10
The Role of International Scientific Organizations

MICHAEL CLEGG

U.S. National Academy of Sciences


The science community has always been international in scope and practice. The basic propositions of the natural sciences are independent of culture and geography. For example, the theorems of mathematics or the principles of physics or the details of molecular biology are the same all over the world. Science communities have long worked to develop specialized languages to describe important concepts which provide a natural gateway to understanding between cultures and amongst nations.

What is it about science that is so special? Science is the world’s most successful means of knowledge creation—that is, of understanding the relationships that govern the material world. Science deals exclusively with arguments based on empirical evidence or on theories about the relationships between material objects. Scientific propositions must be testable and subject to rejection by empirical observations. Moreover, the results of science must be subject to independent verification by others. Finally, the well-tested and enduring theories of science allow us to make limited predictions about the future. These properties are unique to science.



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10 The Role of International Scientific Organizations MICHAEL CLEGG U.S. National Academy of Sciences T he science community has always been international in scope and practice. The basic propositions of the natural sciences are independent of culture and geography. For example, the theorems of mathematics or the principles of physics or the details of molecular biology are the same all over the world. Science communities have long worked to develop specialized languages to describe important concepts which provide a natural gateway to understanding between cultures and amongst nations. What is it about science that is so special? Science is the world’s most successful means of knowledge creation—that is, of understanding the relationships that govern the material world. Sci- ence deals exclusively with arguments based on empirical evidence or on theories about the relationships between material objects. Scientific propositions must be testable and subject to rejection by empirical observations. Moreover, the results of science must be subject to independent verification by others. Finally, the well- tested and enduring theories of science allow us to make limited predictions about the future. These properties are unique to sci- ence. 65

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66 SCIENCE AS A GATEWAY TO UNDERSTANDING FUTURE CHANLLENGES The next several generations will need all the resources of science to choose optimal pathways into the future. Humanity faces a number of unprecedented challenges that are in part driven by the rapid expansion of the human population and associated re- source demands. The global human population was less than three billion in 1950 and expanded to six billion by 2000. It is projected to reach approximately 9.3 billion by the middle of the twenty-first century. This means that in 100 years, human-driven resource de- mands will have at least tripled. The amount of arable land to sup- port each person will have been reduced threefold, and many es- sential resources will be severely strained. Moreover, the by- products of human activity—such as CO2 emissions—are changing the global climate and threaten to have uneven and possibly devas- tating impacts in some regions of the world. A short list of major twenty-first century challenges includes the following: • climate change, • water supply and quality, • global energy transition, • food production, • emerging diseases, • land degradation, • ecosystem and species preservation, and • equity and quality of life. These challenges are global and do not respect national boundaries. In almost all cases, science can suggest potential miti- gations or even solutions to these challenges, but to do so science must be able to present options based on the best current knowl- edge to decision-making communities around the globe. A funda- mental goal of the international scientific organizations that are built on national science academies is to create a bridge between

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THE ROLE OF INTERNATIONAL SCIENTIFIC ORGANIZATIONS 67 science and decision-making communities in every country (Clegg and Boright, 2007). INTERNATIONAL SCIENTIFIC ORGANIZATIONS The International Council for Science (ICSU): It traces its origins to the end of the 19th century but achieved its contempo- rary organization in the 1930s. ICSU is composed of a matrix of national members (about two-thirds of which are national science academies) and disciplinary unions. The stated mission of ICSU is to strengthen international science for the benefit of society. ICSU achieves this by (1) agreeing on the international language of sci- ence (nomenclature) and fostering international scientific coopera- tion in areas such as the maintenance of global databases and other research resources; (2) articulating global science projects such as the current International Polar Year; and (3) representing the sci- ence community with major U.N. bodies such as UNESCO. The InterAcademy Panel (IAP): In the early 1990s, a global network of science academies known as the InterAcademy Panel on International Issues (IAP), was created. The precipitating event was a meeting in Cairo, Egypt, on the problem of population growth, where a white paper was issued by a number of academies. Today the IAP includes member academies from more than 90 countries around the globe. The goal of IAP is to build the capacity of member academies to advise governments on major science pol- icy and these are uniform across the world. It is also a common practice for individual scientists to study in other countries and to attend international conferences aimed at widely disseminating new findings. Science progresses by debating the validity of new ideas and the empirical evidence that tests existing theories. This dialogue is not restricted by national boundaries. A global dialogue best achieves the advance of science. The notion that science is universal is not new. Galileo, for example, devoted much effort to communicating with his contem- poraries elsewhere in Europe as he sought to refine his theories and

