Programme / Thematic Sessions I. e. Centenary of Organized International Science Cooperation and Science Diplomacy

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Day 2

Thursday / 21 NOV

11:30 - 13:00

Thematic session:
Thematic Sessions I. e. Centenary of Organized International Science Cooperation and Science Diplomacy
Venue: Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Ceremonial Hall

The moderators of the session were Elisa Reis, Vice-President of the International Science Council (ISC), and Alik Ismail-Zadeh, Secretary of the ISC. Ismail-Zadeh summarised the foundation and history of organised international science cooperation. The preliminary form of the current organisation already existed in the 19th century. Following the economic destruction of the First World War, scientists met in Paris to decide on the future of science, and the International Research Council (IRC) was founded in July 1919 and was comprised of sixteen national academies and research councils from around the world (Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, France, Greece, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States of America). At this time only allied countries participated. Around the same time, eight international unions were formed in the fields of astronomy, biology, chemistry, geodesy, geophysics, mathematics, physics and radio sciences. 


International scientific cooperation continued to bring together scientists, even during the Cold War. One of the most important achievements was the International Geophysical Year (IGY, 1 July 1957 – 31 December 1958), which brought together thousands of scientists and gave rise to major international initiatives. Soon the first satellite was launched, within the framework of the IGY. In 1979, Bert Bolin, a Swedish meteorologist, led a group of scientists in setting up the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP), which together with the ISC and UNESCO aimed to determine whether the climate is changing and the responsibility of humans in this process.


The session continued with a look at the present and the future of international science cooperation with six speakers: Daya Reddy, President of the ISC; Stéphanie Balme, Research Professor and Dean of the Undergraduate College SciencePo in Paris; Jean-Pierre Bourguignon, President of the ERC; Alexander Khulnov, President of the Russian Science Foundation; Elena Manaenkova, Deputy Director-General of the World Meteorological Organization; and Athish Dabholkar, Director of the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP). 


Daya Reddy summarised the lessons learned in the past 100 years, emphasising that “Science is a route to opening channels of communication, where these might be very difficult.” He pointed out that International Science Unions reached the same footing as the Academies, and that they are vital in facing current global challenges. By bringing disciplines together, a key current focus is to establish the basis for approaching multidisciplinary challenges. He also raised awareness of the fact that there are many countries which are marginalised, such as developing countries, whom we must not forget.


Stéphanie Balme, representing a university which teaches only humanities and social sciences, pointed out that social sciences have a lot to say about the issues we face, whether it is working AIs, science ethics or other pressing issues. She emphasised that international relations challenges are changing, and both natural and social scientists are necessary, which is why they are launching an initiative called the European Initiative of Science Diplomacy, where the aim is to train science diplomats who understand both sides.

Jean-Pierre Bourguignon, as Chair of the European Research Council, spoke about Europe as a whole. Its current aim is to understand both the institutional and the individual researcher point of view and to reach an agreement with the funding authorities, who are mostly politicians, to allow researchers to provide research initiatives. At the world level, they accept that the ideas which are going to change the world will continue to come up in individual research and therefore fight so that such a space can exist. Taking the long view is a constant battle, as some research findings might take decades to be recognised. The organisation supporting this process is the Global Research Council, which meets every year, with a continuously growing number of participants and funding agencies. Some other challenges they face are science ethics, gender balance and open science; they aim to create principles in terms of how these issues are faced.


Alexander Khulnov presented the Russian Science Foundation, which was formed in 2015. Their aim is to support globally competitive research. They found that international cooperation is fundamental to high quality research and innovation, as evidence shows that international research collaborations perform 25% better than national research initiatives.


Elena Manaenkova talked about how to reach nations in the area of climate research. The International Meteorological Organization has existed since the 19th century; it is 146 years old and was one of the first to contact the IRC. Their current goal is to provide data which supports impact-based, risk-based decision making. Their view is that science diplomacy needs to be coherent, consistent and robust. She stated that it is no longer enough to publish in a journal: data must be brought up to the policy processes, and publication impact needs to be measured. They launched satellites and created the Global Public Good System to provide data which is freely accessible to every country and forecasting system, with the help of the most powerful computer in the world.


Athish Dabholkar talked about the ICTP, which sees science as a heritage of humankind. Research at the ICTP and its partner institutes have contributed to five Nobel prizes. The institute has a long tradition of scientific capacity-building in developing countries. The ICTP has climate models which contribute expertise to decision making, and it operates the ICTP Café, which brings scientists together, even during war, and is a unique forum for soft diplomacy. Trieste was declared a Science City of Europe and was awarded the Euro Science Open Forum 2020 with the motto “Freedom for Science and Science for Freedom”.


Rapporteur: Anna Bajnok, Research Fellow, University of Pécs