S20 process shoulders a particular responsibility – carrying the promise of an impact on evidence-based policymaking by the G20.
The science-policy interface has evolved notably in the past 25 to 35 years. From the days of the Montreal Protocol on Ozone Depletion and the early IPCC, the multiple experiences related to science advice at multiple scales, both in terms of failures and successes, allow us now, and particularly Science Academies, to articulate a brokerage function at the interface of science with policy. The days in which science would operate in isolation are no longer: the findings of scientific research have always led to applications. But nowadays science is called upon to produce actionable knowledge to inform solutions to sustainability. The times are conducive but the challenges multiple and complex.
This science-policy brokerage function of academies entails not only talking “science” in policy terms; it also requires humility and clarity as to what the role of scientific advice is, that is to say, to point to what we do know, what we do not know and the implications of that knowledge.
It is a prerogative of policymakers on the other hand to uptake – or not – advice from scientists. But if such advice is formulated in a manner that is timely, responds to societal concerns and is hence relevant, and is presented in a form which is cogent and salient, then the chances that it be listed to will be augmented.
And it is only through a regular interaction that dialogues between the Science Academies and the members of the G20 can occur and have an impact.
Science Academies have shown that they have a growing interest, capability and engagement with contemporary topics of pressing societal concern spanning from climate change to inappropriate use of artificial intelligence. They are increasingly diverse in their composition, which increases academies’ intellectual authority and broadens the scope of their advice. The G20 process provides a platform for expanding further the role and influence of Science Academies in science advice, while maintaining their autonomy.
Specifically on the question of emerging technologies and related regulation, recent discussions at and in the margins of the High Level Political Forum point to the growing importance of technology as a lever for action that cuts across all Sustainable Development Goals. Moreover, there is a very conducive policy environment in the UN currently for science, as demonstrated by the creation of UN Member States of a Group of Friends on Science for Action and the proposal of a resolution at the forthcoming session of the UN General Assembly on a decade on science for sustainability. The discussions at this Science Summit of the G20 are therefore timely and very relevant to feeding the global sustainability agenda, which has become a concern common to the global south as well as the global north.
Members of the S20 are currently aiming to reach a consensus about the development of scientific R&D infrastructure through collaboration and partnerships among relevant parties in Coimbatore, India. The role of S20 in furthering the agenda of G20 is crucial. Science will have to play a key role if we are to achieve the economic growth required to pull millions of people out of poverty while ensuring that development is inclusive and sustainable. But scientific advancements alone are not enough. Meaningful development requires the cooperation of member nations so that experiences and breakthroughs in science and technology can be shared with each other. S20 is, therefore, an ideal platform to achieve this goal. Read more
Image by Ruth Cooper, Royal Society