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68 SCIENCE AS A GATEWAY TO UNDERSTANDING observations on falling bodies and on astronomy. Today, with rapid global communications, discoveries are communicated in- stantaneously and debated in scientific communities in all corners of the globe. IAP began by issuing joint statements on scientific aspects of global issues. The current list of IAP statements1 include the following: • population growth (1994), • urban development (1996), • sustainability (2000), • human reproductive cloning (2003), • science education (2003), • health of mothers and children (2003), • scientific capacity building (2003), • science and the media (2003), • access to scientific information (2003), • biosecurity (2005), and • teaching of evolution (2006). IAP also has several programs and initiatives that address major issues and are aimed at assisting member academies by pro- viding useful materials for decision makers in various regions of the world. The programs and initiatives for the period 2004-2007 are as follows: • capacity building for academies, • science education, • health education for women, • water initiatives, • biosecurity, • genetically modified organisms, • access to scientific information, and • natural disasters. 1 See www.interacademies.net/.

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THE ROLE OF INTERNATIONAL SCIENTIFIC ORGANIZATIONS 69 IAP is now in the process of selecting new programs fol- lowing its General Assembly meeting in Alexandria, Egypt, in De- cember 2006. There are analogous medical academy2 and engineering academy organizations.3 All three organizations work together to- ward the shared goal of providing the best scientific engineering and health advice to governments around the world. The InterAcademy Council: In 2000, the InterAcademy Council (IAC) was formed. To quote from the IAC website:4 “The IAC produces reports on scientific, technological, and health issues related to the great global challenges of our time, providing knowl- edge and advice to national governments and international organi- zations.” The IAC is modeled after the National Research Council of the U.S. National Academies in that it assembles expert panels from throughout the world to produce high quality, in-depth stud- ies of major science policy issues. To date, the IAC has produced the following reports on the importance of science capacity- building in every country: Inventing a Better Future, Realizing the Promise and Potential of African Agriculture, and Women in Sci- ence, all of which argue that the full utilization of human resources is essential for future success. The report, Lighting the Way: to- ward a Sustainable Energy Future, released on October 22, 2007, is typical in that the 15-member expert panel is composed of scien- tists from 12 different countries including Austria, Brazil, Canada, China, Egypt, India, Iran, Japan, Kenya, Russia, Sweden, and the United States. This broad international representation demonstrates that it is possible for scientists to arrive at consensus recommenda- tions on the major issues of our time. These recommendations are meant to assist those in decision-making communities in all coun- tries in selecting the best policy options to deal with one of the ma- jor challenges of the twenty-first century. 2 InterAcademy Medical Panel (IAMP); see www.iamp-online.org/. 3 Council of Academies and Technological Sciences (CAETS); see www.caets.org/. 4 See www.interacademycouncil.net/.

