S20 Forum presents “Foresight: Science for Navigating Critical Transitions” to the G20

Hosted by Saudi Arabia, the Group of 20 will meet virtually on 21 and 22 November 2020. To complement the G20 process, the Science20 has held informal meetings, workshops and a summit, to emphasize the importance of establishing science-based decision-making on values of integrity, openness and trust. Its report will be presented to the G20 summit.

The global pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus Sars-CoV-2 has exposed the deep-rooted inequalities and associated vulnerabilities that exist in and across our societies. We are all in this storm together, but we are not all in the same boat. The S20 forum’s theme, “Foresight: Science for Navigating Critical Transitions”, provides a strong metaphor for the challenge we now confront – how do we navigate the crisis safely and transition to calmer seas, when our economies, health and social security systems, access to digital technologies and capacities to respond with robust scientific knowledge are so manifestly different from one part of the world to another?

A key to the answer lies in the vision of the International Science Council: Scientific knowledge, data and expertise must be universally accessible and its benefits universally shared by advancing science as a global public good. A key determinant of success in delivering on this vision is our readiness to cooperate and collaborate: integrating knowledge and expertise from across the spectrum of scientific fields and from all parts of the world, sharing skills and resources, engaging in processes of mutual learning and problem-solving with policy makers and wider publics.

International scientific collaboration has produced some of the most important advances of our times – their impact depending on the response of policy-makers and the effective functioning of multilateral governance. Imagine the eradication of polio or the reduction of the hole in the ozone layer without the determined international cooperation of governments the world over. Despite examples of this kind, and despite widespread agreement that policy making inevitably achieves better outcomes when it is informed by robust scientific knowledge, the contribution of science to policy-making – at all levels of governance – could be much greater than it is today.

“The primary conclusion of the 2020 Science 20 (S20), representing the National Academies of Science of G20 nations, is that issues of planet and people must be viewed holistically and with full appreciation of their complexity and interconnectedness. This lesson was learned from a systematic examination of emerging critical global transitions in health, environment, and technology, punctuated by a real-time example of a globally disruptive event, the COVID19 pandemic.

This viral pandemic laid bare the health, economic, social, and educational vulnerabilities of societies and exposed the lack of foresight that resulted in ill-equipped responses on multiple fronts”.

From the report “Foresight: Science for Navigating Critical Transitions”, endorsed by the Academies of the Science20.

This is the challenge for the S20 and G20 communities. How should the international policy-making community, backed up by a robust, rules-based international system, value science and promote evidence-informed decision-making? At a time which coincides with a technological revolution of historic proportions, a global health pandemic, social and economic upheaval and a climate emergency at a tipping point, strengthening the science-policy relationship is critical. The S20’s call for “Foresight Science” should therefore be welcomed and supported by the G20. Propelling the science and engineering community into a central role that fosters futures literacy and develops deeper, more accurate, and more comprehensive foresight methods to drive effective policymaking is urgent.

The Council extends its gratitude and support to all Academies, Scientific Unions and Associations, and Research Councils in the G20 countries and beyond and, by implication, to the thousands of scientists in all fields – the natural, social and human sciences alike – for their collaboration in producing Foresight: Science for Navigating Critical Transitions.

The ISC commends the S20’s Foresight report to the G20, and commits to support the S20 process in the years to come in close cooperation with Italy, India and future hosts.

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