Can Science & Technology help the Society?


The STS (Science Technology and Society) Forum held in Kyoto during Sep 11-13, 2005 deliberated on many societal issues that can be addressed by Science & Technology. It was a remarkably well organized event that saw His Imperial Highness, the Crown Prince of Japan and Junichiro Kozumi, the Prime Minister of Japan in the inaugural session.

Participants had come from 68 countries across the five continents; Africa (Egypt, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, Oman, South Africa, Rwanda, Sudan and Syria); America (Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Guatemala, Mexico and United States); Asia (Bangladesh, China, Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Myanmar, Pakistan, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam); Australia (Australia, New Zealand), and Europe (Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Czech, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Kazakhstan, Luxemburg, Lithuania, Netherlands, Romania, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tadakhstan and United Kingdom).

Being the host country Japan had 100+ participants of the nearly 450 participants, while USA had nearly 80 participants; other counties with at least 10 participants include Germany (21), Thailand (20), UK (18), France (12), India (11), China and Chinese Taipei (10), Korea (10), Switzerland (10), and Canada (10).

The participants include

Nobel Laureates Richard Ernst (Chemistry, 1991), Jerome Friedman (Physics, 1990), Yuan Lee (Chemistry, 1986), Burton Richter (Physics, 1976), Sherwood Rowland (Chemistry, 1995), Susumu Tonegawa (Medicine, 1987), and Koichi Tanaka (Chemistry, 2002)

Prime Ministers and Ministers from Japan, Finland, Rwanda, Singapore, Sudan, Thailand and other countries were present.

Presidents of Science Academies including Goverdhan Mehta, President-Elect, International Council of Science (ICSU), Pieter Drenth, President, All European Academies, Mohamed Hassan, Executive Director, Third World Academy of Sciences, and heads of several national academies were present; they include Jim Peacock, President, Australian Academy of Sciences, Kurt Komarek, President, Austrian Academy, Eduarado Krieger, President, Brazilian Academy of Sciences, Josef Syka, President, Czech Science Foundation, Raimo Vayrynen, President, Science Academy of Finland, Norbert Kroo, Vice President, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Goverdhan Mehta, President, Indian Academy of Sciences, Kiyoshi Kurokawa, President, Science Council of Japan, Akito Arima, Chairman, Japan Science Foundation, Man-ki Park, Vice President, Korean Academy of Science & Technology, William Wulf, President, US National Academy of Engineering, Yuan Lee, President, Academia Sinica, Eva Krutmeijer, Executive Director, Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, and Ralph Cicerone, US National Academy of Sciences.

Heads of National Research Councils
(that fund basic R &D) including Peter Hoj, Chief Executive Officer, Australian Research Council, Arthur Carty, President, National Research Council, Canada, Dimitri Nanopoulos, Chairman, Research Council for Research & Technology, Greece, Marie Chanin, Research Director, National Center for Scientific Research, France, Klaus Hopt, Vice President, German Research Foundation, Nirmal Ganguly, Director General, Indian Council of Medical Research, Kazuki Okimura, President, Japan Science and Technology Agency, Doe Na, President, Korea Science Foundation, and Ardent Bement, Director, US National Science Foundation were present.

University Presidents/ Chancellors / Vice-chancellors/ Deans including

• Ekhard Salje, President, University of Cambridge (from UK);

• Nobel Laureate, Jerome Friedman, MIT, Nobel Laureate, Sherwood Rowland, UC Irvine, Michael Keller, University Librarian, Stanford University, Mary Burnside, Vice Chancellor, UC Berkeley, Bradley Moore, Vice President for Research, Northwestern University, Vartan Gregorian, former President of Brown University, Craig Hogan, Vice President, University of Washington (from USA);

• Alexander Zehnder, President, ETH, Zurich, David Bassi, University of Trento, Italy, Kurt Kutzer, President, Berlin University of Technology, Linda Nielsen, Vice Chancellor, University of Copenhagen, Kari Raivio, Chancellor, University of Helsinki, Deiter Rombach, Director, Fraunhofer Institute, Hans Van Ginkel, Rector, United Nations University, Netherlands (from Europe);

