Report on the Ministerial Round Table
The Basic Sciences: The Science Lever for
UNESCO Headquarters, 7 place de Fontenoy, Room X
13-14 October 2005
2 Final Communiqué: Ministerial Round Table The Basic Sciences: The Science Lever
Education in science
Role of UNESCO
3 Science and humankind: motivations for action (Opening session)
Accelerated advancement of science and its implications Science: international endeavour
Young generations: future of science
Fostering a regional strategy of action
The case of Africa
The Arab region
Capacity building in science and science education A new need in the basic sciences
Towards a broad outlook in research
Science and policy-making
4 The basic sciences: challenges in the 21st Century (Session 1)
Human resource development
Prioritisation of key areas in science and technology International collaboration
Public awareness, ethical and social implications Capacity building in science and science education Orientations for UNESCO action
Key role of innovation: a view from the world‟s largest laboratory in fundamental
5 National and regional priorities for cooperation in the basic sciences (Session 2)
National priorities of an African country: case of Kenya Regional priorities
Drawbacks encountered at national and regional level
Thrusts and opportunities for regional scientific cooperation
Role of UNESCO and other international organizations
General points of discussion
Scientific institutional infrastructures
Centres of excellence
Development of national education system
Review of the “S” in UNESCO
Science - Industry
6 Building capacity in the basic sciences: relevance to developing countries (Session 3)
Prerequisites and/or line of actions
National agenda for capacity building in developing countries
Innovative actions for human resources development in the basic sciences
International cooperation to reinforce national capabilities
Upgrading university science education
7 Science policy and the role of sciences for governmental decision-making (Session 4)
A view from Asia
A view from Latin America
8 Conclusions and adoption of a communiqué (Session 5)
Annex 1 List of participants
Annex 2 Programme of the Round Table
Report on the Ministerial Round Table on
The Basic Sciences: The Science Lever for Development
UNESCO Headquarters, Room X, 7 de place Fontenoy, 13-14 October 2005
The World Conference on Science (WCS, Budapest, 1999) demonstrated forcibly that, as
never before, the creative power of contemporary science is needed to address critical
economic and social needs with respect to ethical values and the planet, that many
countries are missing adequate capacity in science, and that an unfounded disaffection to
science is growing and should be overcome. Since then, a number of important proposals
and initiatives by the scientific community have inspired a new, large-scale, creative
action in capacity building in science1. By virtue of their responsibilities, the role of governments in this action is particularly important. It is in this context that UNESCO
convened the Ministerial Round Table on “The Basic Sciences: the Science Lever for
rdDevelopment”, an event, organized in conjunction with the 33 session of the General
Conference, that provided a forum for an exchange of views and political debate between
high-level policy-and decision-makers on the challenges to be taken by the basic sciences
in their service to society, and on actions to be taken by governments and the scientific
community to build up an adequate capacity in the basic sciences and their use as a
science lever for development.
The Ministerial Round Table addressed these vital issues since adequate national capacity
in the basic sciences has become a major prerequisite for harnessing science in the
service of society. Efficient applied research, technology transfer, modern education,
health care, industry and science-based agriculture call for a sound national basic science
infrastructure and necessitate a commitment to strengthen basic science capacities
through national efforts and international cooperation. Notwithstanding this, there exists a
lack of support for the basic sciences in many countries, including developed ones.
Moreover, a strategy of investment in favour of applied research, which exclusively seeks
immediate, short-term returns, has an adverse long-term effect on national basic science
and, eventually, on national development.
The round table gathered some 300 participants from 122 countries, among them 50
ministers having responsibility for science and 75 participants representing a Minister in
their capacity as State-Secretary, Vice-Minister, Secretary-General for Research and
Technology, Secretary-General of a National Commission to UNESCO, etc.
1 They originate from the World Science Forum on Knowledge and Society (2003, Budapest), the Report of the
InterAcademy Council Inventing a Better Future: A Strategy for Building Worldwide Capacities in Science and
Technology (2004); the Report of the Academy of Sciences for the Developing World (TWAS) Building Scientific
Capacity: TWAS Perspective (2004); and Recommendations by the WCS Follow up Symposium Harnessing Science
for Society: Further Partnerships (Venice, 2005).
