the world academy of sciences for the advancement of science in developing countries

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News
31 August 2015

A focus on responsible growth

At the 26th TWAS General Meeting in Vienna, prominent voices on sustainable development will detail how scientific research is indispensable to managing rapid growth throughout the developing world.

Just weeks after the release of the United Nations' new Sustainable Development Goals, The World Academy of Sciences (TWAS) will convene in Vienna to explore sustainability science on topics spanning poverty, education, food security, urbanisation and other pressing global issues.

Austrian President Heinz Fischer is scheduled to speak at the TWAS General Meeting, and other talks and presentations will feature a Nobel laureate, a major figure in South Africa's anti-apartheid movement, and some of the world's top researchers and science policy leaders.  

"This is a pivotal moment for sustainable development in the world, and in developing world," said TWAS executive diretor Romain Murenzi. "The issues confronting us – from food security to climate change and education – are momentous. The new Sustainable Development Goals provide a roadmap to solutions, and we believe that our meeting in Vienna will make some valuable contributions to understanding the goals and how to achieve them."

Hosted by the Austrian Academy of Sciences, TWAS will convene its 13th General Conference and 26th General Meeting from 18-21 November 2015. About 300 high-level scientists, policymakers, educators and others from more than 40 nations in the developing and the developed world are expected to attend the invitation-only event. It will be a historic meeting, marking the first time that the Academy will gather in a developed country, with the exception of Trieste, Italy, its home city. It is also the 30th anniversary of the Academy's first General Meeting in 1985. 

The keynote lecture on 18 November will be delivered by South African Albert Louis Sachs, a former judge and a leading figure in the nation's break from apartheid. Sachs will focus on  the relationship between sustainable development and poverty reduction. He was a key figure in South Africa’s political transformation, serving on the constitutional committee in 1990 as the country transitioned into democracy. He was also appointed by then-President Nelson Mandela to serve on the first constitutional court. 

Nobel laureate Y.T. Lee of Taiwan, China, a globally influential voice on climate change, will give a special invited lecture entitled “Global Collaboration Toward Sustainable Transformation.” Lee was elected to TWAS in 1986, and the same year he won the Nobel Prize in chemistry. He served as president of the International Council for Science (ICSU) from 2011 to 2014. 

Lee’s lecture will be followed by a series of invited lectures on social science and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which the United Nations General Assembly expects to adopt by the end of September. The SDGs are an effort by the international community to eliminate poverty and resolve other global challenges as the world's nations attempt to grow and prosper. They will pick up where the UN's first effort, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), leave off when they expire at the end of this year. 

The lectures will be delivered by three prominent social scientists from the developing world: 

  • Ratna Ghosh, a 2011 TWAS Fellow who works on development in India where she was born, will speak on interdisciplinary science in sustainable development. Ghosh is the James McGill Professor and the William C. Macdonald Professor of Education at McGill University in Canada.
  • Lu Yonglong of China, a 2012 TWAS Fellow, will speak on how to prioritize monitoring and evaluation of the SDGs. Lu is the co-director of the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Research Center for Eco-Environmental Sciences.
  • Elisa Reis from Brazil, a 2006 TWAS Fellow, will speak on the value of science to the SDGs. Reis is a political sociologist with the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro and has taught at several prestigious universities.

In one of three prestigious TWAS Medal Lectures, social scientist and 2005 TWAS Fellow Hans Van Ginkel of Utrecht University in the Netherlands will speak on sustainable urbanization. Van Ginkel is the former rector of United Nations University and is a widely respected expert in urban and regional development, population, housing studies, science policy, internationalization and university management.

The meeting’s ministerial session also will focus on sustainable development issues, and include Harald Mahrer, the Secretary of State for the Austrian Ministry of Science, Research and Economy, and TWAS President Bai Chunli, who also serves as president of the Chinese Academy of Sciences

Other presentations in Vienna will include a discussion on science and technology in Austria. The Elsevier Foundation is sponsoring a presentation on the importance of science to food security, and Michiel Kolman, the Elsevier Foundation's senior vice president for global academic relations, will be among the speakers.

The science of light and its applications also will be a major topic, partly because 2015 has been proclaimed the International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies. Further major topics will include advances in a treatment of severe asthma and allergies, how optical fibre technology can compliment industrial materials and the many uses of modern imaging technology. 

Vienna and Trieste have deep ties, as Trieste became a part of Austria in 1382. It was an important trading port and shipbuilding centre by the 18th century for Austria and then the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which existed from 1867 to 1918, before it became part of Italy at the end of World War I. The two cities also share bonds of international scientific culture. In the 20th century, both were considered gateways between East and West. Austria serves as one of three United Nations headquarters cities, along with New York and Geneva, and hosts the International Atomic Energy Agency and other UN-affiliated institutions.

Just as the Trieste System of international science organizations has achieved a global impact, Vienna has a strong history of scientific accomplishment and a powerful contemporary culture of scientific research and science policy. In 2014, TWAS elected its first Austrian Fellow, Anton Zeilinger, the president of the Austrian Academy of Sciences (ÖAW). The Academy is Austria's central institution for science and research.

While the TWAS General Meeting is invitation-only, anyone interested will be able to follow the events at www.twas.org, or by following TWAS on Facebook or the hashtag #TWASmtg on Twitter.

Sean Treacy

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