The World Academy of Sciences (TWAS) has made progress in promoting science as a tool for development, and in educating scientists from emerging countries to be effective in solving some of the problems humanity currently faces, said participants at the TWAS 14th General Conference and 28th General Meeting that ended in the northeastern Italian city of Trieste on Thursday.
According to leading Chinese scientist and TWAS President Bai Chunli, a key factor in the academy's achievements is that developing countries are increasingly recognising the power of science and technology to drive sustainable growth.
"More than ever before in the history of human civilization, science development and scientific capacity-building have been accepted as the key driving force for national development and sustainability," Bai, who also serves as president of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), told the conference.
"I am proud, more than anything, of the significant growth of TWAS in its representation, programmes, impact and involvement in international science and education," Bai continued. "Over 250...scientists from the world's science elites have been admitted to TWAS, and among these about one in five are women."
In terms of geographical representation, scientists from eight new countries joined TWAS in the last six years, 18 of them from the TWAS list of 66 science and technology (S&T)-lagging countries and 10 from Least Developed Countries (LDCs). "The Academy now sees a better gender and geographical balance in its representation," Bai explained to Xinhua.
During Bai's tenure, six CAS-TWAS Centers of Excellence have been opened in China, and two new science academies, in Ecuador and Rwanda, have been established.
China's contributions have also had a far-reaching impact in this growing scientific network, in ways that go beyond the work of strengthening science alone, said Bai. For example, the CAS-TWAS Center of Excellence for Green Technology (CEGT) transferred green mining technology to the largest copper mine in Myanmar.
"CEGT provides a greener and more sustainable way for mining production," Bai explained. "The solutions have helped create thousands of jobs, which directly serve local economic development and people's livelihoods."
The Academy also established a number of new prizes, including its most important honour, the TWAS-Lenovo Science Prize. Lenovo, a China-based global leader in personal computing and hardware, is also providing key support to the TWAS Young Affiliates Network (TYAN).
"For the first time, we have over 1,000 young scientists studying for their PhDs at TWAS partner institutions in the developing world," Bai pointed out. "Our Fellows and Young Affiliates, our PhD fellows and research grant awardees...are in their labs or in the field every day, working to solve these challenges. Year in and year out, they are central to the success of our Academy."
Bai said that scientists from emerging countries are on an "urgent mission" to address multiple challenges such as the imbalance of globalization, poverty, climate change, energy shortages, food security, and worldwide pandemics.
Cooperation among scientists is the key to growing sustainable food, inventing green technologies, finding vaccines for HIV, malaria and other diseases, developing sustainable sources of water and energy, and designing buildings that can withstand natural disasters, said the Chinese professor, an accomplished materials scientist who was elected TWAS president in Tianjin, China, six years ago.
"We must always remember that when we work together, with creativity and commitment, we can feed people, and bring them light, and cure diseases," Bai said.
"As scientists working together, we can help to provide a life of dignity for all people, everywhere," Bai told participants, which included representatives from the Italian government, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), and the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. "It is important that emerging countries, which have built strength in science, provide support to countries that want to follow in our path," Bai said.
"In our time, as in earlier times, the mission is urgent: by some estimates, Africa will need a million new scientists and engineers in the years ahead. There are similar needs in other regions -- South and Southeast Asia, Central America and the Caribbean in particular," he added. "A new generation of researchers is needed to address the challenges and to help these countries to realise their potential."
A number of awards were given out during the conference. Indian polymer scientist R.A. Mashelkar won the 2018 TWAS-Lenovo Prize for his seminal research on smart polymer gels, which have yielded a long list of useful innovations.
"As we are all well aware, the world is confronted by a host of urgent challenges (which) are described in the UN's 17 Sustainable Development Goals," UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Natural Sciences Flavia Schlegel told participants. "When you consider the international breadth of the (TWAS) membership, and the range of skill and experience, it is evident that the members of TWAS have the potential to provide global scientific leadership at a time of great need."
TWAS was founded by a distinguished group of scientists from the developing world, under the leadership of Abdus Salam, the Pakistani physicist and Nobel laureate. They shared a belief that developing nations, by building strength in science and engineering, could build the knowledge and skill to address such challenges as hunger, disease and poverty. (Xinhua)
52 Sanlihe Rd., Xicheng District,
Beijing, China (100864)