Academician Zh.I. Alferov, Nobel Laureate in Physics and Science Director of the Ioffe Physico-Technical Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, and Dr J.H. Marburger, Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy of the Executive Office of the President of the USA, took part in the Round Table as special guests of the Director-General. The Holy See, the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the International Council for Science (ICSU), the Abdus-Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP), the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the Academy of Sciences for the Developing World (TWAS) were also represented at the Round. The list of participants in the Round Table is given in Annex 1.
Deliberations at the Round Table focused on four major issues, namely:
? The basic sciences: challenges in the twenty-first century
? National and regional priorities for cooperation in the basic sciences ? Building capacity in the basic sciences: relevance to developing countries ? Science policy and the role of the basic sciences for governmental decision-
These issues were addressed in keynote presentations and extensive brainstorming discussions at the four plenary sessions of the Round Table. The Programme of the Round Table is given in Annex 2.
The participants of the Round Table reached consensus on a wide range of conclusions concerning the general mission of the basic sciences, education in science, capacity building, cooperation to be developed, and the role of UNESCO. They formulated their common position in the Final Communiqué of the Ministerial Round Table: The Basic
Sciences: the Science Lever for Development that was unanimously approved and had
been elaborated by an open-ended Drafting Group chaired by the Director-General and consisting of the Chairperson of each session, keynote speakers and other participants who volunteered to take part in its work. Prior to its approval, the Communiqué was discussed in-depth at the conclusive session 5 of the Round Table.
The Communiqué addresses its recommendations to governments, national scientific communities, international scientific organizations, the private sector and public at large, and seeks to prompt an increased reciprocal commitment between society and the basic sciences, and to provide all stakeholders in science with a reference document presenting views emanating from discussion at ministerial level. The Communiqué, is given in section 2 of this report, and is posted on the website of UNESCO‟s Division of Basic and
It has been circulated, through UNESCO channels, to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, all Member States of UNESCO, heads of partner organizations cooperating with UNESCO in the field of the basic sciences and participants in the Round Table.
Sections 3-7 of the Report summarize the principle issues that were presented and discussed at sessions 1-4 of the Ministerial Round Table. The overview of the discussion held at these sessions provides useful background information that underlies the conclusions of this high-level meeting.
2 Final Communiqué: Ministerial Round Table The Basic Sciences:
The Science Lever for Development
We, the Ministers with responsibility for science participating or represented at the
Round Table on “The Basic Sciences: Science Lever for Development” held on 13 and 14
October 2005 during the 33rd Session of the UNESCO General Conference, arrived at the
following common positions:-
1. Basic sciences have a primary role in the pursuit of knowledge that leads to the
improvement of the human condition, the pursuit of sustainable development and, in
general, the advancement of civilization.
2. Addressing major challenges such as poverty, environmental degradation, climate
change, existing and newly emerging diseases, natural disasters and energy needs,
requires new knowledge provided by the basic sciences.
3. Basic scientific knowledge forms the stable foundation on which all current and
future technologies stand. However, the emerging relationship between the basic and
applied sciences and technology is complex and non-sequential.
4. Scientific knowledge must be a common heritage of humankind. Science is a
vehicle for global cooperation; scientific research is an activity to be shared by all. The
basic sciences know no borders, but should respect social and cultural contexts.
5. An ethical dimension to the practice of science is essential.
6. In the governmental decision-making process, scientific information, data and
expertise in the area concerned should be duly taken into account.
Education in science
7. Effective pursuit of the basic sciences ultimately depends upon science education
that inspires students at all levels – pre-primary, primary, secondary and tertiary – as well
as in the informal and non-formal environments.
8. Greater emphasis should be given to science education as an integral part of
capacity building, in particular quality assurance, the sharing of human resources
(researchers and science educators), and more flexible, broad-based PhD programmes.