• Hiroshi Komiyama, President, University of Tokyo, Masuo Aizawa, President, Tokyo Institute of Technology, Katsuhiko Shirai, President, Waseda University, Robert Laughlin, President, Korea Advanced Institute of Science & Technology, Asis Datta, former Vice Chancellor, Jawaharlal Nehru University, India, Goverdhan Mehta, former Director, Indian Institute of Science, Sowmyanarayanan Sadagopan, Director, IIIT-Bangalore, India, John Wong, Vice President, National University of Singapore, Ibrahim Badran, President, Nile University, Egypt, Haider Ramadhan, Dean, Sultan Qaboos University, Oman and Krissanpong Kirtikara, President King Mongkut’s University of Technology, Thailand (from Asia)

Business Leaders including,

• Craig Mundie, CTO, Microsoft, Norio Murakami, Vice President, Google, Usama Fayyad, Chief Data Officer, Yahoo, Robert Bishop, CEO, Silicon Graphics, John Gage, VP, Sun Microsystems, Stanley Williams, Director, HP Labs, Thomas McCoy, Executive Vice President, AMD, Marko Ahthisaari, Director, Strategy, Nokia, Mike Lazaridis, Founder President & CEO, Research in Motion (of Blackberry fame), Keiji Tachikawa, former President & CEO, NTT DoCoMo, Tetsuhiko Ikegami, former President & CEO, NTT Advanced Technologies, Christian Gregoire, Senior Vice President, Alcatel (Computing and Communications industry)

• Peter Zapf, President, Siemens, Hajime Sasaki, Chairman, NEC, Hironori Yamamoto, Managing Director, Canon, Corporate Vice President, Toshiba, Akira Takashima, Vice Chairman, Fujitsu, Morris Chang, Founder Chairman, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., Koici Nishumura, Global head of Solectron for many years, Yoon-Wu Lee, Vice-Chairman, Samsung Electronics (Electronics & Semiconductor industry)

• Henry McKinnel, Chairman & CEO, Pfizer (world’s largest pharma company), Gail Cassell, Vice President, Eli Lilly, Michael Ferris, MD, Novartis Pharma, Boerge Diderischsen, Vice President, Novo-Nordisk, and, Marc Dunoyer, President, GlaxoSmithKline (Pharma and Biotech industry)

• Hiroshi Okuda, former President, Toyota, Ichiro Tai, and Hiroyuki Yoshino, former President & CEO, Honda Motors, Jack Jacometti, Vice President, Shell International, David Fischoff, Director of Technology, Monsanto, Theresa Kotanchek, Global R & D Director, Dow Chemicals, Yuiko Masuda, CEO, Energy Business, Mitsubishi Corporation, Akio Mimura, President, Nippon Steel, Michiharu Nakamura, Executive Vice President, Hitachi, Kazuyuhiro Tsuga, Executive Officer, Matsushita Electric, James Morris, Vice President, and, Boeing Commercial Airplanes, (Automotive and core industry)

Leaders from several Special organizations like Gonzales-Finat, Director, European Commission, Seung Han, President, The 56th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, Hen ten Have, Director, UNESCO.Alison Brimelow, President-Elect, European Patents Office, Masami Tanaka, ISO President, Se-ichi Takayanagi, President, IEC, Geoffrey Yu, Deputy Director General, WIPO, Gerald Doucet, Secretary General, World Energy Council, France, Michael Oborne, Director, OECD, George Atkinson, Scientific Advisor to Secretary of State, Philippe Kourilsky, President, Pasteur Institute, John Wilbanks, Executive Director, Science Commons, Geoffrey West, President, Santa Fe Institute, and, Hiroshi Tsukamoto, President, Japan External Trade Organization were also present.

What was striking was the conduct of the conference. Kyoto International Conference Center is a mini city with resort-like features with green mountains overlooking the venue that was more like a large Buddhist temple, a large lake and a luxury hotel. Security was tight, but by no means obtrusive, and the security staff were extremely courteous; the sessions started on the dot at 8 am! There was not a single “no show” as far as the speakers was concerned, the Prime Minister being present in the venue several minutes before the inauguration on the day when the country was going through Elections to win the new Prime Minister (he got elected by 7pm on that historic day that coincided with 9×11!)

The inaugural session had Koji Omi, Member, House of Representatives and the organizer of the Conference, Henry McKinnell, CEO, Pfizer, the world’s largest biotech company, Hiroshi Okuda, Chairman of Japanese Business Federation, and former Chairman of Toyota, Ralph Cicerone, President, National Academy of Sciences, USA, Frieder Meyer-Krahmer, State Secretary for Education & research, Germany and our own Goverdhan Mehta, Chairman-Elect, International Council for Science (ICSU) and former Director, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore.

