Basic sciences often lead to breakthroughs, but it may take time before their outcome is fully appreciated. This is the reason why they may receive little attention, compared to applied sciences. However, basic sciences are crucial to improve the quality of life for people all over the world, as they pave the way for entirely new fields of science, and lead to important social transformations and technologies.
Driven by these reflections, UNESCO, in collaboration with its global partners, has named 2022 the International Year of Basic Sciences for Sustainable Development, with celebrations running from July 2022 to July 2023.
TWAS, in particular, has long been a strong advocate for expanding access to research in the basic sciences throughout the developing world. And, this year, the Academy will make this long-standing priority the theme of its 16th General Conference. The theme, 'Basic Sciences for Evidence-based Decision-making and Sustainable Development in the Global South', will showcase the commitment of developing countries towards the betterment of their communities through scientific achievements, and the role of science education.
The conference, running from 21 to 24 November, is hosted by Zhejiang University (ZJU), in Hangzhou, China, and organized in a virtual format in partnership with the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) and the China Association for Science and Technology (CAST).
On Tuesday 22 November, a Ministerial Session hosting Ministers from developing countries will offer examples of how each of the participating countries is determined to promote basic sciences.
Brazil, for example, is among the co-sponsors of the UN Resolution that proclaimed 2022 as the International Year of Basic Sciences for Sustainable Development, during the 76th UN General Assembly. Brazilian Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, His Excellency Paulo Alvim will discuss this in the Ministerial Session. Ministers from Angola, India, Malaysia, Nepal, Senegal, South Africa, and the President of King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology, in Saudi Arabia will also participate in the session.
After the Ministerial Session, two of the three symposia of the Conference will also engage in discussions about basic sciences. One will expose the audience to the challenges and the opportunities of sustainable development, the other will bring the focus on how basic sciences have complimented the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals in China.
"I am very proud to be a scientist," said to TWAS Myriam Chadid, an astronomer, astrophysicist and Antarctica explorer, who will chair the first part of Symposium 1, 'Basic Sciences: Challenges and Sustainable Development'. "From that, I learned how basic sciences have a strong impact on our planet and our universe. [...] Basic sciences give us the ability to make decisions, to develop policies and to bring answers about our existence, our place in the universe and even our origins."
The first half of the symposium will host three speakers: Prof. Hou Jianguo, President of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, China; Prof. Agnes Binagwaho, Vice-Chancellor, University of Global Health Equity, Rwanda; Prof. Jagannatha K. Rao, Director, Institute for Scientific Research and Technology Services, Panama.
The second part, which will be chaired by Luiz Davidovich, President of the Brazilian Academy of Sciences and TWAS Secretary-General, will give the floor to Prof. Ingrid Daubechies, James B. Duke Distinguished Professor of Mathematics and Electrical and Computer Engineering, USA; Prof. Lu Gaoqing (Max), President and Vice-Chancellor, University of Surrey, UK; and Prof. Anthony Clayton, Professor of Caribbean Sustainable Development, University of the West Indies, Jamaica.
"Mathematics is the science of patterns of reasoning, [...] and it is essential for natural sciences, engineering, medicine, environmental science, and more," said Daubechies. But what is its link with sustainable development? Using mathematics, scientists, engineers, and data analysts who are attuned to that country's problems study and build solutions to challenging problems that every country faces, Daubechies clarified. Symposium 1 will then run a Q&A session involving the attendees via remote connections.
Another Symposium, titled ‘Basic Science for the Sustainable Development Goals in China’ and scheduled on 24 November, will examine the scientific achievements of Chinese scientists. Presenters will discuss developments in a diverse array of fields, including early-life health and adult chronic diseases, smart materials, machine and biological intelligence, and quantum computing.
More information about the TWAS 16th General Conference is available here.