9. Innovative means should be developed in order to allow young people to appreciate the value, creativity, challenges and excitement of science, to become positive players, as concerned citizens, in the advancement of human development.
10. Science should be de-mystified and popularised at all levels.
11. There is a symbiotic relationship between scientific research and higher education that should be fostered.
12. Universities and research institutes are the pivotal institutions in securing the development of the basic sciences; they provide main human resources, serve as generators of ideas and concentrate much of the crucial infrastructure.
13. There is a need for well organized, non-formal education programmes for the popularization of science in the community; the public media and the universities can play an important role.
14. An essential way to achieve the development goals agreed by Member States in the Millennium Declaration is through the effective application of science and technology. The international community should give greater attention to capacity building in basic sciences as the platform for knowledge-based development.
15. ICT capacities should be enhanced as enablers of global inclusion and equality of participation in science and technology; hence ICTs should be used for bridging the digital divide, enabling distance learning, electronic access to scientific textbooks and journals, creating new contents with added value, and providing the means for a quantum leap forward in socio-economic development.
16. Capacity building should be enhanced through the sharing of best practices.
17. International support for capacity building, education, teacher training, research and innovation in the basic sciences should be promoted.
18. Least developed countries, and countries in post-disaster and post-conflict situations, especially those in Africa, should be assisted through flexible mechanisms for S&T development.
19. Investment in research areas of the basic sciences should be driven by national and regional priorities.
20. Promotion of science requires the establishment of incentives, opportunities and the appropriate environment.
21. There is need for the creation of an enabling environment to alleviate brain drain,
foster cooperation and the mobility of academic staff, and make better use of diasporic
22. Gender parity and equal opportunity in the basic sciences should be promoted,
including equal participation in science decision-making at all levels, and through the
involvement of new capacities and talents.
23. Member States should seek to benefit from regional, interregional (North-South,
South-South) and global trans-disciplinary cooperation in the basic sciences. The basic
sciences themselves would be enriched by such cooperation on global problems and
socially relevant issues.
24. Public-private partnerships, and cooperation with civil society, including NGOs,
should be promoted and enhanced in support of education, science, innovation and
25. A pivotal role should be played by regional centres and networks of excellence in
advancing the knowledge, understanding and application of science, within the
framework of regional and sub-regional structures.
Role of UNESCO
26. In the light of the above, we call upon UNESCO to consider the following:
(a) to place greater emphasis on promoting the basic sciences and science education
with a view to the attainment of a science culture as a precursor of a knowledge-based
society worldwide, through various means available at UNESCO, and in particular the
recently launched flagship International Basic Sciences Programme (IBSP).
(b) to develop and promote a clear programme of action for youth and for gender
(c) to emphasize science education as an integral part of capacity-building by
developing model curricula in science for secondary and undergraduate teaching suited to
the emerging knowledge economy.
(d) to strengthen existing UNESCO Chairs and centres of excellence in the basic
sciences in both developed and developing countries, to foster networking between them
for the benefit of developing countries, and to promote in this context cooperation with
regional structures such as NEPAD in Africa.
(e) to assist the upgrading of higher education in developing countries through
feasibility studies to transform academic institutions/universities into academic/research
institutes, and vice versa.
(f) to seek stronger synergies between the basic sciences and higher education
through intersectoral programmes.
(g) to assist in the formulation, implementation and mainstreaming of foresight,
prioritization and science and technology policies in developing countries, and the
establishment of innovation systems, bearing in mind the importance of S&T policies to
facilitate national economic growth and development.
(h) to promote the mobility of teachers and researchers in science and technology, in
particular from developing countries, and especially those from the diaspora.
(i) to promote the training of scientists from developing countries to help them to
negotiate with donors and other development partners.
(j) to continue to promote an ethical dimension to the practice of science.(k) to play a
proactive role in promoting an equitable access to scientific information and literature for
scientists and researchers, particularly from developing countries.
(l) to help to seek and foster partnership and coordination across the UN system, and
with other international organizations.
Ministerial Round Table: “The Basic Sciences: The Science Lever for Development”
14 October 2005