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Future of Science: Voices from our partners

This is part of a series of interviews with leaders from international partner organisations. We asked them to weigh in on the importance of our proposed merger with the International Council for Science for a fast-changing scientific future.

This is the fourth and final part of a series we have been publishing ahead of the historic joint meeting of our members in Taipei next week. If agreed, the merger will mark the culmination of several decades of debate about the need for more effective collaboration between the natural and social sciences, and drive new ways of thinking about the role of all the sciences in responding to the complex challenges of the modern world.

The new organisation will be formally launched in 2018. To find out more about the proposed merger visit the gitbook page.

You can read part one of the series, “What do you think science is essentially for in the present age, and in the coming 30 years?”, part two “What defines the global context of science today, and what sort of science is urgently needed?“, and part three “What does success for the ICSU/ISSC merger look like to you?

Q: Are there one or two big priorities or challenges in the coming decades on which a global voice of science ought to be speaking; and that we could take forward together in collaboration?

Erik Solheim, Head of UN Environment (UNEP):  The nexus of climate change, ecosystems and livelihood; environment and health; and marine issues are the three areas that need to be prioritized to provide research for the decision-making process.

Irina Bokova, Director General of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO): The overall priority will be to ensure that the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is based on sound science, technology and innovation (STI). Sound STI policies hold the task of orienting scientific development towards this goal. At the same time, the 2030 Agenda demands interdisciplinary scientific evidence. In this context, society can reap great benefits from the synergies between Open Science and Science Communication. They are conducive for inclusive and participatory knowledge creation and for the political will that STI requires to tackle major societal challenges.

Strengthening the connection between scientific research, capacity building and higher education is more important than ever. The new approaches for science call for new competences, new methodologies, new quality standards and criteria to evaluate the research and rethink the role of the researcher in a participatory process. Likewise, the new approaches need to incorporate the concern that uncontrolled scientific progress is not always ethically acceptable. Therefore, it is paramount to prioritise developments in the dynamics of the knowledge production process and integrate ethical principles and standards to guide scientific progress.

Youth and women make up more than half the world’s population and they are often more deeply impacted than men by sustainability challenges. Therefore, youth representation and gender equality in science and policy is essential to identify the world’s sustainability problems and find solutions.

Guido Schmidt- Traub, Executive Director of UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network: I believe the pathways work around The World in 2050, the Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project, and FABLE (Food, Agriculture, Biodiversity, Land-use, and Energy) is critical and offers plenty of opportunities for collaboration.

Mohamed Hassan, Founding Executive Director of The World Academy of Sciences (TWAS): Human migration, including the phenomenon of refugee scientists, is important today as a result of conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and Yemen, but it is not a new phenomenon at all. We anticipate that it will be a permanent feature of geopolitical change and tension for the foreseeable future.

The food-water-energy nexus is also a key priority area, which ties in directly with climate change. As does the necessity of anticipating and responding to natural disasters, and mitigating them wherever possible. No one field can answer these urgent priorities. This area requires interdisciplinary and international collaboration involving natural sciences, engineering sciences and social sciences, both South and North.

Charlotte Petri Gornitzka, Chair of the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC): The link between sustainable development and migration is often described in a too simple manner. From my experience this is very complex. How a society’s development affects migration patterns, and how migration affects societies, is an area where scientists can be of great help for decision makers and policy making. At the OECD Development Assistance Committee we look at policies and practices around migration and development co-operation.

Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida):  Equal access and contribution to global knowledge, with equitable science relations, and the defence of academic freedom and knowledge production as a public good are both key priorities moving forward.

InterAcademy Partnership (IAP): The Science International activity provides a worthwhile venue for IAP to explore and pursue joint efforts with ICSU/ISSC, along with TWAS—The World Academy of Sciences. We believe that one broad area where there will be many opportunities to work together is in issues identified in the answer to Question 2: strengthening the practices and institutions of global science in order to enhance its contributions to world society.

Marlene Kanga, President-Elect of the World Federation of Engineering Organizations (WFEO):  The first priority for WFEO is to work with ICSU is to develop capacity in education in science and engineering for all so that there is capacity to develop appropriate scientific and engineering solutions for some of the most pressing problems that the world is facing – climate change, clean water, sanitation for all, energy and resilience against natural disasters.

The second priority is to provide opportunities for everyone to participate in science and engineering irrespective of gender, race, age and physical ability. Science and engineering should be by everyone for everyone. This diversity will lead to more sustainable and innovative solutions and will also provide that the social license for science and engineering is maintained.

Achieving progress in these two areas will ensure that we have the scientists and engineers to address the most pressing problems that the world is facing.

Chao Gejin, President of the International Council for Philosophy and Human Sciences (CIPSH): Science connecting with sustainable development, by any means, should be a priority.

About the respondents

Erik Solheim is head of UN Environment @ErikSolheim

Irina Bokova is Director General of UNESCO @IrinaBokova

Guido Schmidt-Traub is Executive Director of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network @GSchmidtTraub

Mohamed Hassan is TWAS Founding Executive Director @TWASNews

Charlotte Petri Gornitzka is Chair of the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC) @CharlottePetriG

InterAcademy Partnership @IAPartnership

Marlene Kanga is President-Elect of the World Federation of Engineering Organizations @WFEO

Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) @Sida

Chao Gejin is President of the International Council for Philosophy and Human Sciences (CIPSH)

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