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70 SCIENCE AS A GATEWAY TO UNDERSTANDING The Academy of Sciences for the Developing World (TWAS):5 TWAS is a member academy that elects its fellows from the distinguished scientists of the developing world and its associ- ate fellows from the developed world. TWAS is located in Trieste, Italy and serves as the secretariat for IAP. TWAS has a number of programs aimed at capacity building and works closely with IAP, IAMP, and IAC to bring science to the policy-making communities of the developing world. Particularly noteworthy are (a) TWAS- based organizations of science ministers from the G-7 countries and (b) the Commission on Science and Technology for Sustain- able Development in the South which includes heads of state from 36 developing countries. TWAS has made substantial progress in linking science to policy in the developing world. Why are academy-based international organizations impor- tant? Academies typically include the most distinguished scientists of a nation and are thus regarded as authoritative voices on matters of science and technology. Because academies include the scien- tific leadership of a nation, they often have access to high-level decision makers and can communicate their advice effectively. Fi- nally, academies are usually freestanding entities that are largely independent of government bureaucracies. This independence en- hances the credibility of academy advice in the eyes of the public. THEPOWER OF NETWORKS The international scientific organizations described above have made progress in moving science academies from purely hon- orific organizations to service organizations. Most member acad- emies of IAP and counterpart organizations welcome a greater role in bringing science to the solution of global problems. But the question of how to implement a global system of advice is chal- lenging. Even though the list of issues given above is global in scope, solutions will need to be implemented locally, nation by na- 5 See www.twas.org/.

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THE ROLE OF INTERNATIONAL SCIENTIFIC ORGANIZATIONS 71 tion. This follows because of national sovereignty. There is no in- ternational entity that can deal effectively with local issues like wa- ter allocation or local policies for alternate energy resource devel- opment. Moreover, optimal solutions will vary locally, depending on resource availability and the local impacts of phenomena such as climate change or water demands. To be effective, international science organizations must be able to reach local decisionmakers in the countries of interest. Member networks like IAP and ICSU provide a solution to this outreach problem. Both organizations reach into most coun- tries through their member academies (and in the case of ICSU, through its disciplinary unions). The challenge is to enhance the effective engagement of local academies and local science com- munities in communicating potential solutions to governments. Both IAP and ICSU recognize that a key to effective engagement lies in the creation of outreach mechanisms at the regional level. ICSU has responded to this challenge by creating regional offices that can craft outreach efforts to regional needs. IAP has incorpo- rated a series of regional academy networks. The next steps for IAP are to use the regional networks as dissemination vehicles for IAC reports. Thus, for example, the regional networks will host workshops for academies on the policy recommendations of the IAC energy report to help local academies organize specific policy recommendations targeted to regional needs. This effort is still in formative stages, but the network concept has the potential to use trusted local science institutions to communicate policy solutions to national decision makers. CONCLUSIONS International scientific organizations have an important role to play in assisting nations as they navigate the many challenges that will confront humanity over the next half century. The notion of public service is an old one in scientific communities but has assumed a new urgency as we enter the twenty-first century. A vi-

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72 SCIENCE AS A GATEWAY TO UNDERSTANDING sion of how science communities can be actively engaged has emerged and is in the process of implementation. There is reason to hope that local academies can serve to assist governments in crafting appropriate solutions to resource and other challenges. DISCUSSION Norman Neureiter: I am concerned about international organizations in their dealings with science issues. They all seem to be starving for money and resources. Do you agree with that? Is your academy effort, which is really quite impressive, trying to fo- cus its efforts in some way? Michael Clegg: Unfortunately the landscape appears quite bleak, and I think the names of these organizations don’t help, be- cause the names convey very little effective information. To the outside observer it appears to be a confusing landscape. However, the reality is that there is effective differentiation. The IAP, CAETS, and IAMP work closely together. In fact, IAMP and IAP, which are both headquartered in Trieste, share a common agenda, and we hope to involve the engineering community more in this effort. The ICSU programs manage languages used in science by managing its data bases and nomenclature. They provide a mecha- nism for the international science community to interact with the United Nations (UN) organizations, primarily UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization. Also, ICSU articulates major global research projects, such as the current global polar year. All of these activities are very important, particularly the language in commerce of science. If ICSU did not exist we would have to cre- ate an organization to make international communication in sci- ence effective and smooth. The IAP, IAMP, and CAETS efforts are aimed at empowering science academies to use the three or- ganizations to deliver important messages at international levels. They are all nongovernment organizations. They are not parts of national governments. The IAP receives substantial finan-

