The World Academy of Sciences celebrates its 40th year

For 40 years, The World Academy of Sciences for the advancement of science in developing countries (TWAS) has been a leading force in developing crucial scientific capability in some of the most underdeveloped countries in the world. To launch the 40th Anniversary of the Academy, TWAS president Quarraisha Abdool Karim visited the organization’s headquarters in Trieste, Italy. On 25 May, she met representatives of other Trieste-based scientific organizations and delivered a public lecture on the African legacy of academic excellence, in generating new knowledge for better health.

The World Academy of Sciences celebrates its 40th year

Established 40 years ago as the Third World Academy of Sciences, it has envisioned sustainable development in vulnerable regions of the world through scientific solutions in research, education, policy, and diplomacy—endeavors that long preceded the UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) framework. Over the past four decades, TWAS and other global organizations such as the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics, the Organization for Women in Science for the Developing World, the InterAcademy Partnership, and the International Science Council have strengthened the science base in developing countries by supporting training and capacity building through strong South-South and North-South collaborations. For example, there are currently more than 700 TWAS fellowship students working to ward graduate degrees locally in the Global South.

TWAS President Quarraisha Abdool Karim

Abdool Karim is the first woman to serve in the role of TWAS President, and leads a 16-member council comprised of eight men and eight women. She is an eminent South African epidemiologist, a 2015 TWAS Fellow, and the winner of the Academy’s prestigious TWAS-Lenovo Science Award in 2014. a pioneer of life-saving research that protects women from HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis (TB). She is known worldwide for demonstrating the effectiveness of the basis of a new form of HIV-prevention PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis): the antiretroviral medication tenofovir – a vaginal gel that has been shown to reduce HIV infection, while giving women direct, effective control over their health.

In her public lecture on public health, academic excellence, and Africa’s past and future, she remarked that science, education and innovation have an important role in making the world a better place. Noting that this was her first visit to Trieste, she praised the city’s science ecosystem and the prevalence of local science institutions’ international collaborations.

“I think this anniversary is a major milestone for TWAS,” Abdool Karim said. “We’ve moved beyond rhetoric but can actually count our results—and not just count the number of PhD graduates, and not just count the collaborations that have led to research—we have seen the impact of these investments at a country level. And, we have seen the potential of this critical mass of scientists to achieve transformative societal impact.”

TWAS enters its fifth decade

The Academy was founded in 1983 by a distinguished group of scientists from the developing world, under the leadership of Abdus Salam, the Pakistani physicist and Nobel laureate. Since the 1980s, TWAS has grown into an internationally recognized force for science, policy, and diplomacy. Today, it has over 1,380 Fellows, some of the world’s most accomplished scientists and engineers—including 12 Nobel laureates— representing 110 countries. TWAS has provided thousands of research grants to developing world researchers, and recently graduated its 1,000th PhD fellowship scholar.

TWAS Executive Director Romain Murenzi opened the anniversary event. He was followed by Stefano Fantoni, president of the Trieste International Foundation for the Progress and Freedom of Sciences (FIT); and Minister Plenipotentiary Giuseppe Pastorelli, director for integrated promotion and innovation at the Directorate General for Country Promotion of the ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Italy, a key supporter of TWAS.

“TWAS has been working for four decades with many partners from all around the world, but our roots are deep in this city. TWAS is indeed a proud partner of the ‘Trieste System’ of scientific organizations, and SiS FVG, The Scientific and Innovation System of Friuli Venezia Giulia,” Murenzi said.

Italy and TWAS share a history, but they still have a long way to walk together, Pastorelli said. The scientific world has an international dimension, he added, saying that science brings peace, development, and growth.

“Italy and TWAS share a history, but we still have a long way to walk together, and I hope I’m a tile of that trail that we have ahead.” Pastorelli said.

The scientific world has an international dimension, Pastorelli added, and science brings peace, development, and growth. “For this reason, we need not only to collaborate, but to reinforce our partnership. What the Italian government and TWAS are doing, and will keep on doing, is not to create barriers, but to let science grow.”


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