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

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News
30 June 2016

Hassan to serve as interim TWAS director

Five years ago, Mohamed Hassan retired after an historic 26-year run as TWAS's executive director. Now he is returning as the interim director to guide the Academy through a leadership transition.

Mohamed H.A. Hassan, who led the TWAS secretariat for 26 years, will return temporarily to guide the Academy through the transition following Executive Director Romain Murenzi's move to UNESCO headquarters in Paris. Hassan's appointment is effective Friday 1 July.

Hassan was TWAS's first executive director, serving as a close adviser to founder Abdus Salam and other elite scientists who sought to harness the power of scientific innovation to advance the strength of developing nations. He led TWAS through the uncertain period following Salam's death, then used his experience and diplomatic skill to build global networks with far-reaching impact.

He returns to an organisation that remains a globally influential advocate for scientific excellence in the developing world, with a growing role in helping scientists to build their careers through education, training, prize competitions and exchange programmes.

"I am honoured to return to TWAS and to Italy during this important moment in the Academy's history," Hassan said. "Of course TWAS has been central in my life's work and mission, and I am deeply gratified by its continued evolution and growth under Prof. Murenzi's leadership. Today, as in the past, our members, partners and staff are vitally important to addressing challenges both in the South and the North."

In April, five years after Murenzi joined TWAS, UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova named him director of the Division of Science Policy and Capacity Building/Natural Sciences Sector. Murenzi assumes his new position on 1 July.

In the interim position, Hassan will manage the daily operations of TWAS and help oversee the work of affiliated organisations which are hosted by TWAS in Trieste: the InterAcademy Partnership (IAP); the Organization for Women in Science for the Developing World (OWSD); and GenderInSITE. He will play a key role in the international search for a new executive director.

Hassan was an early-career Sudanese mathematician when Abdus Salam recruited him to come to the International Centre for Theoretical Physics in Trieste. In 1983, Salam asked him to help run the campaign that would bring TWAS – originally the Third World Academy of Sciences – to life. It was a different era: The world was polarized by the geopolitics of the Cold War, and few political leaders in the North or South recognized the potential of science, technology and engineering to support economic growth and self-determination in developing nations.

Hassan soon became TWAS's founding executive director, and for more than a quarter-century he helped to build the Academy during a time of rapid global transformation. The Cold War ended, the age of personal computing and the Internet began, and nations as diverse as Brazil, China, India and South Africa began intensive efforts to drive economic development with science education and research.

They were so successful than dozens of nations across the South are pursuing their own paths to science-driven prosperity and sustainable development. Under Hassan's leadership, the Academy built highly productive partnerships with many of those nations, and today TWAS's South-South and South-North networks are actively supporting their efforts.

He maintained constructive relationships with the government of Italy and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), which have provided key funding to the Academy and its programmes across many years. In addition, an endowment fund was established to solidify TWAS's financial security.   

After retiring as executive director in 2011, Hassan continued to serve as TWAS treasurer until the end of 2015. He serves as president of IAP and of the Sudanese National Academy of Sciences. He is the former chairman of the Council of the United Nations University and former president of African Academy of Sciences.

Edward W. Lempinen

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