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THE ROLE OF INTERNATIONAL SCIENTIFIC ORGANIZATIONS 73 cial support from the Italian government, however. There are ef- forts to work effectively across the boards, so the ICSU leaderships sit on the governing board of IAP, and both sit on the governing board of IAC. Thus, there is cross communication, and the effort to use IAP as a delivery mechanism for IAC reports is an important step in the direction of unification of these different efforts. Now let’s turn to the African Science Development Initia- tive (SADI). This is a project which is operated by the U.S. Na- tional Academies. It has been funded for a 10 year period by the Gates Foundation, and the goal is to strengthen science academies in Sub-Saharan Africa. We have worked primarily with seven academies in Sub-Saharan Africa. Senegal is one of these acad- emies, and next month in Dakar we will have an annual meeting to assess the project. This project has completed its third year of the ten-year period, and the initial results of the effort are just begin- ning to come in. For example, the South African Academy of Sciences re- cently released a major report to government on the relationship of nutrition with HIV. This happens to be a very controversial subject in South Africa because the minster of health in South Africa had been advocating nutritional approaches to dealing with AIDS. South Africa has the highest HIV burden of any country in the world; approximately 12 percent of the population is HIV positive, which is a huge burden for the country to carry. The scientific community does not believe that nutritional treatment offers any solution to AIDS, and the South African Academy issued a report that basically arrives at those conclusions. This was aimed at influ- encing policymakers to approach the AIDS problems from a more informed perspective. In other areas, the Nigerian Academy has been doing work- shops on safe blood products. The Ugandan Academy is in the process of developing its first report. So this project is in its early phases, but it is aimed at a key objective related to the larger theme that I mentioned: using academies because they represent the sci- entific leadership of the country. But typically that leadership has

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74 SCIENCE AS A GATEWAY TO UNDERSTANDING political access by using academies as a way to strengthen and em- power science communities. Yousef Sobouti: Is there any assessment of what portion of the recommendations of interacademy circles have been adopted by the policy makers? Clegg: That’s an excellent question. I think that in the ini- tial IAC reports, because of how they were released and propa- gated, there was a fairly high impact. The first IAC report was re- leased at a workshop chaired by Kofi Annan at the United Nations. It is a message of the importance of science capacity building. Most academies are very happy to carry that back to their own governments because obviously it speaks to the best interests of the work of the science community as well. The food security in Af- rica report was a very important report that has not been dissemi- nated as effectively as we would like it to be. It has not had as large an impact as it should have. There is a serious effort to dis- seminate the report on women in science through academies. We hope to use this workshop mechanism at a regional level to engage academy leaders region by region, because the complexity of the issues varies from one region to the next. So we can tailor the approaches and recommendations to local needs and engage academy leaders and decision makers in a way that makes the recommendation penetrate governments. But I would say that the jury is still out on this question. REFERENCES Clegg, M. T. and J. P. Boright. 2007. Adapting to the future: the role of science academies in capacity building. Interna- tional Journal of Technology Management. UK. InterAcademy Council. 2007. Lighting the Way: Toward a Sus- tainable Energy Future. Amsterdam: InterAcademy Coun- cil. Available online at www.interacademycouncil.net/?id=12161. InterAcademy Council. 2006. Women for Science. Amsterdam:

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THE ROLE OF INTERNATIONAL SCIENTIFIC ORGANIZATIONS 75 InterAcademy Council. Available online at www.interacademycouncil.net/?id=11278. InterAcademy Council. 2005. Realizing the Promise and Potential of African Agriculture. Amsterdam: InterAcademy Coun- cil. Available online at www.interacademycouncil.net/?id=8927. InterAcademy Council. 2003. Inventing a Better Future. Amster- dam: InterAcademy Council. Available online at www.interacademycouncil.net/?id=9988.

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