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

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News
13 November 2015

TWAS convenes in Vienna

The role of science in sustainable development will be the focus as more than 300 high-level experts and officials from across the globe open the 26th TWAS General Meeting in Austria.

TWAS will open its yearly general meeting in Vienna on Wednesday with a focus on how sustainability science can help to address the world’s most pressing challenges.

Just weeks after the release of the United Nations' new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the meeting will explore how science, science education and technology can advance sustainability in areas ranging from agriculture to energy and urban planning. Major leaders will speak on the topic, including Austrian President Heinz Fischer and Albert Louis Sachs, a historic figure in South Africa's anti-apartheid movement. 

TWAS’s 13th General Conference and 26th General Meeting will be hosted by the Austrian Academy of Sciences (OeAW), Austria's central institution for science and research. The event is being held with the support of the Austrian Federal Ministry of Science, Research and Economy; the Austrian Federal Ministry for Transport, Innovation and Technology; the Mayor and the Cultural Department of the City of Vienna; the Austrian Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs; the Hannes Androsch Foundation; and the Federation of Austrian Industries.

Attendees can find essential information about the general meeting here. Also, those not attending can view opening ceremonies using our livestream Wednesday.

"It is a great privilege and honour for the Austrian Academy of Sciences to host the TWAS 26th General Meeting," said OeAW President Anton Zeilinger. "Following the main mandate of the OeAW – the promotion of sciences in all aspects – we aim to foster scientific cooperation on a global scale. I am convinced that the conference in Vienna will strengthen TWAS's international position as worldwide voice of science."

"This is a pivotal moment for sustainable development in the world, and in developing world," said TWAS Executive Director 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."

The meeting will convene from 17-21 November 2015. About 300 high-level scientists, policymakers, educators and others from more than 50 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 apart from Trieste, Italy, its home city. It is also the 30th anniversary of the Academy's first General Meeting in 1985. 

Austria has a strong history of scientific accomplishment and a powerful contemporary culture of scientific research and science policy. In 2014, TWAS elected Zeilinger and Wolfgang Lutz as its first Austrian Fellows. 

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.

Science and the path to a sustainable future

Scientific research is a key component of most major challenges in the developing world, a fact reflected in the new SDGs, which are an effort by the international community to guide nations on the path to eliminating poverty and reversing profound environmental threats. Several lectures and discussions at the TWAS General Meeting will address sustainable development and the role science can play.

Among them is the keynote lecture on the evening of Wednesday 18 November to be delivered by Albert Louis Sachs, a former judge and a leading figure in South Africa'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. 

On Thursday 19 November, the annual Ministerial Session will feature high-level officials detailing how their nations are using science to support sustainable development. Among those scheduled to attend:

●    Igor Cesar, ambassador of the Republic of Rwanda to Germany
●    Jin-Pei Cheng, former vice minister, Ministry of Science and Technology, China (representing Minister Wan Gang)
●    Wanderley de Souza, head of the Laboratory of Cell Structure at Rio de Janeiro Federal University, Brazil (representing Celso Pansera, Minister of State, Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation, Brazil)
●    Harald Mahrer, state secretary, Federal Ministry of Science, Research and Economy, Austria
●    António Alberto Neves de Alcochete, national director for Assessment and Accreditation of Science and Technology of the Ministry of Science and Technology, Angola (representing Minister Maria Cândida Pereira Teixeira)
●    Naledi Pandor, minister of Science and Technology, South Africa
●    Vaughan Turekian, science and technology adviser to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry
●    Harsh Vardhan, minister for Science, Technology and Earth Sciences, India [to be confirmed]

The session will be chaired by Mahrer and by TWAS President Bai Chunli, who also serves as president of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. 

The meaning of sustainable development

The TWAS General Meeting is a high point every year for science and engineering in the developing world. Scientific presentations this year will cross a range of disciplines and explore cutting-edge research. It also will recognize some of the year’s top scientific accomplishments relevant to the developing world.

On Saturday 21 November, there will be a series of invited lectures on social science and the SDGs, 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.

Also on Saturday, social scientist and 2005 TWAS Fellow Hans van Ginkel of Utrecht University in the Netherlands will speak on sustainable urbanization in one of the three prestigious TWAS Medal Lectures. 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.

Joining Van Ginkel as the TWAS Medal Lecturers will be two other eminent scientists:

●    2011 TWAS Fellow and materials scientist Hala El-Khozondar of the Islamic University of Gaza, recognized for her work on optical fibres and metamaterials, as well as polycrystalline materials which are useful, for example, for improving industrial metals and ceramics.
●    OeAW President Anton Zeilinger, a physicist and 2014 TWAS Fellow, will speak on quantum entanglement and the nature of light. Zeilinger is a highly-regarded pioneer in the field of quantum mechanics.

Other topics in Vienna will include a symposium on science and technology in Austria. The Elsevier Foundation is sponsoring presentations on the importance of science to food security, and Michiel Kolman, the Foundation's senior vice president for global academic relations, will be among the speakers. Another major topic of the meeting will be how advancements in imaging technology are contributing to nanotechnology and biology.

The winner of the prestigious TWAS-Lenovo Science Prize will be announced, which this year will honour a researcher in the field of mathematics. There is also a range of other awards, such as the Atta-ur-Rahman Prize in Chemistry, awarded to a developing world chemist under the age of 40, and the C.N.R. Rao Prize for Scientific Research, which honours TWAS Fellows from the world’s least developed countries.

Rajah Rasiah of the University of Malaya in Malaysia, who won the 2014 TWAS-Celso Furtado Prize in Social Sciences, will speak on his pioneering research into the relationship between technological capability and economic development.

The meeting will also feature announcement of the winners of the 2015 TWAS Prizes, which celebrate the accomplishments of scientists who have been working and living in a developing country for at least 10 years. The 2014 TWAS Prize winners will be present to speak on their research, and among them will be Daniel de Florian of the University of Buenos Aires, Argentina, a physicist whose work was used at the Large Hadron Collider to help observe the Higgs boson. 

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. The opening ceremonies of the meeting and the address by Albert Louis Sachs will be livestreamed online.

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About OeAW

The Austrian Academy of Sciences (OeAW), based in Vienna, is Austria’s central non-university research and science institution. Its statutory mission is to “promote science in every way”. Founded in 1847 as a learned society, today the OeAW has over 770 members, 29 research institutes and 1,450 employees dedicated to innovative basic research, interdisciplinary exchange of knowledge and the dissemination of new insights with the aim of contributing to progress in science and society as a whole.

About TWAS

The World Academy of Sciences for the advancement of science in developing countries – TWAS – works to advance sustainable prosperity through research, education, policy and diplomacy. TWAS 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 Prize winner. Today, TWAS has some 1,150 elected Fellows from more than 90 countries; 16 of them are Nobel laureates. The Academy is based in Trieste, Italy, on the campus of the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP). Through more than three decades, its mission has focused on supporting and promoting excellence in scientific research in the developing world and applying scientific and engineering research to address global challenges. TWAS receives core funding from the government of Italy. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) administers TWAS funds and personnel.

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