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Leaders at World Science Forum in Budapest Urge “Coherent and Compatible” Global Science Standards

With humanity confronted by pressing regional and global issues, nations should align their research standards and practices to support international cooperation, scientists and policymakers agreed at the recent World Science Forum.

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BUDAPEST, Hungary—With humanity confronted by pressing regional and global issues, nations should align their research standards and practices to support international cooperation, scientists and policymakers agreed at the recent World Science Forum.

The center of research gravity is shifting away from Europe, Japan and the United States toward Asia and other developing regions, and international efforts are expanding to address challenges in areas such as agriculture, energy, population growth, and health. Global efforts to resolve those challenges will be more efficient and effective if nations, despite their diverse cultures, have common standards in areas such as ethics, science-related education, peer-review and intellectual property, the leaders said.

Changes in the world science environment are “so robust that a new milestone in the history of science has been reached, and a new era of global science has commenced,” said a statement approved at the closing of the Forum. But, it added: “Better international co-ordination is needed for science research projects focusing on global challenges. International co-operation is essential for decreasing the knowledge divide and regional disparities.”

American Association for the Advancement of Science(AAAS) Chief Executive Officer Alan I. Leshner struck a similar theme. “We can only contribute fully to solving global problems if the scientific community itself is functioning in a truly global way,” he said. To maximize the impact of science, he added, it will be essential to “strengthen... the coherence and compatibility” of research practices and ethical standards across the world “so the various national communities can work together easily and with great confidence.”

The fifth biennial Forum, organized by the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (HAS), convened leaders from more than 100 nations from 17-19 November under the theme, “The Changing Landscape of Science: Challenges and Opportunities.” Forum sessions covered a diverse range of subjects, including emerging fields of science, the role of higher education, and supporting early career scientists.

But many of the speakers and virtually every session came to focus on ways to develop and expand international cooperation. The Forum’s final document envisioned a world in which researcher exchange programs, more unified ethical codes, and an abiding commitment to public engagement contribute to an increasingly unified science culture. Energetic science diplomacy will be crucial to achieving those goals, it said.

In a AAAS-organized discussion panel, speakers surveyed key elements for building a more global scientific enterprise, from the critical importance of the world’s larges science associations and to innovative uses of informal science education that can build grassroots interest among journalists and the public.

Efforts to make global research practices more coherent and compatible are a key focus for the AAAS International Office and its Center for Science Diplomacy. Last February, for example, AAAS convened more than 30 leaders from Asian and Pacific Rim nations for a day-long roundtable on ways to promote international cooperation. At the World Science Forum, Leshner announced that AAAS in early 2012 will launch a new quarterly online publication, Science and Diplomacy, to encourage dialogue between the science and foreign policy communities.