Discussions were held on six different concurrent themes, within the overall conference theme “S & T in Society- Lights & Shadows for a sustainable future”

Sustainability – Energy and Environment including global warming, emission control, long term energy path, renewable energy,

Life Sciences, including bio-ethics, stem cells, genomics and agriculture, medicine for global health,

ICT – impact on human society, including inter-operability, Privacy / Security issues,

Capacity Building, including Knowledge-based society, Science education & communication, University reforms, Intellectual Property Rights

Science & Technology for human security, including infectious diseases control, vulnerability of critical infrastructure, natural disaster management

New frontiers opened by Science & Technology, including IT, Manufacturing and Materials Science

The two plenary sessions had Hiroyushi Yoshikawa, President of the University of Tokyo, Arden Bement, Director, NSF, USA, Pravich Rattanapian, S & T Minister, Thailand, Hajime Sasaki, NEC, Chairman, El-Zubier Taha, Minister for S & T, and former Vice Chancellor of University of Khartoum, Sudan, Van Ginkel, Under-Secretary-General of UN and Rector, UN University, Holland, Philip Yeo, former Chairman of EDB, Singapore, Nobel Laureate Susumu Tonegawa of MIT, USA, Mohamed Hassan, ED of Third World Academy of Sciences, Sudan, Florence Wambagu, Harvest Biotech Foundation, Kenya and Yoon-woo Lee, CEO, Samsung Electronics, Korea, Akito Arima, Chairman, Japanese Science Foundation, Hiroo Imura, President, Kyoto University, Ismail Serageldin, Librarian, Library of Alexandria, and former Vice President, World Bank, Egypt, Daniel Goldin, NASA Administrator, USA, Arthur Carty, President, National Research Council, Canada,Theresa Kotanchek, Director, R & D, Dow Chemicals, Nobel Laureate Yuan Tseh Lee, President, Academia Sinica, Chinese Taipei, Aiko Mimura, President, Nippon Steel, Japan, Kiyoshi Kurokawa, President, Science Council of Japan, Nobel Laureate Jerome Friedman of MIT, USA, Harriet Walberg-Henriksson, President, Karloinska Institute and Member of the Nobel assembly (that awards Nobel Prizes), Rita Colwell, President, American Association for the Advancement of Sciences, Vartan Gregorian, President, Brown University, USA, and inventor of Blackberry device, Founder and CEO, Research in Motion, Mike Lazaridis, Canada

The tracks had about 4 to 6 sessions that had identified speakers, reporters and Chairs; the summary of the discussions were presented on the last day.

The Imperial Highness The Crown Prince of Japan talked of the need for sharing the fruits of innovation out of developments in Science & Technology fairly amongst all groups of people; the Prime Minister talked of the 3R’s (reduce, reuse and recycle) and the Japanese concept of “mottainai” (do not waste) to drive home the point of eco-friendliness; he illustrated the point by referring to the fact that the newly opened official residence of Japanese Prime Minister has the world’s first fuel-cell based system for electricity generation; he reminded the audience about the “Kyoto Protocol” signed eight years back in the very auditorium. Koji Omi, the organizer, emphasized the need for world-wide cooperation to solve the problems of the world that cannot be solved by any single country or by scientists alone.

A declaration was also brought out; STS Forum formally deciding to become a not-for-profit society with annual conference in Kyoto; even the dates of next year’s conference (Sep 10-12) were announced!

While no earth-shaking declarations were made, the Conference brought together outstanding global talent across diverse disciplines and identified the six key issues – ICT development to bridge the digital divide; universal access to education; standards for bioethics; control of infectious diseases like AIDS; action against terrorism; and, nuclear fusion as source of power.

(Summary of the observations by the author who attended the Conference)

2 Responses to “Can Science & Technology help the Society?”

  1. V.Ranganathan Says:

    Great Summary of an event which would eventually prove to be as historical as the conference of nations which set up the United Nations. We do need a ‘United Nations’ for Science and Technology and in all likelyhood this conference would become as comprehensive as ‘Kyoto Protocol’ , eventually in matters related to responsible use of Science and Technology for the entire mankind!

  2. Olimpia Osazuwa Says:

    Wonderful blog, some fascinating points. I remember 2 of days ago, I have visited a similar post.

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